The Korean Diaspora Project: The Untold Story of Korean Migrants to Mexico

In 1904, about ten advertisements were placed in newspapers throughout Incheon, Korea calling for workers to head for jobs in Mexico.  A typical ad stated: ‘Located near the United States of America, Mexico is a civilized and rich country. It has warm weather, clean water and fertile soil. The world knows it is a place where no diseases exist. In Mexico there are many wealthy people, but few poor people, so it is very difficult to find laborers. Like many Japanese and Chinese who went to Mexico and profited a lot last year, Chosun (Korean) people too will benefit much when they go there. Farmers will have free access to medicine. And you will work 9 hours a day and will be paid from a minimum ‘2 Won 60 Jun’ up to ‘6 Won’.’  (approximately $0.15 per day in today’s dollars).

In total, 1,033 Korean migrants (including women and 200 orphans) arrived in Merida in 1905 on El Chemulpo, the British cargo ship that transported the migrants to Mexico. Sadly, the reality was very different and soon they realized how they had been tricked.  Most were sent to Yucatan henequen plantations and were treated as slaves, like the Maya people along whose side they found themselves working. Those that survived a four-year contract generally did not even make enough money to fund their return to Korea.  Consequently, many permanently settled in the country and began new families, marrying Mayas in Yucatan or moving to places such as Tijuana and other areas of Mexico.

This research fellowship aims to trace the trials and tribulations of these early Korean migrants to Mexico.  Our main goal is to (1) collect, archive and preserve the stories of the first Korean migrants to Mexico whose stories are at risk of being lost; and (2) disseminate and share these incredible untold stories with a large audience worldwide.

Please contact us if you are interested in pursuing or contributing to this research.


Gardner, Arthur Leslie. The Koreans in Hawaii; an annotated bibliography. Honolulu, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii, 1970.

Kim, Hahkyung. “Korean Immigrants’ Place in the Discourse of Mestizaje: A History of Race-Class Dynamics and Asian Immigration in Yucatán, Mexico.” (2012).

Park, Hea-Jin. “Dijeron que iba a levantar el dinero con la pala: A Brief Account of Early Korean Emigration to Mexico.” HMiC: història moderna i contemporània 4 (2006): 137-150.

Patterson, Wayne. 1993. “The Early Years of Korean Immigration to Mexico: a View from Japanese and Korean Sources.” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 6:87-10


WEBSITE LINKSón-Coreana-a-Yucatán-153347068015960/

Video Gallery

Korean Migrants to Mexico – Yi (Diaz) Family History

Yo Soy Coreana: Migration and Immigrant History in Mexico: Video by AJ Kim

Workers of the Henequen Agave: Korean Immigration to Mexico

Those Who Arrived: Koreans in Mexico

Korean Immigration in the Yucatan 

멕시코동포 – 에네껜 한인후손 – 
Korean Descendents (Henequen)

KTV Report on Korean Mexicans:

“애니깽을 아십니까?”
“Do You Know Henequen?”

[Centro Cultural Coreano] 
The Second Korean Festival in Mérida 2017

Aenikkaeng – Michael Vince Kim | LensCulture

Korea Today – Korean descendants visit motherland 에네켄에 핀 희망, 모국 땅 밟다! 멕시코·쿠바 한인 후손 방한


Henequen 1994 (part 1 of 3) – Korean language film with no subtitle

Henequen 1994 (part 2 of 3) – Korean language film with no subtitle

Henequen 1994 (part 3 of 3) – Korean language film with no subtitle