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Korea is a mountainous peninsula east of China and west of Japan. An independent and unified country for over a thousand years, it was divided after the Second World War into the communist north and the non-communist, American-influenced south. Most Korean immigration to Canada has been from South Korea.

Korean Immigrants to Canada

Early contact between Canada and Korea took place around 1890, through Canadian Christian missionaries working in Korea. Some Koreans immigrated to Canada through church contacts, and others followed several decades later in search of better economic and social opportunities. Immigration increased in the 1960s, and by the 1970s thousands of Koreans were arriving in Canada yearly. Most settled in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, which today are still home to the largest communities of Korean Canadians.

Korean Canadians Today

Many Koreans in Canada are well educated, and a large number both of new immigrants and their children are skilled professionals—doctors, professors, engineers, computer technicians—or are engaged in business.

Korean Canadians often divide their communities into three groups: first generation immigrants, the “1.5” generation who began their schooling in Korea but moved to Canada in their childhood or teen years, and the Canadian-born second generation. Although each group has had a unique experience in Canada, Korean Canadians maintain a strong collective cultural identity through local cultural associations, university campus and alumni organizations, seniors’ groups, language schools and business associations. Both Vancouver and Toronto publish daily Korean-language newspapers, and Korean television and radio programs are broadcast across the country. Korean dance, music and visual art, as well as martial arts and Korean cuisine, are thriving in Canada.

Over many centuries, a naturalistic worldview, followed by the influences of Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity, helped shape Korean culture and values, including an emphasis on the veneration of ancestors, family and education. Today, many Korean Canadians are Christians, often within specifically Korean churches, while a minority practice Buddhism or are not religious.

Canada-Korea Relations

Several large Canadian universities offer Korean studies, and there are extensive student exchange programs between Canada and Korea. Many young Canadians have also gone to Korea to teach English, further strengthening the mutual interest and connections between the two countries.

Economically and politically, Canada and South Korea have a friendly relationship. The two countries are medium-sized trade partners, and work together in a variety of international economic organizations. Canada and North Korea have had very little trade, and although diplomatic relations were established in 2001, they were suspended in 2010; Canada has, however, provided humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Learn more: Koreans in The Canadian Encyclopedia