Couldn’t Have Done it Without You Sweden

The Korean Diaspora: Swedish Korean

Today, Sweden is the highlight of the hour!

If you haven’t learned a lot in history class, which I didn’t, all you have to know is Sweden is neutral, and they are organized.  I’m not one to generalize, but when I came across the 50 year Diplomatic Relations between South Korea and Sweden, it was surprising that everything was documented from their first encounter with us in the 1720.

1720?! Jezzus ! Who is the historian in charge of this ? Who does that ?!

Some think Korea always looked like this beautiful.
joseon palace When Sweden decided to help Korea, our infrastructure was in terrible condition, and there were more peasants than you can count.  Just look at our markets back then.

By User Kallgan on zh.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By User Kallgan on zh.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the Korean-Russian or German history, we were in need of help and Sweden came to us.
I mean, look at this ! THIS is where kpop started !

"Old Seoul (서울) circa 1880-1930" by "unknown" Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 18 June 2014.
“Old Seoul (서울) circa 1880-1930” by “unknown” Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 18 June 2014. 

So, the beginning of our official recognition that we even existed to the rest of the world was made possible by of a fellow name John Phillip von Stralenberg in 1730.  Back when maps were drawn by hand, people had to travel around to see what the world looked liked and because Johnny visited Korea for a short period, he literally put us on the map.

Wilhelm Andersson Grebst brought light to our civilization outside of Korea in 1904.  He wrote a book detailing Korea’s landscape, civilization, etc.  Before this, Europe had no knowledge of Korea because our borders were closed off to other countries.  The book titled “I Korea” was just translated in Korean in 2005.

Slowly but surely, through Sweden’s efforts, people started to gain insight into Korea.  However, Japan’s constant efforts were to invalidate Koreans by means of wars and social suppression. Korea fought a long chronic battle, and is still fighting, in order to gain its’ own identity solidified.

"Old Seoul (서울) circa 1880-1930" by "unknown" Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 17 June 2014.
“Old Seoul (서울) circa 1880-1930” by “unknown” Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 17 June 2014. 

To give an example, Sven Hedin was a geographer and explorer who was asked to speak in Korea but when he got there, it was filled with Japanese participants.  Where were the Koreans ? Waiting outside (probably in a squat position).

Well, Sven didn’t agree with this type of behaviour and refused to start his lecture until we were led into the room. It was a pivotal event because Sven’s adamant request was documented in the historic Korean record books known as an Ilsungrok (일성록) on 21 December 1908.

Ilsungrok is an official record book that Koreans use for documentation.

By Korean Cultural heritage Administration (Korean Cultural heritage Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Korean Cultural heritage Administration (Korean Cultural heritage Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Continuing on, Sweden didn’t take advantage of an underdeveloped nation, they just wanted to catch bugs, and chase butterflies in our country for their zoological research.

The Swedish Crown Prince, King Gustaf VI Adolf, visited Korea and helped with excavating wonderful treasures.  Why? Because he liked archaeology.

During one of his excavations in Korea, the Shilla crown (57B.C – 935A.D) was discovered.  I remember seeing this crown at my aunt’s house, and wondering what it was all these years.

By David Trowbridge [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By David Trowbridge [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, during the Korean War is when Sweden really revealed their true colours.

There was a lot of bloodshed between the South and North, and so, a hospital was setup by Sweden in the 1950s.  Wounded soldiers, UN forces, and civilians were treated here.

To add, they were the FIRST people to offer aid when the war began.  A country that really gave us more than we were able to give them.

To push on, the diaspora of Koreans in Sweden was through adoption.  One of the main reasons being was The Swedish National Social Welfare Board was responsible for adoptions until the 1979.

As of now, there are over 8,000 Koreans in Sweden, and several have found themselves back in Korea.  To keep cultural ties in place, since 1969, Korean studies were available for anyone at Stockholm University.  Thus far, six PhD degrees in Korean studies have been awarded.

To end on a high note, to say that Swedish has influenced Korea in a positive way is really an understatement.  Personally, its truly wondrous that a country would help to the degree in that the changes are still seen today.

Oh, and does this look familiar?

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.46.03 pm

Sweden was responsible for this stylish and environmentally conscious design.


your Kyopo friend,


Learn more about the Sweden-Korean Diplomatic relationship.

Are you from Sweden or know a thing or two about this country ? Post your thoughts below.


  1. Really insightful writing, zergsprincess 🙂

    As an aside, i guess because of the never ending love affair Korea has with white America, its a shame that other really interesting aspects of its history – like this and your recent CIS post – don’t get at least the same amount of air time.

    Great stuff!


    • Hey underworld ~

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I agree with you about America and Korea, people think America was the only influential country to South Korea. BTW Nice analogy about air time hehe so clever you 😉

      your Kyopo friend,


    • Im not sure that i like the conection between Korea and white America… I dont think its very equal at all!

      /A swedish Samsung-enthusiast !!! 😉


      • Yes, I totally agree ! I’ve read about the impact America has had on South Korea, and this is why it was refreshing to read about the Sweds and their impact on our country ^_^

        iphone lover,


  2. Hello!
    Im from Sweden. And i really like what your saying here. That makes me feel a bit proud… But still i dont its kind of hard for me to belive that Sweden has had that big impact on Korea… I think koreans should look more on what they have done, all by themselfs. And feel more pride in that!


    • Hi Anna ! Thanks for stopping by, I like to point out the positive impacts that a nation has on other nations. We’ve done a lot over the years, however, it’s with the assistance of others that we can thrive 🙂


  3. Hi zergsprincess, I’m a Koreaphile from Sweden. I love the history of Korea ranging from the Three Kingdoms, to the Joseon dynasty, to the present day. There is something about Korean culture that I love.


    • Hello Magnus,

      Koreaphile from Sweden ?! Interesting, I think you would know more than men in regards to Korean history. I just dig up stuff about gyopos mainly and the history around that. Have you been to Korea ?


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