There is also a separate ethnic Korean community on the island of Sakhalin, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans. Some may identify as Koryo-saram, but many do not. Unlike the communities on the Russian mainland, which consist mostly of immigrants from the late 1800s and early 1900s, the ancestors of the Sakhalin Koreans came as immigrants from Kyongsang and Jeolla provinces in the late 1930s and early 1940s, forced into service by the Japanese government to work in coal mines in Sakhalin (then known as Karafuto Prefecture) in order to fill labour shortages caused by World War II.
In Standard Korean, the term "Koryo-saram" is typically used to refer to historical figures from the Goryeo dynasty; to avoid ambiguity, Korean speakers use a word Goryeoin (고려인; Hanja: 高麗人, meaning the same as "Koryo-saram") to refer to ethnic Koreans in the post-Soviet states. However, the Sino-Korean morpheme "-in" (인) is not productive in Koryo-mar, the dialect spoken by Koryo-saram, and as a result, only a few (mainly those who have studied Standard Korean) refer to themselves as Goryeoin; instead, Koryo-saram has come to be the preferred term.
The 1800s saw the decline of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. A small population of wealthy elite owned the farmlands in the country, and poor peasants found it difficult to survive. Koreans leaving the country in this period were obliged to move toward Russia, as the border with China was sealed by the Qing Dynasty. Many peasants considered Siberia to be a land where they could lead better lives and they subsequently migrated there. As early as 1863, migration had already begun, with 13 households recorded near Novukorut Bay. These numbers rose dramatically, and by 1869 Koreans composed 20% of the population of the Maritime Province. Prior to the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Koreans outnumbered Russians in the Russian Far East, and the local governors encouraged them to naturalize. The 1897 Russian Empire Census found 26,005 Korean speakers (16,225 men and 9,780 women) in the whole of Russia, while a 1902 survey showed 312,541 Koreans living in the Russian Far East alone. Korean neighborhoods could be found in various cities and Korean farms were all over the countryside.
In the early 1900s, both Russia and Korea came into conflict with Japan. Following the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1907, Russia enacted an anti-Korean law at the behest of Japan, under which the land of Korean farmers was confiscated and Korean laborers were laid off. At the same time, Russia continued to serve as sanctuary for the Korean independence movement. Korean nationalists and communists escaped to Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Manchuria. With the October Revolution and the rise of communism in East Asia, Siberia was home to Soviet Koreans that organised in armies like the Righteous Army to oppose Japanese forces. In 1919, the March First Movement for Korean independence was supported by Korean leaders who gathered in Vladivostok's Sinhanchon (literally, "New Korean Village") neighborhood. This neighborhood became a center for nationalist activities, including arms supply; the Japanese attacked it on April 4, 1920, leaving hundreds dead.
Between 1937 and 1939, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin deported over 172,000 Koreans to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, on the official premise that the Koreans might act as spies for Japan. Many community leaders were purged and executed, and it would be over a decade and a half before Koryo-saram would be again permitted to travel outside of Central Asia. Up until the era of glasnost, it was not permitted to speak openly of the deportations. The deportees cooperated to build irrigation works and start rice farms; within three years, they had recovered their original standard of living. The events of this period led to the formation of a cohesive identity among the Korean deportees. However, as the Korean language was prohibited for decades, subsequent generations lost the use of the Korean language.
Scholars estimated that as of 2002, roughly 470,000 Koryo-saram were living in the Commonwealth of Independent States, including 198,000 in Uzbekistan, 125,000 in Russia, 105,000 in Kazakhstan, 19,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 9,000 in Ukraine, 6,000 in Tajikistan, 3,000 in Turkmenistan, and 5,000 in other constituent republics.
The 2002 census gave a population of 148,556 Koreans in Russia, of which 75,835 were male and 72,721 female. About one-fourth reside in Siberia and the Russian Far East; the Korean population there trace their roots back to a variety of sources. Aside from roughly 33,000 CIS nationals, mostly migrants retracing in reverse the 1937 deportation of their ancestors, between 4,000 and 12,000 North Korean migrant labourers can be found in the region. Smaller numbers of South Koreans and ethnic Koreans from China have also come to the region to settle, invest, and/or engage in cross-border trade.
The population in Uzbekistan is largely scattered in rural areas. This population has suffered in recent years from linguistic handicaps, as the Koryo-saram there spoke Russian but not Uzbek. After the independence of Uzbekistan, many lost their jobs due to being unable to speak the new national language. Some emigrated to the Russian Far East, but found life difficult there as well.
There is also a small Korean community in Tajikistan. Mass settlement of Koreans in the country began during the late 1950s and early 1960s, after the loosening of restrictions on their freedom of movement which had previously kept them confined to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Pull factors for migration included rich natural resources and a relatively mild climate. Their population grew to 2,400 in 1959, 11,000 in 1979, and 13,000 in 1989; most lived in the capital Dushanbe, with smaller concentrations in Qurghonteppa and Khujand. Like Koreans in other parts of Central Asia, they generally possessed higher incomes compared to members of other ethnic groups. However, with the May 1992 onset of civil war in Tajikistan, many fled the country entirely; by 1996, their population had fallen by over half to 6,300 people. Most are engaged in agriculture and retail business. Violence continued even after the end of the civil war; in 2000, suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members exploded a bomb in a Korean Christian church in Dushanbe, killing 9 and wounding 30.
After their arrival in Central Asia, the Koryo-saram quickly established a way of life different from that of neighboring peoples. They set up irrigation works and became known throughout the region as rice farmers. They interacted little with the nomadic peoples around them, and focused on education. Although they soon ceased to wear traditional Korean clothing, they adapted Western-style dress rather than the clothing worn by the Central Asian peoples.
Koryo-saram have preserved the Korean cuisine particularly well. The cuisine of the Koryo-saram is closest to that of the Hamgyong provinces in North Korea, and is dominated by meat soups and salty side dishes. The Koryo-saram are particularly known among neighboring peoples for their bosintang (dog-meat soup), which is served to honored guests and at restaurants.
The ritual life of the Koryo-saram community has changed in various respects. Marriages have taken on the Russian style. At traditional Korean funerals, the name of the dead is written in hanja, or Chinese characters; however, as hardly anyone is left among the Koryo-saram who can write in hanja, the name is generally written in hangul only. On the other hand, the rituals for the first birthday and sixtieth anniversary have been preserved in their traditional form.
Many Korean surnames, when Cyrillized, are spelled and pronounced slightly differently from the romanisations used in the U.S. and the resulting common pronunciations, as can be seen in the table at right.
Furthermore, Korean naming practises and Russian naming practises conflict in several important ways; Koryo-saram have resolved each of these conflicts in a different way, in some cases favouring Russian patterns, in others, Korean patterns.
The dialect spoken by Koryo-saram is closer to the Hamgyŏng dialect than to the Seoul dialect, though somewhat mutated over the generations. Many of those who retain some command of Korean report difficulties communicating with South Koreans.
|Languages among the Koryo-saram population|
|Year||Total population||Korean L1||Russian L1||Russian L2||Other L2|
The 2005 South Korean film Wedding Campaign, directed by Hwang Byung-kook, portrays two aging bachelor farmers from rural villages who hope to find wives. Having no romantic prospects in Korea, they opt to go through an international mail-order bride agency, which sends them to Uzbekistan and tries to match them with Korean women there.