The Peopling of Korea Revealed by Analyses of Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosomal Markers

Jin et al. 2009


Background: The Koreans are generally considered a northeast Asian group because of their geographical location. However, recent findings from Y chromosome studies showed that the Korean population contains lineages from both southern and northern parts of East Asia. To understand the genetic history and relationships of Korea more fully, additional data and analyses are necessary.

Methodology and Results: We analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation in the hypervariable segments I and II (HVS-I and HVS-II) and haplogroup-specific mutations in coding regions in 445 individuals from seven east Asian populations (Korean, Korean-Chinese, Mongolian, Manchurian, Han (Beijing), Vietnamese and Thais). In addition, published mtDNA haplogroup data (N=3307), mtDNA HVS-I sequences (N=2313), Y chromosome haplogroup data (N=1697) and Y chromosome STR data (N=2713) were analyzed to elucidate the genetic structure of East Asian populations. All the mtDNA profiles studied here were classified into subsets of haplogroups common in East Asia, with just two exceptions. In general, the Korean mtDNA profiles revealed similarities to other northeastern Asian populations through analysis of individual haplogroup distributions, genetic distances between populations or an analysis of molecular variance, although a minor southern contribution was also suggested. Reanalysis of Y-chromosomal data confirmed both the overall similarity to other northeastern populations, and also a larger paternal contribution from southeastern populations.

Conclusion: The present work provides evidence that peopling of Korea can be seen as a complex process, interpreted as an early northern Asian settlement with at least one subsequent male-biased southern-to-northern migration, possibly associated with the spread of rice agriculture..