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Why do people leave South Korea?


South Korea is a country that has undergone rapid development and modernization in the past few decades, transforming it into one of the most prosperous nations in the world. However, despite its economic success and technological advancements, many people still choose to leave the country. This article will explore some of the reasons why people decide to leave South Korea, including economic factors, social pressures, and cultural differences.

Economic Factors

One of the primary reasons why people leave South Korea is economic. Despite the country’s impressive economic growth, there are still significant disparities in income and job opportunities. Many young people struggle to find stable employment and face high levels of competition in the job market. Furthermore, the cost of living in major cities like Seoul can be prohibitively expensive, making it difficult for some to make ends meet.

Social Pressures

Another factor that drives people away from South Korea is social pressures. The country has a highly competitive culture that places a lot of emphasis on academic and professional success. This can create a lot of stress and anxiety for individuals who feel like they are falling behind or not meeting expectations. Additionally, there is a strong emphasis on conformity and group harmony in Korean society, which can make it difficult for those who don’t fit into the mainstream to feel accepted.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences can also play a role in why some people choose to leave South Korea. The country has a unique cultural identity that can be difficult for outsiders to fully understand and assimilate into. For some expats, this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness as they struggle to connect with locals and feel at home in their new surroundings.

Education System

The education system in South Korea is notoriously rigorous and demanding, placing a lot of pressure on students from a young age. While this system has been credited with producing some of the world’s top achievers, it can also be incredibly stressful and exhausting for students who feel like they are constantly underperforming or falling behind.

Work Culture

The work culture in South Korea is similarly demanding, with long hours and high expectations placed on employees. This can lead to burnout and a lack of work-life balance, which can be a major source of stress for those who prioritize their personal lives and well-being.

Military Service

All able-bodied Korean men are required to complete mandatory military service, which can last up to two years. While this is seen as a rite of passage for many young men, it can also be a major disruption to their lives and careers. Some people may choose to leave the country in order to avoid this obligation or pursue other opportunities elsewhere.


Despite its modernization and progress, South Korea still struggles with issues of discrimination and inequality. Ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals, and women are among those who may face discrimination or marginalization in Korean society. For some, this can make it difficult to feel fully accepted or thrive in their personal and professional lives.

Political Climate

The political climate in South Korea has also been a source of concern for some individuals. Recent events such as the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and ongoing tensions with North Korea have created a sense of uncertainty and instability for some people living in the country.

Familial Obligations

For many Koreans, family is extremely important, and there is often a strong expectation to prioritize familial obligations over personal desires or ambitions. Some individuals may choose to leave the country in order to pursue their own goals or live independently from their families.

Desire for Adventure

Finally, some people may simply leave South Korea in search of new experiences and adventures. This can be particularly true for young people who want to explore the world and broaden their horizons.


There are many factors that can influence why people choose to leave South Korea, from economic factors and social pressures to cultural differences and personal desires. While the country has a lot to offer in terms of economic opportunities, technological advancements, and cultural richness, it is not without its challenges and drawbacks. Ultimately, the decision to stay or leave is a deeply personal one that depends on a variety of factors unique to each individual.

Why do so many Koreans immigrate?

Due to factors such as political instability, military rule, and a high unemployment rate, many Koreans migrated to the United States from the 1960s through the early 1980s. Their offspring, commonly referred to as the “second generation” or “gyopo” in Korean, make up the current Korean-American population.

Do South Koreans want to leave?

According to a recent study, younger South Koreans aged 19 to 34 are more anxious about life than their older counterparts. Within this age group, women tend to have higher levels of anxiety than men. As a result, a significant number of both genders, with 79% of women and 72% of men, express a desire to leave Korea.

Where do most Koreans live in USA?

The regions with the largest populations of Koreans outside of Korea are Southern California and the New York City Metropolitan Area.

Which US city has the largest Korean population?

Los Angeles has the biggest Korean American population in the United States, with approximately 100,000 residing in the city and an additional 100,000 scattered throughout the county. (information as of February 2019)

What is a big problem in South Korea?

The most pressing social issues in Korea include high rates of youth unemployment, unstable working conditions, rapidly rising housing prices, and elderly poverty. Korea still struggles to provide adequate social welfare programs and adopt environmentally sustainable policies, which puts it behind other OECD countries in these areas.

Why is it difficult to live in South Korea?

Living in South Korea can be difficult for Westerners due to cultural differences and significant language barriers, especially with older Koreans. Foreign residents tend to primarily socialize with other foreigners. Housing in Seoul can be cramped and smaller compared to Western standards due to the city’s high population density.

Language Barrier

For non-Korean speakers, the language barrier can be a significant challenge when living in South Korea. While many Koreans do speak English, it is not universally spoken, and some expats may struggle to communicate effectively with locals. This can make day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping or going to the doctor more difficult and frustrating.

Environmental Concerns

South Korea is a highly urbanized country with significant environmental challenges. Pollution, particularly air pollution, is a major concern in many parts of the country. For those who are sensitive to environmental issues or prioritize living in clean and healthy surroundings, this can be a reason to leave the country.

Healthcare System

While South Korea has a highly advanced healthcare system, it may not meet the needs or expectations of all individuals. Expats may find that navigating the healthcare system is challenging, particularly if they do not speak Korean or are unfamiliar with how the system works. Additionally, access to specialized care or certain medications may be limited in some areas.

Housing Issues

Finding appropriate and affordable housing can be another challenge for individuals living in South Korea. In major cities like Seoul, competition for desirable apartments can be fierce, driving up prices and making it difficult for some to find suitable accommodation. Additionally, expats may find that they have limited options for housing due to restrictions on foreign ownership or rental agreements.

Transportation System

While South Korea has a highly developed transportation system, it may not meet the needs or preferences of all individuals. Expats may find that getting around the country is challenging or inconvenient, particularly if they are accustomed to driving and owning a car. Additionally, public transportation can be crowded and overwhelming for some individuals.

Personal Safety Concerns

While South Korea is generally considered a safe country, there are still concerns about personal safety for some individuals. Crime rates, particularly for certain types of crimes like theft, can be higher in some areas. Additionally, there may be concerns about natural disasters or other emergencies that could impact personal safety.

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