The number of registered foreign residents of Japan hit a record high 1.55 million — or 1.23 percent of the population — at the end of 1999, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

A survey by the ministry’s Immigration Bureau also revealed that about 3,000 foreign students in Japan obtained jobs at companies here in 1999 — another record high.

According to the bureau, the number of foreigners who had been in Japan for more than 90 days reached 1,556,113, up 43,997, or 2.9 percent, from 1998. The figure showed an increase of 200,000 over the total for 1994 and was 500,000 higher than 10 years ago.

The number of foreigners as a percentage of the population surpassed 1 percent for the first time in 1992 and has been increasing ever since, the bureau said.

Koreans, estimated to total 636,000, made up the largest ethnic group. As a percentage of the foreign population, however, it fell to a record low of 40.9 percent. Chinese ranked second at 294,000, or 18.9 percent, followed by Brazilians at 224,000, or 14.4 percent.

The fourth largest group was Filipinos, followed by Americans, the bureau said. All groups except Koreans increased in 1999.

Among the 2,989 foreign students who acquired jobs in Japan, 1,829 — or 61.2 percent — were Chinese. South Koreans formed the second largest group, followed by Taiwanese, Malaysians and Americans.

Of the companies that hired foreigners, 15.1 percent were engaged in commerce and trading, 13.2 percent in computers and 12.7 percent in education.

The foreign students mainly obtained jobs such as translators or interpreters, or posts in technical development and sales.

Last year, the government approved 97.3 percent of applications filed by foreign students to change their status to employees, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, 55,167 foreigners were deported in 1999, up 6,674, or 13.8 percent, from 1998. Of them, 44,403 had overstayed their visas and 46,258 had been unlawfully employed. The number of those who had illegally entered Japan rose to a record high 9,337, up 25 percent from 1998.

The number of deported foreigners rose for the first time in three years.

The ministry attributed the increase to revisions to the immigration and refugee law, which took effect in February, saying many foreigners illegally staying in Japan probably turned themselves in to the authorities before the law was enacted.

The law extended to five years from one year the period for which people who have been deported from Japan will be refused entry into the country. It also made illegally staying in Japan a punishable offense.