Korean Ohioans

From Ohio History Central

Numerous Ohioans are descended from Korean ancestors. Today, Korean Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern and Southern European countries, like Romania, Montenegro, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries, like Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern and Southern Europeans were also migrating to the state.

Koreans were among the last immigrant groups to come to Ohio. A sizable number of Koreans did not arrive in Ohio until the 1950s, following the Korean War. Many of these people were refugees from North Korea or were South Koreans hoping to find more opportunity in the United States. Still, Korean immigration remained relatively small until the late 1960s and 1970s, when the United States government eased immigration requirements. With this relaxation of requirements, another surge in Korean immigration occurred, with several thousand Koreans settling in Ohio. The largest number of Korean immigrants settled in Cleveland, which boasted a Korean population of nearly 1,100 people by 1980. Ohio's other major cities also had a number of Korean residents, with most communities having between five hundred and one thousand of these immigrants. At the start of the twenty-first century, a small number of Koreans continued to come to Ohio each year. Many of these Koreans were students, who came to the United States to further their education. In 2000, 13,376 Ohioans claimed Korean ancestry. These people comprised less than one-tenth of one percent of Ohio's entire populace.

Although Koreans arrived in Ohio much later than most other national groups, Korean Ohioans proved to be productive citizens, finding employment in traditional white-collar jobs, especially in scientific and technological fields. Many of these migrants still sought to maintain ties to their native homeland. For example, Cleveland Koreans established seven churches so that they could worship together. They also founded the Korean Association of Greater Cleveland, a social and cultural organization, created to promote Korean customs.

See Also


  1. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.