I've seen 교포, 해외동포, and 교민 used to describe "overseas Koreans", but I'm wondering if there is a difference between the terms. Can they be equally used if the person was born in Korea and then moved abroad (expat) vs being born abroad (ethnic Korean) or any other nuances to the words?

From my own experience and looking in the dictionary, it seems like 교포 is used more for ethnic Koreans born abroad, 해외동포 is used more for Koreans born in Korea who now live abroad, and I'm unsure about 교민. I could totally be wrong, hence my question.

  • As a native Korean, I never saw the word '교포' being used as a negative meaning, and I don't think there are meaningful differences among those three words.
    – PenPoint
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


동포(同胞): 동 same 포 placenta. Brothers and sisters born from a single parent, friendly expression of people from the same country or people of the same nationality.

In practice, It refers to most overseas Koreans. Especially, use for in china or in russia. Because, in my opinion, it is an old word, and usually used before 1950. And in that time, koreans usually visit china(중국동포) or russia(especially ukraine. Soviet government force moved koreans to ukraine. 우크라이나 고려인 동포 ukraine korean 동포).

교포(僑胞): 교 people residing abroad 포 placenta. A person who has settled in another country and lives as a citizen of that country.

In practice, It refers to Koreans who are in japan(재일교포) or in USA (재미교포) or in south america (남미교포). Because, in my opinion, the word was usually used after 1960s. And in that time, koreans usually visit japan or amreica for get job.

교민(僑民): 교 people residing abroad 민 people. Foreign students living in other countries, temporary residents, etc.

In practice, in my opinion, it refers to Koreans who are not a large group. Like 과테말라(Guatemala) 현지교민. Not using for koreans who living in america. (재미교민 X, 재미교포 O)

Details (korean): 교민 교포가 아니라 동포


So, I did some more looking around and found the Wikipedia article on the Korean diaspora does a pretty good job of answering my question:

... there is no single name for the Korean diaspora. Historically used term gyopo (교포, also spelled kyopo, meaning "nationals") has come to have negative connotations as referring to people who, as a result of living as sojourners outside the "home country", have lost touch with their Korean roots. As a result, others prefer to use the term dongpo (동포, meaning "brethren" or "people of the same ancestry"). Dongpo has a more transnational implication, emphasising links among various overseas Korean groups, while gyopo has more of a purely national connotation referring to the Korean state.[3][4] Another recently popularized term is gyomin (교민, meaning "immigrants"), although it is usually reserved for Korean-born citizens that have moved abroad in search of work, and as such is rarely used as a term to refer to the entire diaspora.

With that said, I still welcome other people's answers. In particular, I'm a bit surprised to hear that 교포 is negative because I've heard a lot of Korean-Americans (and probably other ethnic Korean people in other countries too) refer to themselves as 교포.

  • I'd see that as an example of semantic reclamation. Compare that with the most common term for overseas Chinese (which is understood by some but not all Koreans), 華僑 / 华侨 / 화교, which is slowly being shed in favour of more politically correct terms in mainland China (e.g. 海外华人).
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 23:21
  • Concerning your comment at the end of the last paragraphs, it is not that surprising: the word 교포 originated from Korea and the Korean diaspora exported it in America. It didn't take a negative connotation for Korean Americans since it is just a way to call themselves, while the meaning evolved independently in Korea. Around me (in Busan), Koreans use 교포 to call someone that is ethnically Korean, but not completely culturally Korean. You can see the same phenomenon with other languages that evolved independently in different locations.
    – Taladris
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 13:31

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