Germans in Korea

Germans in Korea
Total population
Total population not known
Regions with significant populations
 South Korea 4,255 (2016)[1]
 North Korea Unknown
German, Korean
Christianity, others
Related ethnic groups

Germans in Korea have a long history, though they have never formed a significant population.


The first German to set foot on Korean soil, in 1832, was the Lutheran missionary Karl Gützlaff, who is also credited with importing the potato. He was followed by Shanghai-based businessman Ernst Oppert, who from 1866 to 1868 made three attempts to force Korea open to foreign trade, and German consul to Japan Max von Brandt, who in 1870 landed at Busan in an attempt to open negotiations, but was sent away by Korean officials there. Prussian orientalist Paul Georg von Möllendorff lived in Korea from 1882 to 1885 as the director general of the customs service. One German trading company, H. C. Eduard Meyer & Co., set up operations in Incheon at his suggestion in 1886. Several Germans also became prominent in Emperor Gojong's administration; Japan-based bandmaster Franz Eckert composed the Anthem of the Korean Empire for the emperor in 1902, while Richard Wunsch served as Gojong's personal physician from 1901 to 1905, and Antoinette Sontag (the former housekeeper of Karl Ivanovich Weber) was hired as majordomo in charge of the palace's household affairs.[2]

After the signing of the 1905 Eulsa Treaty, which deprived Korea of the right to conduct its own foreign relations, German diplomats in Korea were required to leave the country. Many more private individuals had departed by the time of the 1910 Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.[3] However, when Hermann Lautensach visited Korea in 1933, there were still a handful living there, including an entire monastery of Benedictine monks near Wonsan, Kangwon-do.[4] They continue to operate a monastery at Waegwan, near Daegu.[2]

Some Koreans settled in Germany during the 1960s and 1970s have begun returning to South Korea after retirement, bringing German spouses with them; this return migration has resulted in the creation of a "German Village" of roughly 75 households in South Gyeongsang's Namhae County.[5] The German population in South Korea shrank by roughly 25% between 1999 and 2005.[6]


Ferdinand Krien set up the Imperial German Language School in Seoul, which ran from 1898 to 1911.[2] The German School Seoul International was founded in 1976 for the families of German expatriates in and near the South Korean capital.[7] The Goethe-Institut opened a reading room in Pyongyang in 2004, but closed it in 2009 over censorship concerns.[8]

Notable people


  1. 《2009년도 출입국통계연보》, South Korea: Ministry of Justice, 2009, retrieved 2011-03-21
  2. 1 2 3 Kneider, Hans-Alexander (2010), "Deutsche Persönlichkeiten im Königreich Joseon", Koreana, 5 (1), pp. 84–85; available in English as: Remarkable Germans in the Choson Kingdom (PDF), Seoul: German Embassy in the Republic of Korea, retrieved 2010-09-02
  3. Kneider, Hans-Alexander (2007), Germans in Korea prior to 1910, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, retrieved 2007-05-31
  4. McCune, Shannon (May 1946), "Geographic publications of Hermann Lautensach on Korea", The Far Eastern Quarterly, Association for Asian Studies, 5 (3): 330–332, doi:10.2307/2049054, JSTOR 2049054
  5. Onishi, Norimitsu (2005-08-09), "In a Corner of South Korea, a Taste of German Living", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-05-30
  6. "A Little Corner of Overseas in Seoul", The Chosun Ilbo, 2007-04-05, retrieved 2007-08-17
  7. Kim, Christine (2010-09-17), "Academic rigor, close relations", JoongAng Ilbo, retrieved 2011-04-26
  8. Bowen, Kate (2009-11-26), "Goethe-Institut to close center in North Korea on censorship claim", Deutsche Welle, retrieved 2012-09-15
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