The number of foreign residents last year reached a record-high 2.26 million and comprised 4.4% of the national population, the highest in the country's history.
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety on Nov. 8 released a report on the status of foreign residents as reported by local governments that analyzed data from Statistics Korea's population and housing census. The results found that the number of foreign residents as of Nov. 1 last year was 2,258,248, up 5.8% or 123,679 from that in 2021 and the highest since the government began compiling the figure in 2006.
Expats refer to foreign residents who stay in the country for more than 90 days, naturalized citizens and their children.
In 2019, the number of such residents rose to 2.22 million but started to slowly decrease from 2020 before rising again last year for the first time in three years. The ministry said the expat decline due to COVID-19 ceased to make way for a sharp rebound.
The number of international students increased 20.9% or 32,709 year on year and that of ethnic Koreans with foreign nationality grew 7.9% or 29,000. Both demographics greatly influenced the rise in the expat population.
The number of international students in Korea was 189,397, surpassing that of marriage immigrants (175,756) for the first time since the nation began compiling the statistic.
By type, the number of foreign residents who did not have Korean nationality was the highest at 1,752,346 and that of naturalized citizens 223,825. Also included in the figures were 282,077 children of expats born in the country.
By region, the number of expats rose in all of the nation's 17 cities and provinces. The Seoul metropolitan area saw major growth in the category with Gyeonggi-do Province adding 37,010 foreign residents, Seoul 15,546 and Incheon 12,171.