Russians in Korea do not form a very large population, but they have a history going back to before the era of Japanese colonialism in Korea. The community of Russian subjects/citizens in Korea has historically included not just ethnic Russians, but members of minority groups of Russia as well, such as Tatars, Poles, and, more recently, return migrants from among the Koryo-saram (ethnic Koreans whose ancestors migrated to the Russian Far East in the late 19th century) and Sakhalin Koreans.
The 1922 influx of Russian refugees from the fall of Vladivostok to the Red Army would completely change the face of the community. In October of that year, more than 15,000 refugees landed at Wonsan, Kangwon. Roughly half were quickly able to obtain onward passage to Shanghai, but the refugees who had not taken valuables with them when fleeing Vladivostok were stuck in Wonsan for the winter; they relied on charitable donations and day labour for their survival. According to William Arthur Noble, an American missionary in Korea, no more than 20% were literate; they lived either on overcrowded ships, or in barely-heated customs warehouses at the docks. In the spring of 1923, the refugees began to disperse, moving on to Harbin, where there was a significant community of Russians, or even to overseas destinations in Latin America.
In February 1925, Japan finally recognised the Soviet Union, and handed over the old Russian Legation building to the new Soviet ambassador. By the late 1920s, there were only around a hundred Russians living in Seoul; former nobles and officials lived in Jeongdong, while a community of Tatars lived and worked in the markets near Namdaemun and Honmachi (modern-day Myeongdong). However, due to class divisions within the community, the two groups had little interaction with each other. George Yankovsky, the grandson of a Polish noble exiled to Siberia, also maintained a resort in Chongjin which was popular among the Russian communities of East Asia, but virtually unknown to other westerners; when the Soviets invaded North Korea during Operation August Storm, most of the Russians still living there were arrested and forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union.