In the spirit of Black History Month, let’s take a look at our African diaspora family in South Korea. South Korea is one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world – over 99% of South Koreans ethnically identify as Korean. There are no concrete statistics on the size of the Afro-Korean population; needless to say, it is small, but it does exist.

The African diaspora in South Korea is largely comprised of Africans and African Americans who have moved to Korea to study, for work or because they have been deployed by the military. There is a small minority of native Afro-Koreans, by and large they are the biracial children of Korean women and African-American servicemen.

This dates as far back as the 1950s, when the US deployed forces in South Korea during the Korean War, where North Korea (supported by China and the Soviet Union) fought for control against South Korea (supported by the US and the UN).

South Korea saw a spike in mixed-race, half-black children, many of whom were given up for adoption or abandoned.

As a result, in 1955 the US State Department petitioned American families to adopt ostracized Afro-Korean children, although many children were still rejected in favor of ethnically Korean orphans. The Korean government also partnered with international, private adoption agencies for mixed-race Korean children to be sent overseas.

Over time there have been greater waves of African migrants coming to South Korea to study or work, and although the Black presence in South Korea is still relatively small, TV and social media has meant that some Afro-Koreans have enjoyed a great amount of fame and media attention.

One example is teenager Jonathon Thona known as the ‘Congo Prince’. His family was originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his father came to South Korea seeking asylum. Several years later, the remaining family came to Korea to join him, when Jonathon was eight years old. Nowadays, Jonathon attends high school but has become a media sensation in Korea, where he frequently appears on television and has almost half a million subscribers on his YouTube channel.

One of the most famous Black people in South Korea is Sam Okyere, a Ghanaian-born TV personality. He originally came to Korea after he received a scholarship to study computer science in 2009. He transitioned into the entertainment industry, has since then used his position in the media industry to bridge cultural gaps and enlighten attitudes towards black people in Korea.

Han Hyun-min is a South Korean model who became the first ever Korean model of African descent to walk the catwalk in Korea. He is biracial; his father is Nigerian and his mother is Korean. Han himself was born and raised in the Korean capital of Seoul. He appears in the 2021 Netflix series ‘So Not Worth It’.

To learn more about the African diaspora worldwide, check out the ‘Freedom Is Mine’ YouTube channel, where I have made videos on black communities around the world. And you can follow Freedom Is Mine on Instagram for daily global black history content.