Timeline of the Korean Diaspora

External Events
1894-1895The Donghak Peasant Revolution breaks out in Korea in 1894. It is an armed rebellion led by aggrieved peasants. Japan used this uprising as a pretext for direct military intervention in Korean affairs.
1894-1895The first Sino-Japanese War is fought between China and Japan over control of Korea (the Kingdom of Great Joseon). In April 1894, the Chinese government, at the request of the Korean king, sends troops to help end the Donghak peasant revolt. In response, Japanese leaders decide to militarily intervene in Korea to challenge China, resulting in the Sino-Japanese War. The conflict ultimately ends in a decisive Japanese victory.
1897In October 1897, King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty proclaims the Korean Empire and names himself Emperor GojongTraditionally, the title of Emperor was reserved only for the emperor of China. Korean dynasties had given tribute to Chinese dynasties. The inauguration of the Korean Empire is only possible after the Sino-Japanese War.
1904-1905The Russo-Japanese War is fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and KoreaRussia suffers multiple defeats and concedes to Japan. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt mediates in the creation of the Treaty of Portsmouth. In the treaty, Russia recognizes Korea as part of the Japanese sphere of influence and agrees to evacuate Manchuria.
The Korean Empire
(Proclaimed in October 1897 by Emperor Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty, the Korean Empire stood until Japan’s annexation of Korea in August 1910. To escape the famines and turbulent political climate of Korea and its neighbors, the first influx of small number of Korean immigrants migrated to Hawaii and Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century, as cheap laborers seeking a better life outside of Korea.)
1902In 1902, the Korean Empire is struck by devastating famine as a result of continued droughts and poor harvests. That same year, King Gojong, the first emperor of Korea, grants Koreans the right to work abroad. It was previously illegal for Koreans to leave Korea to live or work abroad.
January 13, 1903The first ship of Korean immigrants - carrying 56 men, 21 women, and 25 children (102 people) arrives at Hawaii on January 13, 1903, aboard the S.S. Gaelic. Thereafter, hundreds and then thousands of Korean migrants are lured to Hawaii, where the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association courts Asians of various ethnicities to work on their plantations.Honolulu, Hawaii
1905The first Korean Church is established in Honolulu (Eva Farm Church). Forty percent of the first Korean plantation workers who arrived in Hawaii in 1903 are Christians. THonolulu, Hawaii
April 4, 19051,033 Koreans board a British merchant ship named Ilford. After 40 days, they arrive at the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Merida).Merida, Mexico
Korea as Japan’s Colony
(Koreans are strongly rooted in their home land. Thus, few people from Korea had left the country before Japanese colonization in 1910. During the period 1910-1945 (under the colonial rule), a sizable number of Korean workers were forced to leave their homeland and settle in Manchuria, on Sakhalin and in Japan as laborers). During this period, many Koreans in the northern region of the country also migrated to China and Russia as a result of Japanese occupation.
August 22, 1910Japan annexes Korea with the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910
1910Rather than living under the Japanese, Korean peasants who lost their lands and who were persecuted travel northwards, towards China and Russia. In 1910, approximately 100,000 Koreans cross the Tumen River (a long river that serves as part of the boundary between China, Korea and Russia). By 1930, approximately 600,000 Koreans have crossed the Tumen River on their way to the North. By 1940, 1,500,000 Koreans have crossed the River.China, Russia

The 1937 Census showed 168,259 Koreans living in the Soviet Union.

In 1920, the total number of Koreans in Northeast China exceeds 450,000.
1921In 1921, 300 Korean migrants, originating from Merida, Mexico, arrive in Cuba to escape the harsh working conditions in Mexico. The majority move to Matanzas to the henequen plantations.Cuba
September 1937Facing reports that the Japanese had infiltrated the Russian Far East by means of ethnic Korean spies, Stalin deports 36,442 Korean families - totaling 171,781 people from Russia (almost all Koreans in Russia at that time) - to Central Asia, to what is now Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. More than 40,000 deported Koreans die in 1937 as a result of the harsh and difficult living conditions in Central Asia.Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
September 1, 1939World War II breaks outJapan colonizes and occupies Korea from 1910 to 1945. This leads to large numbers of Korean cheap laborers being brought to Japan during this period.
Early 1940sIn the early 1940s, tens of thousands of Koreans are brought to Sakhalin by the Japanese government to fill labor shortages resulting from World War II. When Russia invades Sakhalin days before Japan’s surrender, almost one-third of the Koreans cannot return either to Japan or their home towns in South Korea, and thus remain in Sakhalin in exile.Sakhalin Island

(It was then known as Karafuto Prefecture and was under the control of the Empire of Japan).
Independence and the newly declared Republic of Korea
(After Korea gained its independence from Japan, the character of Korean migration changed, especially from the 1960s onwards. The Korean economy began to develop and the government adopted an active emigration policy to benefit its industrialization goals. Koreans seeking better economic opportunities in other more industrialized countries were especially helped by more favorable U.S. immigration policies enacted in 1965).

August 15, 1945Japan surrenders to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945, ending 35 years of Japanese occupation of Korea.Japan

At the end of World War II, there are roughly 2.4 million Koreans in Japan. The majority repatriate to their ancestral homes in Korea, with roughly 600,000 deciding to remain in Japan.
July 20,1948Syngman Rhee is elected as the first president of the Republic of Korea, which was formally established in South Korea
June 25, 1950North Korea invades South Korea, sparking the Korean WarThe War continues until 1953. Over 1.2 million people died during the Korean War.
1955In 1955, Harry Holt establishes the Holt International Children's Services, which specializes in the adoption of Korean children (orphans from the Korean War). This starts a long tradition of Korean adoption, from families throughout the world.Starting in the mid-1960s with Sweden, and by the end of that decade, Holt International Children's Services begins sending Korean orphans to Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany.
December 1962First group of Koreans arrives in Port of Santos, Brazil, after leaving the Busan Port in Korea two months earlierBrazil
1963The Labor Recruitment Agreement is signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and South Korea. Under the Agreement, Germany extends commercial loans worth 150 million German marks to Korea, in exchange for a steady influx of Korean miners and nurses. Korea sends 7,936 miners to Germany from 1963-1977 and 11,057 nurses from 1965-1976.Germany
1965The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act in the U.S. revokes the national quota system and gives priority to relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. With this new policy in place, the annual number of Korean immigrants steadily increases and allows massive number of Koreans to immigrate to the U.S. from 1965 through to the early 1980s. USA

Today (2019) there are over 2 million Korean Americans.

The Untold Story – “The Korean Empire” (Arirang TV)