Geographic Influences on Migration Patterns in East Asia

Geographic Influences on Migration Patterns in East Asia
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  • 0:01 What is Migration?
  • 0:35 Migration Patterns of China
  • 2:05 Migration Patterns of Japan
  • 2:50 Migration Patterns of S. Korea
  • 4:05 Migration Patterns of N. Korea
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to describe the migration patterns in East Asia and explain why those patterns exist. A short quiz will follow.

What is Migration?

Human migration is the seasonal or long-term movement of humans from one area of the Earth to another. People move permanently or temporarily between cities or between countries, even between continents. This is all human migration. There are lots of reasons people might migrate; they might move for a job, to improve their life, to escape persecution or because of a natural disaster. There are a mix of economic, social and physical reasons. Today, we're going to talk about East Asia's migration patterns and the reasons for those patterns.

Migration Patterns of China

China is a country where the net flow of migrants is outwards: more people are leaving China than entering. Traditionally, the Chinese government limited the number of people who were allowed to leave, but over the years their emigration policies have become increasingly relaxed. Today, hundreds of thousands of Chinese emigrants leave each year. Of course, this hasn't stopped the population from continuing to rise overall.

While countries aren't always open to accepting Chinese immigrants, a lot do leave for other places, whether temporarily or permanently. When people are accepted, they tend to be the most highly skilled workers, removing those skills from the Chinese economy. Generally, the most popular destinations are Western-style democracies with strong freedoms. These include the United States, European countries, Australia and New Zealand, but countries like Japan and South Korea are extremely common destinations, if only due to the fact that they're closer.

China has the greatest overseas populations in Thailand and Malaysia, but the United States has 3.8 million Chinese, Canada has 1.5 million and even in countries like the UK, which only have 470,000 or so, Chinese are now the most significant group of immigrants coming to the country each year. China also receives immigrants, especially from poorer countries in Asia, like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. Illegal immigration is also a factor, especially from poor countries, and countries with especially oppressive regimes, like North Korea. Within China, the most common flow of migration is from rural areas to city, or urban, areas.

Migration Patterns of Japan

Japan is the richest country per capita in East Asia. It is also a democratic country, with the strongest personal freedoms in the area. For this reason, it probably isn't surprising that there is net migration into Japan; it is very much a destination country more than a source country. The number of foreign residents in Japan was 2.1 million in 2010. The main source countries are China, the Philippines, South Korea and Brazil; 70% of foreign residents come from these countries.

However, immigration in Japan has been typically limited by the government. There is a public perception among the Japanese that Japan is a homogeneous nation and that this brings greater harmony between the people who live there. Public opposition to immigration is strong. While this remains the case, it seems unlikely that Japan will greatly increase the number of people allowed to live there.

Migration Patterns of South Korea

Immigration to South Korea has a lot more in common with Japan. As a democratic and economically successful country, it also receives more people than it loses, though this was not always the case. For a long time, South Korea was a source country. But, as it's become more and more successful, its economy growing at a staggering rate, this has changed. South Korea began to have labor shortages, and lacked people for jobs with difficult working conditions. The U.N. officially declared it a receiving country in 2007.

Another similarity with Japan is that the government limits immigration significantly. Most immigrants can't become citizens unless they marry a South Korean citizen or invest large sums of money into the economy. Despite these limits, immigration is still happening. The main countries people moving to South Korea come from are China, Mongolia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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