Korean intermarriages in Japan

Focusing on Korean-Japanese marriages, 1955-2010

Eighty percent of Koreans in Japan are marrying Japanese

By William Wetherall

First posted 16 March 2006
Last updated 15 September 2010


In prefectural Japan, the rate that migrants from Korea and their descendants have married prefectural and other people not affiliated with Korea is a measure of mutual acceptance on the part of at least the couple concerned, but also on the part of their families, and ultimately of society at large.

Terminology

Nationality

"Nationality" is a formal affiliation with a nation, in this case Kankoku/Chosen, Japan, and other states. While the vast majority of the Koreans and Japanese represented by the figures in the following table may have descended from anthropologically (geographically) different racial or ethnic populations, the figures include Koreans and Japanese of all racial and ethnic ancestries. Hence the marriages between them are not necessarily interracial or interethnic.

Kankoku/Chosen

"Koreans" in the following table is a singular label for several categories of people who are nationals of "Kankoku/Chosen" -- a conflation of Kankoku (ROK) after 1948 or Chosen (legacy Chosen territory) after 1910.

Trends

Unlike status of residence statistics reported by the Ministry of Justice, marriage by nationality data compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare do not differentiate between recent migrants from ROK, and the mostly Japan-born Kankoku/Chosen nationals who are recognized as special permanent residents.

The sex and age composition of the settled Korean population is much like that of the Japanese population, while the composition of the recent Korean population is both younger and notably more female. As yet the more recent population comprises only about 25 percent of the total Korean population, so the impact of its different composition is not yet notable.

Annual rate of marriages with non-Koreans

Official statistics are counts of marriages, not spouses. Most reporters compute percents of all marriages that involve different nationalities. This, however, is only a measure of how many couples are of different nationalities.

In the following table, the column headed Percent Korean marriages with non-Koreans shows that, from 1955 to the mid 1960s the percent of Korean marriages involving non-Koreans dropped at bit then rose again, and from the early 1960s to the mid 2000s it rose from about 30 to 90 percent.

Accumulated percent of marriages with non-Koreans

Of the 366,881 Korean marriages registered between 1955 and 2004, some 34 percent (123,175) were unions between Koreans, while 66 percent (243,706) were between Koreans and non-Koreans.

Practically all non-Korean spouses have been Japanese, and so about 65 percent of all Korean-related families are also Japan-related. And since practically all the Koreans involved in these marriages were born in Japan, even the all-Korean marriages are Japan-related in every sense but nationality -- a legal rather than social artifact.

Annual probability that a Korean married a non-Korean

The actual rate (probability) that an individual Korean will marry a non-Korean, as shown under Percent Koreans marrying non-Koreans, has risen from 20 to 80 percent.

Accumulated percent of Koreans who have married a non-Korean

Of the 490,056 Koreans who married between 1955 and 2004, some 50 percent (243,706) married non-Koreans, 98 percent (239,652) of whom were Japanese.

Sex ratios

The last three columns to the right show percents and ratios of Korean men and women who married Japanese. 1968 and 1969 marked a change from more marriages of Korean men to Japanese women, to more marriages of Korean women to Japanese men.

Accumulated sex ratios

The ratio of males marrying Japanese to females marrying Japanese has gradually dropped from nearly three (3) in the late 1950s to less than one-half (0.4) in the early 2000s.

Though the numbers of both sexes marrying Japanese has been climbing, the number of women marrying Japanese has been rising faster. The accumulated effects of this trend is that, of the 243,706 Koreans who married non-Koreans between 1955 and 2004, some 63 percent (153,601) were women, and only 37 percent (90,105) were men.

Problems interpreting recent figures

Until the mid 1980s, most of the Koreans involved in marriages registered in Japan were born in Japan, or had migrated to Japan before the end of World War II. Practically all of these Koreans have been treated differently under immigration control laws and are entirely assimilated.

Since the mid 1980s, more people have migrated to Japan from all over the world, but particularly from China and Korea, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, and from Brazil and Peru. Moreover, the number of foreign women coming to Japan to marry Japanese men began to increase so rapidly in the last 1980s that, from 1992, the list of nationalities used to compile marriage statistics was expanded to include these countries.

The Japan-born or prewar-settled Korean population is not only rapidly falling but is rapidly aging. It is falling because of (1) more naturalization, (2) less natural renewal through the birth of Korean children, and (3) more deaths as the population ages. A significant effect of these three trends has to be a conspicuous drop in the number of such Koreans who are looking for a marriage partner.

In 2004, only about 75 percent of the total Korean population consisted of prewar-settled and Japan-born Koreans (see Alien registration stats and Permanent resident stats under "Foreigners"). Though the total Korean population in Japan is decreasing, the number of new Korean migrants is increasing. Recent arrivals are younger, most likely single, and more likely female.

Moreover, more Japanese are living in Korea, which further increases the number of Korean-Japanese marriages that will be registered in Japan. However, marriage figures merely indicate the number of marriages registered in Japan, including those registered from overseas. And they do not breakdown Kankoku/Chosen nationals according to whether they are in Japan, or whether if, in Japan, they are special permanent residents or simply aliens.

Multiethnic people and families

Fortunately there is no tracking of putative race or ethnicity in Japan. So we know only who marries whom in terms of their nationality. Koreans who naturalize in Japan become Japanese and hence are no longer Koreans. And Japanese nationality is now available at time of birth to the children of all Koreans who marry Japanese.

Since the vast majority of Koreans in Japan are by no stretch of the imagination "ethnically" anything but mainstream people, it makes no sense to minoritize the offspring of Korean-Japanese marriages, by arguing that they are somehow "ethnically Korean" or "multiethnic" or "multicultural" -- or other buzzwords that racialist fashions might impose on them.

Between 1955 and 1995 at least 243,706 Koreans, mostly in Japan, married non-Koreans, mostly Japanese. If each couple had two children, there would be about 500,000 offspring of mixed Korean-Japanese parentage in terms of nationality. However, most of these offspring will fall off the Korean nationality map, since they will either have been born Japanese or will later naturalize.

Also disappearing from the Korean nationality map are Korean couples who naturalize. Young children they have at the time they naturalize will also become Japanese. And of course any children they have, as Japanese parents, will be Japanese. And since the parents of these children were Japanese, the children would not be of mixed Korean-Japanese parentage in terms of nationality.

Fortunately, whether Japanese of any degree of Korean descent consider themselves to be just "Japanese" or "Korean Japanese" -- or whether they consider themselves to be in any sense "pure" Korean or Japanese or "part" Korean or Japanese -- is a private concern -- a personal racialist sentiment having nothing to do with nationality or any other civil measure of social status.

Ad infinitum ad nauseam.

The combinations and permutations in the convolutions of the racialist mind are endless. Anyone who attempts to "racialize" or "ethnicize" either Koreans or Japanese deserves to get lost in what amounts to a maze of their own making.


Marriages in Japan by nationality, 1955-2004
Between Koreans, and between Koreans and others
(Japanese and Other)
Compiled, computed, and designed by William Wetherall, March 2006
Totals @ Both Korean One Korean and one non-Korean @ @ @ @ @ @ @ Out-marriage rates @ @ @
All other nationalities Japan Other nationalities Ratios of Koreans marrying non-Koreans Ratio of
Marriages Marriages Marriages Marriages Marriages Marriages to all Koreans who marry in Japan Korean
Total Total Total Total Korean Korean Total Total Korean Korean Total Korean Korean Total Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent men/
marriages spouses marriages spouses man woman mariages spouses Total man woman marriages man woman marriages marriages Koreans Koreans marrying marrying women
both/one both/one both both non-Krn non-Krn one not one not Korean Japanese Japanese Korean other other Korean with marrying marrying Japanese Japanese marrying
Year Korean Korean Korean Korean woman man Korean Korean spouses woman man Japanese woman man other non-Krn non-Krn Japanese woman man Japanese Year
a=b+e 2a b 2b c d e=c+d 2e f=2b+e g h i=g+h j l l=j+k 100*e/a 100*e/f 100*i/f 100*g/i 100*h/i g/h
1955 1,102 2,204 737 1,474 242 123 365 730 1,839 242 94 336 29 29 33.1 19.8 18.3 72.0 28.0 2.6 1955
1956 1,796 3,592 1,281 2,562 340 175 515 1,030 3,077 340 134 474 41 41 28.7 16.7 15.4 71.7 28.3 2.5 1956
1957 2,286 4,572 1,674 3,348 407 205 612 1,224 3,960 407 168 575 37 37 26.8 15.5 14.5 70.8 29.2 2.4 1957
1958 2,810 5,620 2,085 4,170 467 258 725 1,450 4,895 465 211 676 2 47 49 25.8 14.8 13.8 68.8 31.2 2.2 1958
1959 3,597 7,194 2,473 4,946 806 318 1,124 2,248 6,070 805 280 1,085 1 38 39 31.2 18.5 17.9 74.2 25.8 2.9 1959
1960 3,524 7,048 2,315 4,630 862 347 1,209 2,418 5,839 862 310 1,172 @ 37 37 34.3 20.7 20.1 73.5 26.5 2.8 1960
1961 3,734 7,468 2,568 5,136 746 420 1,166 2,332 6,302 745 396 1,141 1 24 25 31.2 18.5 18.1 65.3 34.7 1.9 1961
1962 4,532 9,064 3,180 6,360 807 545 1,352 2,704 7,712 807 514 1,321 31 31 29.8 17.5 17.1 61.1 38.9 1.6 1962
1963 4,542 9,084 3,102 6,204 830 610 1,440 2,880 7,644 830 571 1,401 39 39 31.7 18.8 18.3 59.2 40.8 1.5 1963
1964 5,097 10,194 3,360 6,720 1,030 707 1,737 3,474 8,457 1,027 673 1,700 3 34 37 34.1 20.5 20.1 60.4 39.6 1.5 1964
1965 5,693 11,386 3,681 7,362 1,131 881 2,012 4,024 9,374 1,128 843 1,971 3 38 41 35.3 21.5 21.0 57.2 42.8 1.3 1965
1966 5,352 10,704 3,369 6,738 1,111 872 1,983 3,966 8,721 1,108 846 1,954 3 26 29 37.1 22.7 22.4 56.7 43.3 1.3 1966
1967 5,927 11,854 3,643 7,286 1,159 1,125 2,284 4,568 9,570 1,157 1,097 2,254 2 28 30 38.5 23.9 23.6 51.3 48.7 1.1 1967
1968 6,143 12,286 3,685 7,370 1,293 1,165 2,458 4,916 9,828 1,258 1,124 2,382 35 41 76 40.0 25.0 24.2 52.8 47.2 1.1 1968
1969 6,043 12,086 3,510 7,020 1,199 1,334 2,533 5,066 9,553 1,168 1,284 2,452 31 50 81 41.9 26.5 25.7 47.6 52.4 0.9 1969
1970 6,892 13,784 3,879 7,758 1,430 1,583 3,013 6,026 10,771 1,386 1,536 2,922 44 47 91 43.7 28.0 27.1 47.4 52.6 0.9 1970
1971 7,354 14,708 4,030 8,060 1,578 1,746 3,324 6,648 11,384 1,533 1,696 3,229 45 50 95 45.2 29.2 28.4 47.5 52.5 0.9 1971
1972 7,439 14,878 3,839 7,678 1,751 1,849 3,600 7,200 11,278 1,707 1,785 3,492 44 64 108 48.4 31.9 31.0 48.9 51.1 1.0 1972
1973 7,450 14,900 3,768 7,536 1,726 1,956 3,682 7,364 11,218 1,674 1,902 3,576 52 54 106 49.4 32.8 31.9 46.8 53.2 0.9 1973
1974 7,789 15,578 3,877 7,754 1,796 2,116 3,912 7,824 11,666 1,743 2,047 3,790 53 69 122 50.2 33.5 32.5 46.0 54.0 0.9 1974
1975 7,249 14,498 3,618 7,236 1,589 2,042 3,631 7,262 10,867 1,554 1,994 3,548 35 48 83 50.1 33.4 32.6 43.8 56.2 0.8 1975
1976 6,944 13,888 3,246 6,492 1,601 2,097 3,698 7,396 10,190 1,564 2,049 3,613 37 48 85 53.3 36.3 35.5 43.3 56.7 0.8 1976
1977 6,676 13,352 3,213 6,426 1,427 2,036 3,463 6,926 9,889 1,390 1,990 3,380 37 46 83 51.9 35.0 34.2 41.1 58.9 0.7 1977
1978 6,683 13,366 3,001 6,002 1,535 2,147 3,682 7,364 9,684 1,500 2,110 3,610 35 37 72 55.1 38.0 37.3 41.6 58.4 0.7 1978
1979 7,041 14,082 3,155 6,310 1,635 2,251 3,886 7,772 10,196 1,597 2,224 3,821 38 27 65 55.2 38.1 37.5 41.8 58.2 0.7 1979
1980 7,255 14,510 3,061 6,122 1,703 2,491 4,194 8,388 10,316 1,651 2,458 4,109 52 33 85 57.8 40.7 39.8 40.2 59.8 0.7 1980
1981 7,250 14,500 2,949 5,898 1,679 2,622 4,301 8,602 10,199 1,638 2,585 4,223 41 37 78 59.3 42.2 41.4 38.8 61.2 0.6 1981
1982 7,655 15,310 2,863 5,726 1,847 2,945 4,792 9,584 10,518 1,809 2,903 4,712 38 42 80 62.6 45.6 44.8 38.4 61.6 0.6 1982
1983 8,081 16,162 2,714 5,428 1,934 3,433 5,367 10,734 10,795 1,901 3,391 5,292 33 42 75 66.4 49.7 49.0 35.9 64.1 0.6 1983
1984 7,806 15,612 2,502 5,004 2,061 3,243 5,304 10,608 10,308 2,021 3,209 5,230 40 34 74 67.9 51.5 50.7 38.6 61.4 0.6 1984
1985 8,627 17,254 2,404 4,808 2,562 3,661 6,223 12,446 11,031 2,525 3,622 6,147 37 39 76 72.1 56.4 55.7 41.1 58.9 0.7 1985
1986 8,303 16,606 2,389 4,778 2,364 3,550 5,914 11,828 10,692 2,330 3,515 5,845 34 35 69 71.2 55.3 54.7 39.9 60.1 0.7 1986
1987 9,088 18,176 2,270 4,540 2,391 4,427 6,818 13,636 11,358 2,365 4,405 6,770 26 22 48 75.0 60.0 59.6 34.9 65.1 0.5 1987
1988 10,015 20,030 2,362 4,724 2,567 5,086 7,653 15,306 12,377 2,535 5,063 7,598 32 23 55 76.4 61.8 61.4 33.4 66.6 0.5 1988
1989 12,676 25,352 2,337 4,674 2,627 7,712 10,339 20,678 15,013 2,589 7,685 10,274 38 27 65 81.6 68.9 68.4 25.2 74.8 0.3 1989
1990 13,934 27,868 2,195 4,390 2,767 8,972 11,739 23,478 16,129 2,721 8,940 11,661 46 32 78 84.2 72.8 72.3 23.3 76.7 0.3 1990
1991 11,677 23,354 1,961 3,922 2,707 7,009 9,716 19,432 13,638 2,666 6,969 9,635 41 40 81 83.2 71.2 70.6 27.7 72.3 0.4 1991
1992 10,242 20,484 1,805 3,610 2,859 5,578 8,437 16,874 12,047 2,804 5,537 8,341 55 41 96 82.4 70.0 69.2 33.6 66.4 0.5 1992
1993 9,700 19,400 1,781 3,562 2,804 5,115 7,919 15,838 11,481 2,762 5,068 7,830 42 47 89 81.6 69.0 68.2 35.3 64.7 0.5 1993
1994 9,228 18,456 1,616 3,232 2,733 4,879 7,612 15,224 10,844 2,686 4,851 7,537 47 28 75 82.5 70.2 69.5 35.6 64.4 0.6 1994
1995 8,953 17,906 1,485 2,970 2,898 4,570 7,468 14,936 10,438 2,842 4,521 7,363 56 49 105 83.4 71.5 70.5 38.6 61.4 0.6 1995
1996 8,804 17,608 1,438 2,876 2,855 4,511 7,366 14,732 10,242 2,800 4,461 7,261 55 50 105 83.7 71.9 70.9 38.6 61.4 0.6 1996
1997 8,540 17,080 1,269 2,538 2,717 4,554 7,271 14,542 9,809 2,674 4,504 7,178 43 50 93 85.1 74.1 73.2 37.3 62.7 0.6 1997
1998 9,172 18,344 1,279 2,558 2,693 5,200 7,893 15,786 10,451 2,635 5,143 7,778 58 57 115 86.1 75.5 74.4 33.9 66.1 0.5 1998
1999 9,638 19,276 1,220 2,440 2,555 5,863 8,418 16,836 10,858 2,499 5,798 8,297 56 65 121 87.3 77.5 76.4 30.1 69.9 0.4 1999
2000 10,016 20,032 1,151 2,302 2,568 6,297 8,865 17,730 11,167 2,509 6,214 8,723 59 83 142 88.5 79.4 78.1 28.8 71.2 0.4 2000
2001 9,830 19,660 1,019 2,038 2,545 6,266 8,811 17,622 10,849 2,477 6,188 8,665 68 78 146 89.6 81.2 79.9 28.6 71.4 0.4 2001
2002 8,847 17,694 943 1,886 2,466 5,438 7,904 15,808 9,790 2,379 5,353 7,732 87 85 172 89.3 80.7 79.0 30.8 69.2 0.4 2002
2003 8,662 17,324 924 1,848 2,313 5,425 7,738 15,476 9,586 2,235 5,318 7,553 78 107 185 89.3 80.7 78.8 29.6 70.4 0.4 2003
2004 9,187 18,374 949 1,898 2,392 5,846 8,238 16,476 10,136 2,293 5,730 8,023 99 116 215 89.7 81.3 79.2 28.6 71.4 0.4 2004
Note 1996 data are incomplete.Highlighted figures are provisional.
Sources Primary figures from various Ministry of Health and Welfare / Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare publications and web databases.
Many of the sub-totals and totals, and all of the percents and ratios, have been computed by William Wetherall.