Korean Diaspora in Kazakhstan or Question of topical Problems as Minority in the post-Soviet Space
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.
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 phenomenon - absence of national question. Both in the North and the South of Korea the number of permanently living foreigners is inconsiderable.
In total, the number of Koreans who lived in the USSR, according to the 1989 Census, was 439 thousand, the great bulk of who live in Uzbekistan, Russia and Kazakhstan. The modern demography of the Korean population is characterized by dispersion; this demography is a legacy of the policy of forced migration during the Stalin epoch, and also by processes of migration and infiltration among the Korean population.
In scientific, public and political literature, the term “soviet Koreans” became the most common form of self - appellation, and was adopted in other countries too as the most frequently used nomenclature. On account of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet republics became sovereign and the need arose for a new name for the Korean populations in the republics. In my opinion, an appropriate term already exists - Koryo saram. Up to this day, the older generations of Koreans born in the Far East have preserved a form of self-appellation that is an ancient ethnonym - the Koryo saram and Choson saram (i. e. The people of Koryo and people of Choson). Nowadays you can often hear the following: “We are neither Hanguk saram nor Choson saram - we are Koryo saram”. It us not by accident that the newspaper of soviet Koreans - the “Lenin kichi” - was renamed “Koryo ilbo”. Since any historical reconstruction and retrospection assumes an application to the terms of the investigated period, the inevitability of the parallel usage of the terms “soviet Koreans” and “Koryo saram” does not require any special explanation.
The Studies on Korean Diaspora
The History of Koryo saram constitute inexhaustible foci for research work and there is a voluminous literature, the quality of which has been determined by factors such as the methods used and the objects studied. The interpretations within the historical material also vary widely according to the levels and methods of analysis. The historiography of Korean Diaspora in Kazakhstan has established traditions. The main stages in the historical development of Soviet Koreans, ethnic processes and areas of material and spiritual culture, their professional performing arts, language and speech behavior, folklore and school education have received sufficient attention. However, to date the majority of scholarly and popular work has remained primarily descriptive in form and mostly general in approach.
Since the end of the 1980s researchers and people of letters, such as writers, playwrights, poets and artists, who are taking great interest in the history and culture of the Koryosaram have become more and more active. During the last ten years more books and articles on Koreans were published than during the preceding fifty years. There are causes and explanations for this occurrence. Firstly, Gorbachov's democratization and glasnost opened the eyes of many scholars, provided access to secret archive documents and made it possible to publish books and pour out their emotions and facts in newspapers and magazines. Secondly, the productivity of the researchers met the demands of an unheard-of ethnic renaissance. This fed a wave of interest among all nationalities in their cultural `roots.' Thirdly, Korean cultural centers played a certain organizational role in the cause of studying the history of the diaspora. Fourthly, the government of the Republic of Korea, South Korean research centers, foundations, societies, associations and private persons stimulated the interest of the local researchers by sponsoring the discovery, copying and publishing of archive materials, publication of books, and invitations to language and scientific conferences in Seoul, as well as other international conferences and seminars.
There still remains much virgin territory to explore in terms of examining questions along more specific specialist lines with more theoretical pondering about the meaning of the work being done. There needs to be done more specific research on various aspects of the history of Korean Diaspora, and we need to research more deeply on the foundations of empirical data the present day life of the Diaspora. Furthermore, we must conduct scholarly research, which can serve to form actual goals for the future political, socio-economic, and ethnic development of Korean Diaspora and attempt to make prognoses concerning the role of the Diaspora in the future development of the multi-ethnic independent states of the former Soviet Union. These ponderings about the future of Koryo saram should play a major role in the work done in science and culture by the Diaspora in the 21st century.
The historical Overview of Korean Diaspora in Kazakhstan
The immigration of the Koryo saram began in the late 1860s and continued in several waves through the mid-1920s. Famine, natural disasters, exploitation, lack of land ownership, and later repression from the Japanese occupation of Korea pushed many people to emigrate from Korea to Russia. The geographical proximity, tolerance of Russian authorities to Korean immigration, availability of farmland, and the opportunity for starting a new life pulled people to immigrate to Russia from Korea. In the beginning of the 20th century, Koreans had settled not only in the rural areas of the Maritime province, but also in the cities of the Far East and Siberia. In the first decades of Korean immigration, the Koreans lived in separate villages, and their daily life, social relations, ethnic culture, and language were exactly 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 for all workers. Koreans largely supported the Soviet cause, with hundreds sacrificing their lives in the war with Japan, believing this would also help lead to the liberation of Korea.
By the 1930s, the Koreans of the Soviet Far East had established their own identity, culture and traditions. In the Far East, there were dozens of Korean agricultural and fishing Kolkhozes; Koreans were actively involved in the government and social organization; the traditional culture flourished; the Korean intelligentsia prospered; and Korean radio, theater, educational and cultural institutions were established. Hundreds of young Koreans were educated in the universities of Moscow, Leningrad, and other big cities of Russia. Koreans were sovietized and integrated in the new political and socio-economic system.
The Koreans of the Far East were the first people of the Soviet Union to be deported, after which the same fate was shared by dozens of other populations. It is wrong to think that Stalin spontaneously decided to deport the Koreans. Top secret order number1428-326cc of the Soviet government and Communist Party, dated August 21, 1937 оn the deportation of the Korean population of the Far East signed by Molotov and Stalin was a logical continuation of earlier Czarist and Soviet policy relating to national minority populations. About 100,000 Koreans were resettled in Kazakhstan, mostly on new Korean Kolkhozes, but with others being distributed to pre-existing ones. It was in Kazakhstan that the Korean theatre, the Korean newspaper ”Senbong”, Korean pedagogical institute and college, and deposits of Korean-language books were relocated, making Kazakhstan the center of Korean intellectual life in the Soviet Union. About 74,000 deportees were sent to Uzbekistan, evenly divided between new Korean kolkhozes and pre-existing Uzbek kolkhozes. The Koreans settled in this new place, established the basis for a new life, and contributed to the development of agriculture in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. More than 100 Koreans received the highest honor of the Soviet Union, the gold star as Heroes of Socialist Labor.
The turning point in the life of the Koreans, as all other Soviet peoples, was in 1953, with the death of Stalin, and the beginning of the liberalization of the political regime. With this, the Koreans began to reestablish their ethnic identity, culture, language and civil rights. In 1957-58, Koreans began to petition the party and government for their national rehabilitation. The government could not ignore such an organized campaign, and began to “strengthen cultural-educational work among the Korean population”, in order to give the appearance of addressing the people's concerns. Because of their education, hard-work, and organizational skill, the Koreans joined the ranks of the leaders of industry, government, and educational institutions. By the 1970s, the number of graduates of universities was about twice that of the general population. Koreans were elected to the parliaments of the Soviet Union and the Central Asian republics, were given ministerial posts in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and were also found among the generals of the Soviet army. Today hundreds of Koreans in Central Asia and Russia have received PhDs degrees, and work as professors and researchers in universities, institutes, and scientific centers.
The political and socioeconomic changes, and the deteriorating standard of living of the last decade in Russia and the newly independent states of Central Asia, has led to much trepidation among all peoples of the former Soviet empire about their future. In the Soviet times, the standard of living of all people was roughly the same, whereas today, there is an ever-increasing socioeconomic divide with a small number of very rich people, and the majority of the population with little income and many difficulties coping with their daily needs and problems. The Koryo saram share the same difficulties as all other people in the former Soviet Union, along with additional problems unique to them.
Consolidation and Integration
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. 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 national 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. 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, - and 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. 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 another's 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 other's. 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 Harlem's. 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.
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 ethos's.
Revival and Survival
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. 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 ceremonies 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 kinds 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. 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'nt 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 is 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 is 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.
Independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Kazakhstan gave the Kazakhs - the title nation, original people of the modern territory of the country, who gave the name to the former Union republic and the present state, natural and artificial advantages as compared with Diasporas and national minorities. We should note certain nonconformity with the declared fundamental democratic rights and duties of the citizens of Kazakhstan, equal among themselves irrespective of nationality according to the Constitution and the existing legislation of the country and the practice of everyday life. However, neither Western experts nor external-internal opposition bring any accusations to Astana regarding official state discrimination of the non-indigenous (Russian speaking) peoples, Diasporas and ethnic minorities
The historical experience and the practice of other countries shows that in a poly-ethnic state undergoing the stage of its construction or radical reformation it is necessary to establish institutes of legislative or executive power which are to represent and protect the interests of all the peoples living there. The example of it could be People's Commissariat of Nationalities, the Chamber of the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Ministry of Federation, National and Migration Policy of the Russian Federation.
"Children's diseases" are characteristic of all states in the transition period and the Republic of Kazakhstan can neither be a classical example, nor an exception. The task is not to turn such diseases into chronic and incurable illnesses of the transforming country.
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Цой В. Современная культура и быт корейцев Казахстана. Автореферат кандидатской диссертации. Ленинград, 1985; Мин Л.В. Семейные традиции и обычаи корейцев, проживающих в Казахстане. Алма - Ата , 1992; Ли Г.Н. Обычаи и обряды корейцев СНГ. Москва-Ташкент, 2001
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Nurbulat Masanov, Erlan Karin, Andrei Chebotarev, Oka Natsuko. The Nationalities Question in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan. Institute of Developing Economies, JETRO, M.E.S. Series, No.51
Ким Герман Николаевич, профессор, доктор исторических наук, зав. каф. корееведения факультета востоковедения КазНУ им. аль-Фараби, тел./ факс раб. 3272-621345, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Prof. Dr. Kim German Nikolaevitch, Head of the Department of Korean Studies Faculty of Oriental Studies Kazakh National University named after al-Farabi. Phone/fax: 3272-621345, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com