What are some south korean ethnic groups

KBS WORLD

Culture

2014-10-28

Ethnic Koreans live widely scattered across Central Asia, Russia and its seaside provinces, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Korean migration to Russia and Central Asia this year. A whole series of events is planned for this occasion.

These descendants of Korean immigrants to Central Asia and Russia love to sing Korean songs. They arrived in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province on October 12th. Their Korean is bumpy, having lived outside of Korea for generations, but arriving in Korea excited them. Here is Yugai Tamara, an ethnic Korean who attended the ceremony.

We have come from afar to see our old home. I am so happy to finally be here! I am grateful that the Koreans gave us such a warm welcome. “Arirang” and “Spring in my homeland” are the most beautiful Korean songs. I am not a Uzbek, I am a Korean!

Although they have no memories of their own in Korea, they received an awareness of their Korean roots and self-identity as Koreans from their parents. When homesickness overcomes them, they sing the song "Spring in my homeland", and "Arirang" is the song of the Koreans.

Most of the Korean immigrants in Russia came from Hamgyeong Province, near the border between North Korea and China. People from this region often went hungry because of the barren soil, and Hamgyeong residents have repeatedly crossed the Tumen River to grow crops in Russia for a season since the 1860s. They went to Russia in the spring and came back to Korea in the autumn after the harvest. But at the time, crossing the borders was life-threatening and was punishable by death. In 1863, sixty residents from fourteen households in Hamgyeong Province applied for permanent residence in Russia after growing crops near the Tizinkhe River, and the Russian government accepted their request the following year. That was the beginning of Korean migration to Russia, which marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary this year.

As the director of the Museum of the History of Korean Migration, Mr. Kim Sang-nyeol, just explained to us, some Koreans settled in the seaside areas of Russia in 1864 after failures in cultivation and subsequent lack of food. Five years later, a bitter famine in the northern part of the Korean peninsula drove almost ten thousand Koreans to look for a new life across the border. During the Japanese occupation in the early 1920s, more than a quarter of the rural population of Vladivostok, up to 170,000 people, were ethnic Koreans. But in 1937 the Soviet government forced the Koreans to be relocated to Central Asia because of fear that the Koreans would spy for the Japanese. Here is director Kim Sang-nyeol of the Museum of Korean Migration History again.



The forced resettlement of Koreans in 1937 was extremely brutal. In response to two orders, more than 170,000 Koreans were sent on the 6,000-kilometer route. Around two thousand Korean community leaders were eliminated before the relocation, and many of the elderly and children died during the long train journey. Many also broke down mentally. The destination of the first Korean settlement in Central Asia was Üschtöbe in what is now Kazakhstan. To the horror of the Koreans, it turned out to be a wasteland upon arrival. The Koreans were practically left to their own devices in the barren land at the end of October.

In Üschtöbe it was already very cold at the end of October, which was hostile to life for the destitute Koreans. The promises of housing and jobs that were given to them before the trip were never kept, and the Koreans had to help themselves in their dire situation. They just managed to survive the first winter in Kazakhstan, but even in this misery they did not give up courage.

To survive, they dug caves as shelters and tried to grow crops on the wasteland. With their passionate eagerness to learn, which is so typical of Koreans, they managed to assert themselves in the inhospitable environment. Despite the miserable starting conditions, these people retained their Korean customs and eating habits, which has earned them a great deal of respect throughout Central Asia. Among the more than 106 different ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan, Koreans are actually the most respected group.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia and eleven other independent countries, there were also major changes among the ethnic Koreans. Some Koreans have returned to Korea in search of a better life, but the locals don't understand the plight of ethnic Koreans from Russia and Central Asia. For this reason, the committee, which is responsible for planning the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Korean emigration to Russia, is organizing the festival together with the city of Ansan in Gyeonggi province under the motto: "We are the One". Here is Mr. Kim Seung-nyeonk, who leads a group called Neomeo that offers Korean classes to ethnic Koreans from Central Asia.

Korean society does not know much about the ethnic Koreans in Russia and Central Asia because their history and their particular problems are barely reported in the normal Korean media. That's why this event is here. The descendants of the emigrants in Russia and Central Asia endured the worst tragedies and not a few lost their identities in the process. They don't speak Korean and when they come to Korea they hardly manage to adapt to life here. But they cannot go back either, because there is no hope for them there. Uzbekistan and the neighboring countries in Central Asia have great economic problems and take care of their own people first. Ethnic minorities like Koreans hardly have a chance. So I think we should pay special attention to them.

This year, for the first time, there will be a festival dedicated to Korean migration in Russia. There is a special reason why the city of Ansan is sponsoring this event. Here is Mr. Kim Seung-nyeok again:

About 6,000 of the 30,000 descendants of Korean emigrants in Russia currently residing in Korea live in Ansan. In some ways in Ansan the capital of the Russian Koreans. However, the residents of Ansan know very little about this group of returnees from Russia. So I hope that through an event like this, the people from Ansan will learn more about their Korean-Russian neighbors and make the Korean-Russian returnees better known.

A fan dance by Korean-Russian dancers reminds us that we are all of the same ancestry, and the food they have prepared is intended to help us better understand their culture and life.



Woman 1: The more I know about the Russian Koreans, the more I realize that they are not just part of ancient Korean history, but also people who live among us.
Man 1: I didn't even know there were so many Russian Koreans in Korea, and when I saw so many of them at once, I was very surprised. I wish people would be more interested in the descendants of the Korean immigrants living in Korea.
Man 2: Historically, the ethnic Koreans from Russia and we are one and the same people. I will be more interested in her from now on.
Man 3: I wish they could be seen as brothers in our society, not strangers. I hope this event will bring us closer together.

The most popular event at the “We are the One” festival was the Korean theater from Kazakhstan. It is the first foreign theater founded by Koreans.

The Korean theater in Kazakhstan was founded in Vladivostok in 1932. At that time it was a traveling theater called Wondong Byungang Chosun Theater. The theater showed classic Korean dramas and stories about activities of the Korean independence and peasant movement for the ethnically Korean residents of Russia. It was the first Korean theater abroad and the predecessor of the Korean theater that is now located in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This refuge of Korean culture has brought much comfort to the Koreans who were forced to relocate to Central Asia in 1937 and their descendants.
That was the statement by Director Kim Sang-nyeol of the Museum of the History of Korean Migration about the key role Korean theater has played in Kazakhstan in preserving Korean culture over the past 82 years. And now it's the first time that Korean theater has come to Korea to perform. Here is Lyubov Lee, the President of the Korean Theater in Kazakhstan.

The Korean Theater in Kazakhstan is a historically important location for ethnic Koreans who do not live in Korea. It is a natural need of all people living abroad somewhere that they want to maintain their own culture. The Korean theater in Kazakhstan has long helped Korean migrants in Russia stick together and preserve Korean culture. Whenever I visited Korea, I felt like my soul was dancing for joy. It is really great that I can visit my homeland so easily, and I feel that we are connected by an invisible bond.

The title of the play is: "Linked by the same fate".

Ethnic Koreans in Russia and Central Asia have never completely lost their national feeling, they have sung Korean folk songs to remember their origins. The members of the Korean theater in Kazakhstan continue to work hard to maintain traditional Korean culture. The theater's singer, Zoya Kim, tells us more about it.

I'm so nervous, I wonder if the audience can even understand my pronunciation. I also worry about my songs, whether they even sound like Korean songs. I feel all the responsibility that I have as a member of a national theater. This is our only cultural center. We have a responsibility to preserve Korean culture, art and language in Kazakhstan. Many of the young actors don't speak Korean. I can't do it fluently either. In the meantime, however, the interest is growing and it is our job to nurture and preserve Korean culture and art. That is our proud responsibility.

The Museum of the History of Korean Emigration is presenting a special exhibition on the occasion of 150 years of Korean migration in Russia. Here is the museum director again, Mr. Kim Sang-nyeol:

The theme of this exhibition is the mother tongue. The Russian Koreans had three cultural institutions in order to preserve the Korean language. One of them was closed the year after the forced relocation, but the other two survived and are now the focus of our exhibition: the Korean theater and the newspaper Koryo Ilbo, which was founded in 1923.

The first section of the exhibition covers the lives of the writers, directors, and composers who worked in Korean theater. Among them are the playwright Han Jin, who was originally from North Korea, and the music director Yakov Han. In the second section, in addition to some old newspaper articles, material about the Koryo Ilbo photographer, Victor Ahn, and the reporter and poet Kim Byeong-hak is on display. The third section is about celebrities from Kazakhstan who have been heavily influenced by Korean culture, and the fourth section tells the stories of the ethnic Koreans who helped with the exhibition.

The past 150 years have been full of difficulties and hardships for Koreans who have left their homes to survive abroad. Meanwhile, festivities are held across Korea and in ethnic Korean communities in Russia and Central Asia to honor the tenacity of Koreans and to celebrate Korean culture. Now the time has come for the descendants of Korean migrants to face a new and hopeful future.

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