In 2013 over half of New Zealand Koreans were Christians, with Buddhists a small minority. Churches and temples were central points to meet for services and community support.
Wherever they have settled, Koreans have helped boost Catholic and Presbyterian congregations. Korean churches were established in existing church buildings, particularly on Auckland’s North Shore. Some churches serve as community centres, offering diverse courses, and concerts of Korean classics, gospel and pop by well-known Korean singers. The Catholic community has been broadcasting Korean radio programmes since the mid-1990s.
Although a smaller group, Buddhists contribute to the wider community by inviting prominent Korean Buddhist monks to give talks in New Zealand. Many Koreans of all faiths flocked to listen to Reverend Pomnyun in November 2014 at North Harbour Stadium, Albany, Auckland.
Since the 1990s Korean restaurants have multiplied, serving up traditional fare such as pulgogi, kalbi, pibimbap, cheyukbokkum and kimchi.
The first Korean language class for children began in the 1980s in a Wellington church where Koreans met on Sundays. In the 2010s Korean community schools in major cities usually open on Saturdays, offering classes in language and other cultural traditions such as taekwondo, a Korean martial art. Some schools also offer Korean language classes to non-Korean adult students.
Newspapers and websites
Korean newspapers and magazines such as the New Korea Herald, the New Zealand Times and Korea Town have been circulating in Auckland since the 1990s. They are now also accessible online, along with more recent publications such as NZ Korea Post, Goodday New Zealand, Korea Sunday Sisa News and Tauranga Korean Times.
Community celebrations and concerts
The community gathers on national days, including 1 March, which marks the Korean Independence Movement’s demonstration against the Japanese in 1919. Korean associations in major cities, as well as the Korean Embassy in Wellington and consulate in Auckland, organise various annual events to help Koreans maintain their culture and to promote a better appreciation of it by New Zealanders. In 2002 celebrations in Christchurch featured percussionists and solos on the haegum (two-string fiddle) and ka-yagum (12-string zither). Many concerts performed by local and world-famous Korean musicians have been staged in the main cities.
Many Koreans love golf. They see New Zealand as an ideal location for playing the sport recreationally and for training future golfers. In 2011 around 1,000 Koreans were learning golf in New Zealand, and Koreans made up nearly 70% of the qualifying field for the New Zealand Open.
In 2002, 13-year-old Jae An from Rotorua became the youngest person ever to qualify for the New Zealand Open, where he impressed such luminaries as Tiger Woods. Lydia Ko, the youngest-ever winner of the New Zealand Women’s Open in 2013 at the age of 15, became the youngest-ever winner on several tours, winning the 2012 New South Wales Open, the 2013 Canadian Women’s Open and the 2015 CME Group Tour. In September 2015, Ko became the youngest-ever female winner of a golf major by winning the Evian Championship. She followed up this feat by winning the next major, the ANA Inspiration, in April 2016. In July 2015 Danny Lee, another young Korean New Zealander, won the Greenbrier Classic on the elite PGA Tour.
Many Koreans in New Zealand are looking forward to deeper cultural communications with the wider New Zealand population. Some have developed initiatives to meet local community needs. In 2013 Helen Shin, together with Carmel Stewart, established the Soul of Art Community in Tūākau in the Waikato. This non-profit trust offers art, music and educational opportunities to local youth.
Kimchigook, the first locally produced Korean drama sitcom, was being filmed in 2015 and was due to be shown in New Zealand, South Korea and other countries later in the year.