Emigration hits record low in 2013: S Korea's foreign ministry

SEOUL - More than 300 South Koreans emigrated last year, the lowest number since the South Korean government first began collecting relevant data in 1962, according to South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

Nearly 80 per cent, or 239 emigrants, relocated to the US in 2013, while about 23 headed for Canada and 18 went to Australia, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among the emigrants, almost 60 per cent left their home country for family reasons, while one-third of them went for jobs.

The number of emigrants from South Korea peaked at more than 46,000 people in 1976, a massive leap from some 380 in 1962.

One reason for the spike in the numbers during the period was the government's push for job-based emigration to the Middle East due to the struggling Korean economy in the 1970s.

Though the numbers started to decrease in the late 1970s, the outflow continued until the early 2000s, with more than 10,000 people leaving the country each year. The number, however, dipped below 10,000 people in 2003, and slipped under 1,000 in 2010.

The decline in emigrants from South Korea appears to be a result of the country's improving economy and national power. Korea is steadily narrowing the economic gap with other developed nations.

"It is not easy to find a better place than Seoul in terms of living conditions," a government official told Yonhap. "It appears that these changes in living conditions have affected emigration as well."