There are roughly 500,000 Koreans living in the former Soviet Union, about two-thirds of them in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and the remaining one-third mostly in Russia. In the past, both in the academic literature and the vernacular, the term "Soviet Koreans" was used to refer to all Koreans living in the USSR, but the Koreans referred to themselves as either Koryo saram or Choson saram* interchangeably. Nowadays the term Koryo saram is preferred. Recently in South Korean scientific literature, mass media, and everyday speech two variants of the name, Koryoin and Koryo saram, have become most commonly used in regard to post-Soviet Koreans.
In the Russian language Koreans are referred to as Koreyets, and specification by adjectives usually is given; for example, Soviet Korean, South Korean, North Korean, and so on. As to pejorative names, in Russian they typically apply to all Asian peoples rather than to Koreans in particular. The most common are such pejorative names as uzkoglasiy ("narrow-eyed") and zeltokozhiy ("yellow-skinned"). However, some pejoratives are used only for Koreans, such as sobakoyed ("dog eater"). In the Central Asian languages special pejorative names for Koreans are not observed.
In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Koreans live in an arid zone with a sharply continental climate, very different from the Korean peninsula's. The Korean Diaspora was initially concentrated in agrarian regions. Today the geographical distribution has significantly changed, and Koreans have transformed from a rural to an urban population. The Kazakhs and Uzbeks who make up the majorities in these countries speak Turkic languages and are Muslim by faith. However, the ancestors of Kazakhs were nomads-cattlemen, as opposed to the settled, agricultural Uzbeks. Therefore, despite geographical, linguistic, religious, and anthropological affinities, Kazakhs and Uzbeks possess essential ethnocultural distinctions.
Koreans reside across the former Soviet Union. First, there are traditional regions of Korean settlement: the Russian Far East and Sakhalin Island. Korean communities with large numbers are also found in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Central Russia (Volgograd, Saratov, Rostov, Nizhniy Novgorod, and other areas), as well as in the Siberian cities of Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk. The geographies and climates of the noted regions markedly differ from each other. However, Russian-speaking Orthodox Christian populations comprise the dominant majority in each one.
During the decline of the Choson Dynasty (1392 to 1910), Korea appeared unprepared to enter the era of capitalism. For nearly a century, Western and Japanese colonial claims aggravated its protracted political, social, and economic crises. In 1905, after its victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan declared the Korean peninsula its protectorate, annexing it five years later. Mass impoverishment and starvation among Korean peasants compelled many to flee the peninsula.
The first Korean immigrants appeared in the Russian Far East during the late 1850s and early 1860s. The Russian administration used these Koreans to populate and develop this territory. In the 1880s and 1890s, the Koreans received the right to register as citizens of the Russian empire under the terms of a Russo-Korean treaty determining their status. The number of Korean immigrants to the area grew by the thousands, with many taking the sea route from Pusan to Vladivostok and others the overland route across the river Tumangan.
Some Koreans found other routes to Russian territory that took them through Chinese territory (Kho, 1987; Kim, 1965; Pak, 1993; Petrov, 2000). The number of Koreans increased in the pre-Revolutionary period from several dozen to some 85,000 by 1917.
Koreans initially lived in separate villages, and their daily life, social relations, ethnic culture, and language were almost the same as in Korea. The October Revolution of 1917 united workers of all ethnic groups with its slogans of justice, freedom, and equal rights. Koreans largely supported the Soviet cause, with hundreds sacrificing their lives in World War II, believing this would help lead to the liberation of Korea (Babichev, 1959; Kim, 1979; Pak, 1995).
By the 1930s, the Koreans of the Soviet Far East had established their own identity, culture, and traditions. There were hundreds of Korean agricultural and fishing Kolkhozes; Koreans were actively involved in government and social organizations; traditional culture was maintained and developed; the Korean intelligentsia grew numerically and qualitatively; and Korean theaters and other educational and cultural institutions were established. Koreans were sovietized and integrated in the new political and socioeconomic system (Anosov, 1928; Pak, 1995).
The Koreans were the first people of the Soviet Union to be deported. Top secret order number 1428-326cc of the Soviet government and Communist Party, "On the deportation of the Korean population of the Far East," dated 21 August 1937 and signed by Molotov and Stalin, was a logical continuation of earlier Tsarist and Soviet policies relating to national minority populations (Kim, 2002; Lee U Khe, 1992). The Koreans settled in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, established the basis for a new life, and contributed to the development of agriculture in these new places (Kan, 1995; Kim, G. N., 1989; Kim, P. G., 1993).
On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Despite the humiliation of deportation, the Koreans remained patriots who were ready to help defend their country. Korean men joined work brigades, otherwise known as the Labor Army, which kept the country and army alive throughout the war. Many Koreans wanted to join the ranks of the military at the front, but only a few were dispatched. One of them, Captain Alexander Min, was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Despite great losses, Koreans continued to survive through their persistence, work habits, and courage. In the postwar years, Koreans continued to make great contributions to the development of agriculture in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In the 1940s and 1950s more than 100 Koreans were honored with the highest Soviet decoration for work productivity, the Order of Hero of Socialist Labor. A turning point in the lives of Koreans, as with all other Soviet peoples, occurred in 1953, when Stalin died and the political regime began to liberalize. In the 1950s and 1960s Koreans also became more involved in cultivating cotton, sugar beets, and vegetables. Koreans also made great progress in the cultivation of onions in all regions of the Soviet Union (Kim & Meon, 1995; Kim, 1993).
Organizational skills and high educational standards also prepared many Koreans for careers as specialists and leaders in industrial and governmental sectors. Many of them were honored with prestigious prizes such as the Lenin Prize and the State Prize. Furthermore, more than 150 Koreans were recognized with different honors for their long years of service in industry, agriculture, construction, architecture, and other sectors of the economy. In addition, Koreans played important roles in the development of science, academic research, art, literature, education, health care, and sports during the postwar years. By the early 1970s, there were hundreds of Koreans working as professors and scholars in universities and research institutes (Chey, 1987; Ginsburgs, 1976).
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the founding of the Newly Independent States, new page opened in the history of the Koryo saram. They are again being forced to adapt, this time to the nationalizing republics of Central Asia. The political and socioeconomic changes and the deteriorating standards of living over the last decade have led to much trepidation among all peoples of the former Soviet empire regarding the future. Contemporary migration processes in Central Asia are connected to a complex variety of socio economic and political factors. Reasons for Koryo saram migration include the following: a desire to return to the places where the first generation settled, namely the Russian Far East; specific agricultural activities unique to the Koryo saram, namely, kobonjil ** (Li, 2000; Baek, 2001); clans and families in business; high levels of urbanization, education, and individualism; and success-oriented mentalities.
Emigration of the Koryo saram to foreign countries is not considerable. The majority of migrants are drawn to other post-Soviet spaces, the so-called "near abroad." In the mid 1990s several thousand Koryo saram from Central Asia moved to the maritime region of the Far East, and in the late 1990s several dozen Korean households moved to the Volgograd region, where new Korean villages were established (Bugai,2002). Both individuals and family-clans participated in these migrations, which received some financial and moral support from South Korean nongovernmental organizations and churches. The exodus of more than 12,000 Koreans from Tajikistan resulted from the civil war there, and was of a mass and forced character. There remain only several hundred Koreans in the capital, Dushanbe, where the situation is more or less under control by local authorities and the Russian Army. Korean migrants from Tajikistan can accurately be called war refugees (Kim, 2003a).
The pattern of migration of Koryo saram from Central Asia has stabilized. However, it can become active again because it is dependent on the political, socio economic situation as well as the state of interethnic relations.
The number of Koreans in the Far East on the eve of deportation (1937) stood at about 180,000 people. The number of fatalities during the journey from the Far East to Central Asia - including victims of a tragic failure at echelon number 505, which took place on 13 September 1937 at Verino Station near Khabarovsk - was probably in the hundreds. The exact number of fatalities is difficult to calculate, but it is indisputable that children and the elderly suffered the most. Certainly, it can be assumed that several thousand Koreans died due to illness and poor living conditions during the early years of forced resettlement.
From the middle of the 1950s until the disintegration of the USSR, Central Asia was home to approximately 75% of the Soviet Union's Koreans, and of this number, about 90% were concentrated in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan's first census in 1999 recorded 99,665 Koreans, dispersed in all regions, but mostly in the south of the country. The number of Koreans in Uzbekistan according to recent data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs is approximately 175,000, mostly residing in the capital, Tashkent, and in the Tashkent area. Soviet Koreans were different from Central Asia's other peoples in their rapid migration from rural to urban areas, especially to capitals: Almaty, Tashkent, and Bishkek have seen the number of Koreans increase several times during the last two decades.
Data from the first Russian census (2002) has not yet been published, but the number of Koreans has been calculated to be approximately 140,000 to 150,000 persons. Some years ago there was much discussion about setting up an autonomous Korean area in the Russian Far East. Indeed, several young Koreans traveled there from Central Asia to explore the possibility of systematically moving entire family units back to the Maritime Province. The conclusion was that this would be impractical due to the lack of procedure in Russian law for establishing autonomous regions. In addition, there was the precedent of the Volga Germans, who tried but failed to create their own autonomous republic.
The Korean language maintains its status as the "native language" of the Koreans living in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. However, in social life it has rather limited functions, present primarily in mass media, art, literature, and education. Koryo mar -the dialect of Korean spoken by the Koryo saram-exists basically in the oral form and functions only in the interfamily sphere. Ancestors of the Korean immigrants to the Russian Far East (and, hence, those now living in Central Asia and Russia) hailed from the province of Northern Hamkyong, to which they migrated from southern parts of the peninsula during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Long isolation from developing literary languages, absorption of elements from southern dialects, then preservation, and finally Russian-language influences led to the linguistic phenomenon that has received the name Koryo mar. (Kho, 1987; Kim, 1962; King, 1987; Pak, 1996).
The modern language competence of the Koryo saram has been affected by such factors as Soviet nationality and language policy, migrations, interethnic contacts, industrial employment, and educational and professional development. The level of language competence and the character of speech behavior differ for each age and social group. Most of those who are 30 years old and younger do not know Korean at all. Those from 30 to 60 years old typically have a passive mastery of the language, that is, they are able to understand everyday household speech. Only the most senior age group, from 60 to 80 years old, possesses fluency in Korean (Haarman, 1981; Kim, 2003b; Yugai, 1977).
Culture and Community Economic Activities
Koreans were traditionally engaged in agriculture, and consequently from the moment of their resettlement to the Russian empire to the 1970s they were occupied mainly in agriculture. Nevertheless, many Koreans, especially those with higher educations, became heads of large industrial enterprises. In the Soviet period there was a considerable Korean intelligentsia participating in the spheres of science, education, culture, and art.
With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the transition to the market economy, many Koreans have become successful in business. Among Koreans of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia there are a number of people who have managed to go beyond the limits of small and middle business. Cooperation with South Korean companies to a certain extent has contributed to their success.
A number of Korean companies are based on a family-clan principle for example, the Lindex corporation in Nizhni Novgorod led by Lyubomir Tyan or on a corporate principle for example, Dostar group in Kazakhstan led by Yury Tzkhai, which involved several Korean business people uniting their capital and assets to set up one powerful company. However the majority of Koreans are engaged in small businesses, mostly in trading, with workforces ranging from 2 to 5, to 10 to 15, persons.
Gender Roles and Status
A significant difference between the Korean Diaspora and South Korean society can be observed in the gender distribution of roles as well as the social status of men and women. Traditional Korean society was based on Confucian principles, completely granting leadership in family and society to men. During the Soviet period a policy of gender equality was pursued. Women were encouraged to receive education, become actively engaged in labor, and become involved in social life. Korean women in the Soviet Central Asia were more emancipated and freer than local women, in particular Moslems. Korean women are characterized by their high level of education; in fact, the proportion of women with higher education is higher than that of men. With the transition to the market economy some women proved better adapted than men for the new conditions and are now actively engaged in small businesses, namely trade and the service sector. They began to earn money for their entire families, and, accordingly, their status has become higher not only in society, but also within their families. In many Korean families the family budget is in the hands of women, and all important questions are solved by them. Korean women are considered to be excellent housekeepers, good at keeping order in their homes, looking after their husbands, raising their children, and taking care of their appearance.
Housing and Use of Space
The city dwellings of Koreans are most typically standard apartments with no specific distinctive features, either in the layout of rooms or in the arrangement of furniture, interior design, and use of space. The overwhelming majority of Koreans live in cities, with only an insignificant part living in the countryside, and only the latter can keep specific ethnic elements in their houses, such as distinctive architectural styles and rooms that serve cultural functions. For example, in some such houses or in extensions beside them are rooms with heated floors, known as ondol (in koryo mar, kuduri). As a rule, rooms with kuduri can be found in the houses of the older generation (Dzharylgasinova, 1980). However, even in rural areas, kuduri in Korean houses are rare. In addition, the function of the kuduri room has changed: Whereas previously the entire family gathered there for meals, now they have meals in some other room. Seldom do they sleep on kuduri, and even elderly Koreans now prefer to sleep on beds. Nothing has remained of the traditional division of houses into men's and women's halves; the overwhelming majority of Koreans have no notion about this custom.
Property and Inheritance
As is well known, in the Soviet Union there was no private property. One could speak only about personal property: an apartment or a house, automobiles, furniture, clothes, and other things meant for personal use. Under today's market economy, Koreans can possess private property, which can be used to generate profit, leased, sold, transferred to somebody for management, given as a present, or left as an inheritance. All of these operations must be done in accordance with the regulations in each country of residence. The traditional form of inheritance practiced in Korea, which presupposed inheritance only along the male line and first of all to the eldest son, is not practiced among the Korean Diaspora. Both men and women irrespective of age have the right to inheritance.
Socialization and Education
For more than 70 years, Korean children, like all others in the Soviet Union, were socialized and educated by a state educational system that was strict and compulsory. As a rule, 1-year-old babies were taken to a day nursery, where he or she was part of a collective, learning the rules of group behavior within a strictly regulated framework. Such collective socialization was also a prominent feature in the lives of older children as well as adults.
The socialization of Korean children has always emphasized the importance of respecting elders. According to Confucian ethical standards, a younger person, regardless of his or her social status, should treat elders with respect, and children should obey parents. Parents, in turn, are obliged to give their children a good education. This is why the share of employed Koreans with higher education is twice as high as the average share in each country of residence. Illiteracy does not exist in these Korean Diasporas, and in the 16- to 26-year-old age group, the share of those who have not completed secondary education is negligible (Kim & Shim, 2000).
Community Organization and Structure
During the Soviet period, the state suppressed all attempts by ethnic communities to self-organize; such attempts by deported diasporas were especially suppressed. The Koryo saram transferred their centuries-old tradition of the rural community, including its structures and functions, to the Russian Far East. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Koreans formed independent collective farms preserving some features of their former communities; for example, one-person management and respect for the leader, councils of elders with advisory functions, general participation in official holidays, and ceremonies celebrating life milestones. The community organization was characterized by group labor activity and collective use of land, buildings and premises, and equipment and tools.
In Soviet cities there could be no "Chinatowns" or "Koreatowns." Without such compact living arrangements, life in large cities weakens relations not only within ethnic communities, but within families, leading to stronger individualism. In rural areas, people living on opposite ends of a village communicate, but in cities, tenants of the same apartment building hardly know each other. In addition, Koreans have never been united by a common religion, as was the case with Soviet Germans and Jews, for whom churches and synagogues, respectively, played significant roles.
Social stratification in traditional Korean society was determined by two key interconnected parameters - social class and educational level. Yangbans, as representatives of the ruling and educated class, occupied all official posts. For a long time the Koryo saram remained loyal to their former ideas of social hierarchy, at the top of which were government representatives. For more than 70 years the Communist Party hierarchy was more important than the hierarchy of the state power. Scientists and workers in culture and education occupied the third-highest position, which is why there are many people with academic degrees among the Korean Diaspora.
The transition to the market economy brought sharp changes both to the values cultivated by traditional Korean society and those cultivated during the Soviet period. The determining vector in social stratification has become capital, and consequently, social status is assessed by success in adapting to the new economic conditions. Despite these changes, within the Korean Diaspora importance is still attached to one's certain age group, that is, the older the person, the higher is his or her status in the community.
Political Associations and Activities
During the last decade in the post-Soviet countries, dozens of Korean associations, unions, and centers were established and officially registered. The main priorities for such associations are renewal of the Korean language, national customs, and traditions; study of Korean history; development of traditional Korean culture, arts, and literature; protection of the legal rights and interests of Korean diasporas; strengthening friendship among nations; and development of international cultural and economic ties (Kim & Khan, 2000).
The associations have organized Korean language instruction programs and festivals of ethnic culture and art, including exhibitions of Korean artists, and published books on the history of the Koryo saram. In 1997 the associations held events dedicated to the sixtieth anniversary of the deportation of Koreans to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Korean diasporas and their leaders are very loyal to the ruling regimes in their respective countries of residency, and the associations are cultural rather than political.
Religious Beliefs and Practices
The militant atheism of the Soviet period put an end to the traditional beliefs, religions, and rituals of Koreans, who have only kept certain forms of Confucian ceremonies - for example, funerals and commemorations of the deceased. The Diaspora's elder generation taught succeeding generations only the mechanisms of such ceremonies, not delving into their religious-semantic meanings.
Even today some Koreans in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, before making important decisions such as moving to a new residence, undertaking a long trip, entering a college, or getting married, turn to a so-called paksu (a male soothsayer). For a certain sum of money, the paksu uses old books containing the secrets of geomancy to tell fortunes and give advice. Many Korean women play a card game similar to solitaire to see whether their wishes will come true.
The intensive missionary work of South Korean churches has converted part of the Korean Diaspora to Protestantism; however, the exact number of converts remains unknown due to the lack of any official statistics (Kim,1996). Moon Samyong's Unification Church tried but failed to operate in the post-Soviet countries at the end of the 1990s. Recently some Buddhist communities have appeared in Almaty and Bishkek, but they are small in number. On the whole, religion does not have a significant role in the lives of Koreans in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Ceremonies and Holidays
Koreans traditionally mark such important life milestones as a first birthday (tol), wedding (kyoron chanchi), and sixtieth birthday (hwangab) (Min, 1992). As in the past, preparations for these holidays take a lot of time, and all relatives, close friends, and fellow workers are invited. Holiday preparations require not only great expenditures, but also the time-consuming hard work need to cook festive foods. Now, however, such events, which usually draw from 100 to 500 guests, are mostly held at restaurants, which provide service and some dishes and drinks. As a rule, traditional Korean foods are made at home or purchased in the market and brought to the restaurant. The ceremony's honoree used to receive gifts, but now it is common practice to give envelopes with money as presents.
Koreans commemorate the national holidays of their resident countries, but they have not forgotten Korean national holidays. These include spring (hansik) and autumn (chusok) equinoxes, when all Koreans visit their ancestors' graves. Elder members of the family study the lunar calendar each year so as not to miss the equinoxes, and notify relatives about the dates beforehand. On such days ritual foods are prepared, triple low bows to the deceased are made, and gravestones are put in order and the areas around them ti died (Li, 2001).
The most joyful and popular Korean national holiday is solnal- New Year by the lunar calendar. Though traditionally in Korea this holiday is a family affair, for the Korean Diaspora it is a public, collective holiday. People congratulate each other, concerts are given, banquets are organized, tribute is paid to the distinguished, and gifts are given.
For Soviet Koreans, traditional art was concentrated in the Korean theatre, which was founded in the Russian Far East and still operates in Almaty. Examples of Korean art could be found in scenery, music, costumes, dances, and so on (Kim, 1982).
In the Soviet period, artists who wished to pursue traditional Korean painting or calligraphy could hardly achieve popularity; furthermore, there was no opportunity to receive vocational training. Therefore, Soviet Korean art was decidedly nonethnic; today, however a number of Koryo saram artists are trying to incorporate national symbols and forms.
The musical and dance performances held at the Korean theatre during the Soviet period had clear North Korean influences. Not until a few years ago were Koryo saram able to see traditional masks and dances, and hear samulnori (percussion folk music) and p'hansori performances (traditional song, recital, and dance). Now they can get training in South Korea. Soviet Koreans have lost practically all ethnic arts and crafts.
Recreation and Leisure
Koreans generally work very hard and are often considered to be workalcoholics. However, the ecological, social, and economic conditions as well as the ethnic environment of Central Asia and Russia have caused considerable changes in Koryo saram attitudes to rest and leisure. During the Soviet period many people spent holidays in rest houses, sanatoria, resorts, and sports camps; children were sent to pioneer camps. Now there are opportunities to travel to foreign countries, and people who can afford it prefer to spend their holidays abroad. Trips to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Thailand, and other countries have become more accessible in terms of cost, and attract people with good service and well-developed tourist infrastructures.
As to ethnically specific leisure activities, Koreans are fond of gambling and until recently gathered with family and friends to play the card game hwa'thu for money. Men and women played this game with equal ardor. More recently, European card games have been substituted for traditional hwat'hu, and primarily men play. With new opportunities for spending their free time, young Koreans go bowling, play billiards, visit casinos, dance in discos, and play sports.
The overwhelming majority of Koryo saram are descendants of migrants who arrived in the Russian Far East practically in the same historical period from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1920s. However, the Sakhalin Koreans appeared during a much later period, at the end of the 1930s and beginning of the 1940s (Bok, 1989; Kuzin, 1993). This was the result of recruitment and forced labor drives undertaken by the Korean peninsula's Japanese colonial authorities. These Koreans, as a rule, were natives of the southern provinces of Korea; the Japanese decided to keep Koreans from more northern provinces where they were, to be used as a buffer force or human shields in case of war with the Soviet Union. Thus, the Sakhalin Koreans differ from the Koryo saram in a number of ways. For example, their knowledge of the Korean language is much better, and their diet, in contrast to the "continental Koreans," contains much seafood. In addition, many of the Sakhalin Koreans have Korean relatives with whom they have already restored contacts.
There are also differences within the Koreans in Central Asia. The Korean Diaspora in Kazakhstan became urbanized much more quickly than those in Uzbekistan, where up until the beginning of 1990s there remained many large, so-called "Korean collective farms." This agrarian population has sociocultural characteristics that are essentially different from those of urbanized Koreans. Furthermore, since the Uzbeks have always dominated Uzbekistan numerically, unlike the Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, the local language ability of Koreans in Uzbekistan is higher than that of Koreans in Kazakhstan. That is to say, Uzbekistani Koreans are more assimilated and accustomed to their host country's culture than are Kazakhstani Koreans.
Social class, gender, age, educational level, and place of residence all affect the sociocultural positions of Koreans. However, these factors, and the differences they give rise to, do not play a determining role in the lives of the diasporas. More important are the divergences caused by the different political, economic, and cultural processes occurring in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan as a whole; these play key roles in the socio-cultural development of the Korean diasporas.
Relationships to Host Country, Homeland, and Other Diasporic Communities
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the independent Central Asian countries established diplomatic relations with both Korean states. At first, North Korea tried to compete with the South in establishing and developing ties with Central Asian and Russian Koreans. For example, in 1989, 3,000 textbooks in Korean were sent from Pyongyang (Kan, 1995). Professor and taekwondo instructors came from North Korea to teach the Korean language and the traditional martial art. In addition, the North Korean government financed the All-Union Association for Promotion of the Unification of Korea. During the first years of its activity this organization made it possible for several hundred Central Asian Koreans to visit North Korea. However, the deep economic crisis in North Korea has resulted in the end of contacts, and as a whole North Korea left no noticeable trace and did not influence the Korean Diaspora.
Relations with South Korea developed quickly and widely from the beginning. Today, the number of visitors both from the former Soviet Union to Korea and vice versa number in the many thousands. Large South Korean companies such as LG, Samsung, and Daewoo have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the economies of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Dozens of Korean companies (as well as joint ventures involving Korean companies) operate in the former Soviet Union, hiring many local Koreans for their staffs. Teachers from South Korea teach in Central Asian and Russian universities. The Republic of Korea opened an educational center in Almaty and, later, Tashkent and Bishkek, providing Korean language courses for thousands of people. These centers also promote traditional Korean art, disseminate facts about Korean history and culture, and hold various events.
The relations between local and South Koreans have turned from official into everyday contacts. Ten years ago in Central Asia's capitals and large cities, Korean restaurants started to appear, specializing in such dishes as yukkejang (spicy soup with beef and fern) or bulgogi (grilled pickled beef), and others, many of them unfamiliar to Koryo saram. Some local Koreans, due to contacts with South Koreans, have started to return to traditional Korean culture and language. During family and calendar holidays some elderly and young women wear a hanbok ***, sing Korean songs, and play traditional Korean games. There are a number of cases in which such contacts have led to marriage and family ties. South Korean men are considered to be good grooms who may bring material well-being, an end to economic and financial problems, and a bright future for children (Yem, 1997).
The image of the Republic of Korea as an economically developed country has, to a certain extent, contributed to the high status of the Korean diaspora. It should also be noted that there are certain problems in the relations between local Koreans in the Diaspora and the newcomers from Korea. Some South Korean business-people, professors, and pastors use their dominating positions to impose their models of behavior and mentality on the Koryo saram (Khan, 1999). Korean companies introduce orders and rules that are typically Korean and may sooner or later lead to negative responses from local personnel. Tense relations and mutual hostility on a personal level can lead to problems on a more official level.
Historical experience shows one characteristic feature of the Korean diaspora - their special ability to adapt to new ecological, economic, and sociocultural conditions. The Koryo saram adapted several times in Russia and in Central Asia, in all cases achieving considerable success in creating opportunities for themselves (Kim, 2000; Kwon et al., 2001; Nazuko, 2001). The first generation of Koryo saram tried as quickly as possible to adapt to the new living conditions of the tsarist empire and later of Soviet Russia. That generation learned Russian and accepted Orthodoxy, and then a couple of dozen years later quickly rejected the religion, following the Communist Party line. They engaged in wheat-growing instead of rice cultivation, and lived in Russian izbas (wooden dwellings). They ploughed virgin lands and prepared the land for sowing.
The second generation did not have time to taste the first fruits of their labor in the new lands. They were forced to repeat the mission of the previous generation, that is, to adapt to a new land, namely Central Asia. Though they had to settle thousands of kilometers away from the homes they left, it was in the same country and at least they did not have to learn a new language and adapt to a new system. This generation heroically withstood all the difficulties and created, so it seemed, a solid foundation for the third generation.
The third generation has also turned out to be pioneering because they were forced to adapt to the new sovereign states of the post-Soviet area, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.
Who are the Koryo saram? On one hand, they are Koreans, and they have much in common with Koreans on the both parts of the Korean peninsula. They have common genetic roots, are of the same anthropological type, and share a culture and language. On the other hand, they are very much different from other Koreans: Over the last century and a half, they have undergone many changes in their mentality, ethnic identity, language, customs, cuisine, and even appearance (Khan, 1995; Khan & Khan, 1998; Kim, 1989).
Koryo saram have never tried to hide their ethnic origin and when asked about their nationality, answer, "Korean." Korean ethnic origin has always been written into their passports and other official documents. That is, not only did they call themselves Koreans, but other people labeled them as such. The level of self-esteem and ethnic identity among Korean adults is very high.
Present-day Koreans live primarily in large cities, which, due to their standardization living conditions, are melting pots. Among urban Koreans the rate of intermarriage is quite high, resulting in a generation of Koreans with weak ethnic identities. Change for the worse in living standards and a general tendency to have fewer children increase the likelihood that the numbers in the Korean diaspora will decline. The isolation and divergence of Koreans in Central Asia and Russia make it less likely that Koryo saram will be preserved as a unique ethnos.
* These mean, respectively, a person from Koryo country and a person from Choson country.
** The essence of kobonjil is that Koreans, mainly heads of households, leave their permanent residences in early spring and move to regions where they are hired to raise vegetables In autumn they come back home until the next cycle.
*** A hanbok is a woman's dress consisting of two parts: a chima (skirt) and a chogori (short jacket).
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Published: (2004) German Kim. Koreans in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia. - World Diasporas Encyclopedia. Kluwer, pp.985-993
Koreans in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia
Џ Ким Герман Николаевич, профессор, доктор исторических наук, директор Центра корееведения КазНУ им. аль-Фараби, Республика Казахстан, Алматы, 050012, ул. Амангельды 61а, каб. 200; тел./ факс раб. 7-327- 2674589, сотовый: 7-701-7551494; e-mail: email@example.com@mail.ru; MSN firstname.lastname@example.org