The Kiwi Connection

The Korean Diaspora: The Korean Kiwis

nz korea

Hello everyone,

Today we will talk about the lovely Kiwi people of New Zealand. They call themselves kiwis because there is an endangered species called the kiwi.

By Goudron92 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Having not attended a Korean school in South Korea, I can’t imagine fully to what extent the environment is like for kids growing up in South Korea.

However, I used to visit Korea every summer vacation since I was 7 years old and saw my cousin slave away on her homework, get hit by her mom (too many times to count), and come home at hours that would shock you.

It’s amazing that kids can still keep their sanity, form friendships, and find time to play.

Many Koreans saw flaws in the ridiculous education system and decided they would leave if the opportunity arose.  Coupled with the competitive and over-the-top nature of the work atmosphere in Korea, the benefits that New Zealand had to offer were plenty: relaxed education system, less people, beautiful scenery, and a lifestyle change.

Though people started coming since 1966, the first noticeable stamp of the Korean population arose in 1991 when the immigration policy allowed people who had certain skills to qualify for a visa.

The first wave of Koreans arrived.

Photo taken by Kim Voice.
Photo taken by Kim Voice. Visit

So many many Koreans jumped at this opportunity and as a result, the population spiked from a mere 930 to 19,026.  Jezzus ! If one knows anything about Koreans, they like to talk…a lot; so word spread like wildfire, and people didn’t look back.

I grew up in the states, and I remember my mother would always have her friends come over, drink iced coffees, and chatter with no end in sight.  When my mom wasn’t with her friends, she was on the phone with her sisters talking about everything and anything that was going on in their lives.  So I’m only assuming that other Korean adjummas sat around and chatted away about the great new land called New Zealand while making kimchi. Looks like a fun time, doesn’t it ? ^^


While the greenery and landscapes tied with the easy-going education made it ideal for Koreans to find a better life, their English skills made it hard for them to find real work.

The Kiwis also caught on quick, and in 1995, they implemented an English-language test which brought the wave of Koreans to a halt.

Fortunately, in the beginning of the millennium, another immigration scheme was put in place, which sent a 2nd ‘wave’ of Koreans to Auckland.
visit for more photos

Now a total of 30,000 Kowis (Korean Kiwis) reside in New Zealand, 70% of them are in Auckland (North Island).

By Sandy Austin [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Sandy Austin [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
So if you ever find yourself in Auckland, don’t be surprised if you see a Korean shop or two..or three.

Oh, and I’m not sure whether it’s a Korean thing, but many seem to take up golfing.  My parents and my brother are fanatics, and they know it too.  If I was better at putting, I think I’d play more, but at this point, it doesn’t excite me at all.  I enjoy the driving range, but that is about it.  Also, I don’t get why lower scores or even negative scores equate to better skills. Anyway, maybe someday.

Notable people who’ve represented New Zealand with a Korean background include Danny Lee and Lydia Ko.

I think if we get really good, the entire golf tournament will just have a bunch of Koreans who will be represented by different countries!

To end off, if you’re a Korean from New Zealand, you can write your own story on the teara website.  Alternatively, you can be featured on my site as well, just visit the contact us section.


    • Yes, so glad I didn’t grow up in Korea lol

      Korean-New Zealanders, according to wiki called themselves Kowi, although, an actual Korean-Kiwi said he’s never heard of the term. Maybe wiki had it wrong ?

      Thanks for noticing unnie ^^ I just had a vision of the waves of Koreans coming over.


  1. Hello zergsprincess! This was such an interesting read because my family too almost moved to NZ when I was little. In fact, our family friend did about 20 years ago and we’re thinking to go visit them at the end of this year! I’m so excited!!


  2. “It’s amazing that kids can still keep their sanity, form friendships, and find time to play.”

    …They don’t. Some go crazy and kill people, or kill themselves. Most don’t play if Korea and Taiwan are anything alike.

    Asian kids have it rough. Even if your childhood in the USA left a lot to be desired, we had it better. :-\


    • Hey Trav,

      Thanks for your observation and comment 🙂

      From the Koreans that Ive met throughout the years, their friendships are pretty strong maybe due to their stressful situations. Yes, it’s a shame that the educational system can drive kids to end their lives.

      I totally agree that we had it better! I hope we can make a positive impact in Korea because of our circumstances and not just observe what’s happening.



  3. ^_^ I re-read my comment just now. What a storm cloud I was that day. I think I had just read a very sad chapter in “Learning to Bow,” about teaching in Japan.

    I agree that I wish we could change the kid’s educational lives in Korea or Taiwan (or Japan) for the better, I sort of lost hope and came back the the USA…the culture is so entrenched. One time I said to one of my cram school classes “I WANT you to ask questions!” They were really surprised by that. They are so used to listening and obeying.

    I’d much rather be a frisbee coach than an English teacher when I go back to Asia; I’d love to teach kids how to play instead of listen. But it’s not up to me. It’s more up to the parents. Kids that already go to a cram school have parents driving them, and the teachers there have privately interested managers driving THEM. Teaching at pubic school may be better for affecting a change in culture….


    • Hey Trav,

      It’s hard not to get a bit fired up when talking about the education system in Korea. I have too asked the kids to try and think for themselves. I can understand that your heart is in the right place about these kids. Maybe one day, the system will change, and kids can just go on being kids again 🙂

      empathetic about your thoughts,


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