Lankov on the Korean Diaspora

On my trips to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan I encountered ethnic Koreans who grew up in the region and spoke only Russian.  Since then I have done some cursory research on the Central Asian Koreans, but not enough to satisfy my interest in this chapter of history.  This is all to say that Lankov’s most recent article on the Korean diaspora was a fulfilling read.  I have posted the first few paragraphs below but really you should just go to the Asia Times and read the whole thing.

Koreans left high and dry
Asia Times
Andrei Lankov

While walking the streets of this Russian city, the capital of Sakhalin Island, a large, nearly 1,000-kilometer-long sliver of land in the north Pacific, one clearly sees manifold signs of the Korean presence.

This is not only because of the billboards advertising big Korean eateries; many people are ethnic Koreans, forming over 10% of the city population of about 185,000 people. They are present due to an unusual set of circumstances, not widely known outside their community.

Just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1989, there were some 450,000 ethnic Koreans in this huge country. Most of them then lived in Central Asia. Ethnic Koreans of the ex-Soviet Central Asia are descendants of the poor farmers who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries moved to Russia from Korea’s northern provinces. They went there because land was plentiful and taxes were light.

During the 1917 Russian revolution and subsequent civil war, ethnic Koreans overwhelmingly supported the communists, but in 1937 they were deemed politically unreliable and forcefully relocated from the border with Japan (leader Joseph Stalin and his advisers were afraid that in case of war with Japan, the ethnic Koreans would side with the Japanese). They were then settled in Central Asia.

continue reading the full article here.


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