Korean Diaspora in Kazakhstan: their problems and prospects
Kazakhstan is a multinational state. Dozens of nations and ethnic groups living here generate a lot of problems both immanently national and in the system of inter-national relations. Before moving to the presentation and causal-consequential analysis of the actual problems of Koreans Diaspora in Kazakhstan it is worth to make a brief historical excursus in the pre-history and history of appearance of Koreans in the Republic and neighboring Central Asian states.
Up the middle of the 19th century Korea or as it is poetically called the Land of Morning Calm remained isolated from the outside world and represented for the New and Old World terra incognita. Until recently an ordinary Soviet citizen knew no more than the Northern Korea is a brotherly socialist country where Kim II Sung rules and in the South despite military junta Summer Olympic Games of 1988 were successfully held.
On the boundary of the last and present centuries hunger, cruel exploitation of the ruling classes and Japanese colonial yoke forced dozens of thousands of pauperized Koreans to Manchuria, to the Russia Far East and America. At present the number of Koreans broad constitutes more than 5 Mln. and the most numerous groups live in China (2 Mln.); the USA (about 1,5 Mln.); Japan (0,7 Mln) and the former USSR (0,450 Mln.). On the Korean peninsular divided by the 38th parallel, in two diametrically opposite in their basis and superst Korean states there is one common social phenomena - absence of national question. Both in the North and the South of Korea the number of permanently living foreigners is inconsiderable. From the 60th of the last century to the locking of Soviet boundaries in the 20es of this century several waves of migration and also natural growth of the population made the number of Koreans to a considerable degree integrated into new political, economic and social conditions or in others words "sovietized". In Maritime region dozens of Korean agricultural - economic artels were organized, a network of national education institutions appeared, national theatre was created, news - papers, magazines and books in Korean were published. The area where Koreans lived was quite compact which made possible for a national region to function. Kim Sung Khva. A study of the History of the Soviet Koreans. Alma-Ata, 1965.
Now the facts about deportation of 30 and 40-s to Kazakhstan are well-known Kazakhstan in fact, was turned into a huge prison of exiled peoples and a kind of test site for raising a new breed of people - homo soveticus. In the late autumn of 1937 from the Far East 180 000 Koreans were deported, out of them 105000 found themselves in different regions of Kazakhstan and the rest in Uzbekistan. Absolute majority of Koreans were settled in rural areas of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where settler' collective farms were formed, some of them joined already existing farms and only inconsiderable group of Koreans intelligentsia, students and qualified specialists was allowed to live in cities. Koreans were deprived of basic rights and freedoms including the right to choose a place of living, kind of labor activity, to get education etc. and only after Stalins death the situation in this sphere changed. Post-Stalin period of Kazakhstan Koreans was taking place in the general context of socio-economic and national-cultural practice of the state, which was called the Soviet Union, at, that a definite specific character in ethnic (in a broad sense) processes was not excluded. Kim G. Soviet Koreans: 30-40th. In: Belye piatna v istorii Kazakstana. Alma-Ata, 1991:
Kim P. The Activity of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan for the Organization of Korean Kolkhoses (1937-1941). Thesis of Ph.D. Diss., Tashkent 1970.
All complex of topical problems of Kazakhstan Korean Diaspora can be classified according to a number of parameters, for example, the most surface content analysis of publications in the national periodical press and mini-survey of Koreans public will bring about, first of all, such problems as revival of the native language, customs, traditions, and so forth and, in fact, they have already been stated as urgent tasks of the activity of Korean cultural centers and associations. Lenin Kichi. 1989, March 14; May 12; June 14; August 16. If you ask the director of the Korean theatre about the problems of the Diaspora, he will answer - there is no building for the theatre, scene, as the old building has been closed for 3 years because of its poor condition. Answering the same questions the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "Koryo Ilbo" will speak about urgent financial problem which can lead to stopping of its publication or about lack of journalists speaking the Korean language and so on.
Discussing topical problems of Koreans Diaspora, in my opinion, we need above all, conceptual approach, which will take into account both historical experience of Korean Diaspora in the former Soviet Union and realties of the young republic, which is to acquire all attributes of a sovereign state. Here lie two primary binary problems. The first pair: the problem of all-embracing internal ethnic consolidation and the problem of further inter-ethnic integration under new heliopolitical and socio-economic conditions of the post - Soviet period. The second pair: the problem of national revival and problem of notional survival as a small ethnic group, which does not have any form of autonomy.
Speaking about internal - ethic consolidation one should note that Koreans in Kazakhstan are heterogeneous in their composition; they can be divided into three groups. To the absolutely dominating in terms of quantity group belong descendants of settlers mostly from the northern part of Korea to the Russian Far East. This group is represented by 2-5 generations. To the second group belong Sakhalin Koreans. As is well known nearly 60.000 Koreans were by force and deceit resettled from the southern part of the Korean peninsular in 1939-1945 for forced labor in the mines of Karafuto (Japanese name of the Southern Sakhalin). After the end of the Second World War more than 47.000 Koreans stayed in the Southern Sakhalin. At present time the number of Sakhalin Koreans is more than 35.000 and they represent 1-3 generations. Bok M. To the Question: The Problems of the Sakhalin Koreans". In: Nam zhisn' dana. Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1989, pp.-3-13; Bok M. (Bok Zi Kon) The Sakhalin Koreans; Problems and Perspectives. Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1989. The third group is the least numerous but it is noteworthy because its representatives know the Korean language very well. This group is composed of former citizens of the North Korea who stayed in the Soviet Union after contract work, after graduation of higher educational institutions, post-graduate courses or those who had crossed the border and got residence permit. This group, in its turn, is also characterized by heterogeneity, here are persons who have Soviet citizenship, - citizens of the DPRK permanently living in our country and persons without citizenship belong.
Up to recently the term "Soviet Koreans" has been broadly used, which embraced all Koreans living in the former Union. It seems that there were all grounds to consider this community as a new ethnic unity being a result of many-sided and complicated process of creation and formation. Dzharylgasinova R. Basic Tendencies of ethnic processes among the Koreans of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. In: Etnicheslie protsessy u natsionalnykh grupp Srednei Asii i Kazakstana. Moscow, 1980, pp.43-73. Disintegration of the Union state, break of many vital horizontal ties among independent republics can lead to nuclearization of formed in the Soviet period new ethnic community, which I suggest to name for the post - Soviet period "Koryo saram". By the way, the term "Koryo saram" has always been used as a parallel self-name and ethnonym among Soviet Koreans. Will such nuclearization lead to the formation of new ethnic community of "Kazakhstan Koreans", "Uzbekistan", "Kirghistan", "Russia", and "Sakhalin" Koreans? As nearly 70% of Koreans of the ex USSR live in Central Asia and Kazakhstan formation of regional community is possible but to achieve it at least two factors are needed: strong feeling of ethnic consolidation among broad masses of Korean Diaspora and secondly, definite, well-thought programme of ethno-consolidating events of Korean republic organizations. Unfortunately, the opposite can be stated. Joint activity of Associations of cultural centers in Central Asia and Kazakhstan is limited to episodically organization of some contests, competitions. In a number of big cities there appeared parallel Korean societies with standard programmes and charter but uniting different, sometimes conflicting groups of Koreans. Three years ago in Almaty, Tashkent, Bishkek, Moscow and other big cities was founded Associations of support for the unification of Korea with pro-northern Korean orientation. Among the leaders of ASOK and Korean cultural centers very tense and sometimes hostile relations exist. We would not like to repeat negative experience of many years opposition of existing in Japan pro-South Korean organization Mindan and pro-North Korean - Chonryon. Analysis of the materials and studies of modern life-styles of foreign Koreans bring about the conclusion about characteristic for Korean communities unity and counteraction of ethno centrifugal and ethnocentripental forces.
The historical experience shows anothers characteristic feature of Korean Diaspora - their special ability to adapt to new ecological, economic and socio-cultural conditions. Koryo Saram adapted twice: in Russia and in Central Asia and in both cases achieved considerable success in creating available system for themselves. Koreans in America are considerable to be a model Diaspora which in a very short time made great progress both in business especially small and medium and in establishment, in science and even in politics. Lately Koreans have been often called Asian Jews to emphasize their surprising social mobility, ability to adapt and mimicry and researchers distinguish between their intensive acculturation of social function, which Koreans perform in a polytechnic society. They, like Jews play the role of some kind of ethnos-mediator for others mutually distant ethnoses and profiting from it. Pilot survey among students of Almaty revealed that two main ethnoses of the republic: Russians and Kazakhs express higher opinion of Koreans than of each others. Small business of American Koreans in the form of vegetable stalls, laundries and snack bars bring considerable profit not only because of their hard work which is always noted as the most important national trait but also because of the simple fact that Koreans developed their business in such places where whites and colored did not even think of competing them, that is in Harlems. Until two or three years hundreds and thousands of Koreans traveled about the Soviet Union: Russia, Ukraine, Caucasus, Moldavia where they were engaged in seasonal vegetable growing and melon-growing. Koreans of Karatal region used to produce 70% of all marketable onion of Kazakhstan and they did not know any competion either, because they have been filling this niche of working practice for a long time. Kim G. Socio-cultural development of Koreans in Kazakhstan. Alma-Ata, 1989.
Now when seasonal agricultural work brings too little profit Koreans quickly transformed in new businessmen and there appeared family and clan economic subjects, enterprises in the sphere of production, services and trade where relatives work together. Though, it is typical not only for Koreans. In this connection, speaking about the problem of inter-ethnic integration, I meant the necessity of balanced employment of Koreans in all spheres of public activities in multinational environment as it was during the Soviet period. As I see it, in the nearest future we shall witness considerable reduction in the number of Korean students, scientists and intelligentsia. Here we should remember that losses in intellectual potential would be greater for Korean Diaspora than for bigger ethnoses.
The problem of national revival of Korean Diaspora like other national groups of Kazakhstan has not been developed either in academic circles or in the institutions of state power, or in Korean public organizations. In programme and founding documents of Korean cultural associations and centers are fixed only declarations on necessity of revival of the native language. Above all, it should be made clear what language is to be considered native. Koryo Mar, the language of Koreans of oldest age groups, which exists mostly in the form of uzus and functions only in the sphere of family and every-day life? Linguists state that Koryo Mar is a unique form of the dialect, which has its roots in the 15th century and preserved as a result of long isolation from developing literary Korean. Kho, Songmoo. Koreans in the Soviet Central Asia. Studia Orientalia. Vol.61, Helsinki.
1987: King J.R.P. An Introduction to Soviet Korean // Language Research, Vol. 23, No.2. Seoul, 1987, pp.233-277. Living in various types of different ethnic environment, laws of language contacts led to enrichment of the limited lexical fund of Koryo Mar with borrowings from the Russian and other languages. Koryo Mar practically has no written form, it is not used on the radio, in the theatre, and it is dying. Ten or fifteen years more and there will be no speakers of this linguistic unique. Is it possible to reanimate Koryo Mar? There is, however, another way - transplantation of living and functioning literary standards of Pyongyang or Seoul but who is empowered to solve this dilemma? The situation is paradoxical: in the newspaper Koryo ilbo where translators - Sakhalin Koreans whose parents came from southern provinces of Korea, write in north-Korean language, on the radio the same Sakhalin Koreans speak what is very near to Seoul standard and in the National University teachers from Pyongyang and Seoul use correspondingly north-Korean and south-Korean textbooks. Delegated by the Ministry of Education of the republic of Korea professor Kho Song Moo tried to teach Koryo Mar in the Almaty state university but without much success.
As for reviving Korean customs and traditions, here we also have more questions than answers. To give you an example, I was present at the funeral ceremony in South Korea and discovered considerable discrepancies with Koryo Saram practice, though it is thought that in these ceremony traditional elements of the ritual, its attributes and semantics are well preserved. It is clear that it is not sensible to mechanically copy some actions, if they fall out of the context of life and do not correspond to transformed mentality. In every day life there exist a kind of simplified view on revival of customs and traditions, which can be presented figuratively as changing into a national dress. Let us consider such category of material ethnic culture as food. Staying in Korea I hardly recognized familiar national dishes and some of them seemed utterly unknown to me. Korean diet mainly consists of seafood, which is impossible for continental Kazakhstan besides radical change in traditional food components is harmful for health. Even in the last century Russian doctor Krivoshapkin M. described how he treated two selkups - west-Siberian aboriginals. He treated one of them according to the rules of western medicine and he died, but to the second he gave to eat what he wanted: raw meat and fish, animal's blood and as a result the sick man fully recovered. Gemuev I. Legends and stories of taiga land, Novosibirsk, 1989, p.34
Prof. Dr. Kim German Nikolaevitch, Head of the Department of Korean Studies Faculty of Oriental Studies Kazakh National University named after al-Farabi. Republic of Kazakhstan Almaty,480012, Imanova str.61a, Room 200;
Phone/fax: 3272-621345, mobile: 8300-7551494
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Thus, to revive ethnic culture Koryo Saram should radically change their way of live, psychology, mentality, that is to sacrifice their specific habits, customs and traditions - but do they want to do it?
And last but not least. Koreans like others national groups which do not have national-territorial formation neither in the ex-USSR nor in the post USSR are facing the problem of surviving as a unique ethnos. At present Koreans are one of the most urbanized ethnoses of the republic. More than 80% Koreans of Kazakhstan are living in cities which due to their standardization and unification of the way of live are called in English - meting pot. Among urban Koreans number of inter-national marriages is quite high, for example in Almaty it is 20% and as a consequence there appeared a generation of Koreans - marginals with weak-developed ethnic identify. Change for the worse in living standards, general tendency to have fewer children are fraught with danger of natural depopulation. Mentioned above nuclearization of Korean communities in the republics of Central Asia Russia and Kazakhstan is aggravating the problem of preserving Koryo Saram as an independent ethnos.
Thus, I have just outlined the most important vital problems of Korean Diaspora and I hope that the answer will be found to the question: how to create and realize programmes of internal ethnic consolidation and interethnic integration, national revival and national survival.