History of the Sakhalin Koreans


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Baik, Seungmin
Project Paper in History, July 2007



Table of Contents


Foreword
Abstract
I. Historical Background
I.a Conflicts over Sakhalin Island
I.b The Russo-Japanese War
II. The Japanese Phase
II.a The First Sakhalin Koreans
II.b Early Sakhalin Koreans : Voluntary Recruitment
II.c Later Sakhalin Koreans : Coercive Draft
II.d Transfer Route
II.e Labor Conditions of Korean Miners
II.f Double Relocation
III. The Soviet Phase
III.a The Soviet Invasion of Southern Sakhalin
III.b Diplomatic Isolation
III.c Repatriation Efforts
IV. The Post Soviet Phase
IV.a Improving International Relationship
IV.b Sakhalin Koreans Today
IV.c Contemporary Problems
V. Lifestyle of Sakhalin Koreans
V.a Language
V.b Economy and Occupation
V.c Family Structure and Marriage
V.d Religion
V.e Relationship with Russians
V.f Traditional Culture : Music
VI. Conclusion
VII. Notes
VIII. Reference


Foreword


            In late 2002, I heard the news of Korea and Japan jointly funding the residential complex for Sakhalin Koreans in Ansan. At that time, I did not feel anything but a rather detached indifference to the fact that Sakhalin Koreans are to live in my neighborhood. Only later, on one day in 2005, my family and I happened to meet Ms. Choi, Soon-ok, an 83-year-old Sakhalin Korean. Upon the encounter with a representative of a historical minority, I became determined to know more about the Sakhalin Koreans' history of passion.
I would like to thank many people whose contributions granted me to finish this research paper. My parents fully supported me to meet many Sakhalin Koreans in Ansan Gohyang Village and even arranged a short field trip to Sakhalin for me. Mr. Ganse, my European history teacher and project study advisor, eagerly helped me by giving me priceless advice and helpful materials. Ms. Son, my advisor, also led me to come up with a proper methodology of research paper. Ms. Han Heung-su, the chief of "The Committee of Investigation of Forced Labor and Losses of Property under the Japanese Occupation," not only assisted me to have a successful field trip to Sakhalin, but also presented me crucial with information about Sakhalin Koreans. And finally, I would like to thank many Sakhalin Koreans who benevolently told me their respective account of personal history.


Abstract


            The term Sakhalin Koreans refers to the Korean immigrants to Sakhalin Island during the later decades of Japanese colonial era, and their descents as Russian citizens or residents. As the war effort of Japan during the World War II intensified, the Japanese government recruited, and later forcibly conscripted Korean laborers to work for the mining and lumber industries in Karafuto, the southern part of Sakhalin, south of the 50 northern latitude. After the war, Sakhalin Koreans were prevented from returning to their motherland largely due to the difference in diplomatic policies among the major powers in East Asia. For decades from the Japanese exploitation to the Soviet rule, Sakhalin Koreans suffered from ethnic, cultural, economic, and mental problems.
From the late 1960s, Sakhalin Koreans had a comparatively better condition since the outsider world began to pay more attention to their situation. Especially, the repatriation movements initiated by various pressure groups revitalized Sakhalin Koreans with the hope of returning to their home and family. Yet, for the following decades the intricacy of international diplomacy served as a major obstacle to their repatriation. As a result of painstaking attempts to repatriate Sakhalin Koreans, approximately 1,544 of Sakhalin Koreans settled in Korea by the end of 2002. Still, the problems accompanied with the adaptation to the new social environment remain controversial.


I. Historical Background



I.a Conflicts over Sakhalin Island


            The trace of human civilization in Sakhalin Island is dated back to the Neolithic Stone Age, as the parts of primitive pottery and stone tools were found along the line of the Aniva Bay. The indigenous people of Sakhalin, including the Ainu, the Nivkh, and other tribes, depended upon fishing, gathering, and farming.
From the era of Ming dynasty, China recognized Sakhalin as Kuyi (literally "miserable barbarians"). Even though the Chinese claimed the ownership of Sakhalin for a long time, it did not show any active intervention in Sakhalin administration. According to Wei Yuan's work Military History of the Qing Dynasty, 400 Chinese troops were sent to Sakhalin in 1616 in order to prevent the possible menace from the contact between Sakhalin and northern Japan, but later withdrew confirming that there was no threat from the island.(1)
While the Chinese remained indifferent to the island of "miserable barbarians," Russia and Japan expressed a growing interest in Sakhalin Island. It was in the 17th century when Europeans first became to recognize the presence of Sakhalin. Growing interest in expedition to the east beyond Siberia led the discovery of Sakhalin by the first explorers including Ivan Moskvitin, Martin Gerritz de Vries, and Jean-Francois de La Perouse, all of whom mistakenly perceived Sakhalin as an attached peninsula to the eastern end of Russia. Russia, accordingly, paid a great attention to the newly found territory in Far East, and later in 19th century substantiated its colonization attempts by utilizing Sakhalin as a penal colony.
The Japanese attempts to colonization of Sakhalin started from 1679, when a Japanese settlement was established in Ootomari (today's Korsakhov). As the early Japanese pioneers saw Sakhalin as an extension of Hokkaido, cartographers used to refer to Sakhalin as Kita-Ezo(northern part of Ezo, the old name of Hokkaido). In 1809 Mamiya Rinzo, a Japanese explorer, clarified that Sakhalin was not a peninsula but an island by discovering the Mamiya Strait, also known as Strait of Tartary.
The Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1686, defining the explicit border between Russia and China, did not mention Sakhalin Island, granting an excuse to Russian advance into the northern Sakhalin from the late 18th century. Although the Qing dynasty of China claimed sovereignty over the island, it did not take any military action to substantiate its claim. With the absence of the Chinese military forces, Japan and Russia competitively initiated the colonization attempt of Sakhalin at the opposite ends.
The conflict over Sakhalin Island between Russia and Japan elevated when Japan proclaimed the ownership of the entire Sakhalin on the basis that Sakhalin Island is an extension of Hokkaido both geographically and culturally. However, the Treaty of Shimoda signed between Russia and Japan in 1855 declared that both nationals could inhabit the island: Russians in the north and Japanese in the south.
Although the Treaty of Shimoda seemed to alleviate the tension between Russia and Japan, the competition over Sakhalin Island continued. In 1857, the Russian finally attempted to develop northern Sakhalin by establishing a katorga (2) and thus forcing exiles and prisoners to cultivate the land. Following the Opium War, the Qing officially aborted the ownership of Sakhalin by signing the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and Convention of Peking in 1860.
In 1875, the sovereignty of Russia over Sakhalin Island seemed to become even stronger when the treaty of St. Petersburg was signed, confirming that Japan cedes Sakhalin to Russia in exchange of Kuril Islands. However, Russia did not expect Japan to reverse the entire situation in Far East.


I.b The Russo-Japanese War


            The dispute over hegemony of the East Asia between Russian Empire and Japan became intensified. Russian Empire, aspiring to obtain nonfreezing port in the south and eventually expand its territory, focused its interest on the northern Far East, especially on Manchuria and Korea, while Japan advanced to neighboring countries such as Taiwan and Korea in order to entrench its influence over the East Asia. As a result of the collision between the two major powers, on February 8 of 1904 the Japanese navy initiated the Russo-Japanese war with a surprise attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. The successive victories of Japanese forces over Russian fleet enhanced Japanese hegemony on the Far East.
With the mediation of the U.S., Japan and Russia signed the Treaty of Portsmouth on September 5, 1905, according to which Japan officially acquired the southern part of Sakhalin below 50 northern latitude, covering approximately 36,990 km2 in area. Japanese government, after renaming Sakhalin as Karafuto with Toyohara(today's Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) as the capital, initiated the rapid development of the southern Sakhalin under its control. As the construction of railroad system began in 1906, southern Sakhalin experienced an unprecedented development. By 1907, southern Sakhalin was fully integrated in Japanese administration as the Karafuto prefecture. In contrast, the development in northern Sakhalin stagnated for a long time, mostly due to the indifference of Russian government towards the Sakhalin, and lack of investment and population.
Concurring with the increasing governmental support and private investment, the population in Karafuto drastically increased. Major companies including Mitsui group and Mitsubishi group competitively participated in the development of Karafuto coalmines, and such competition required a lot of newly employed workers. As a result, the Japanese immigration, and later Korean relocation, into Sakhalin boomed during the Japanese occupation of Karafuto. While in 1906 approximately 12,000 inhabitants resided in Karafuto prefecture, in 1912 the number of population in southern Sakhalin rose to 42,000. Again, by 1923 the number of population in Karafuto recorded over 140,000.(3) Subsequent increase in population recorded 331,943 Japanese inhabitants in 1935 (4) and 414,891 in 1940.(5) Considering that over 400,000 of the Japanese inhabitants in southern Sakhalin were repatriated after World War II, the population of Sakhalin reached its pinnacle by the end of Japanese occupation in southern Sakhalin.


II. The Japanese Phase



II.a The First Sakhalin Koreans


            The first influx of Koreans into Sakhalin Island is dated back from 1870s to 1880s. According to the first Russian census in 1897, there were 67 Koreans, of the total population around 28,000, in Sakhalin Islands: 53 of the first Koreans engaged in fishing, 9 in farming, 1 in tailoring, 1 unoccupied, and 1 under the sentence. (6) These Korean laborers crossed the northern border of Korea, and went to Sakhalin through the Maritime Province.
The Korean population in Sakhalin continued to increase by the immigrants crossing Mamiya Strait via the Maritime Province or Manchuria. In 1923 there were 1,431 Koreans in northern Soviet Sakhalin, and the population rose to 1,760 by 1931. However, Soviet Union feared that the Koreans, ethnically similar to Japanese, would strengthen the Japanese influence on the northern Sakhalin. As a result, 1,150 of the Koreans residing in northern Sakhalin were forcibly relocated to the Central Asia in 1937. (7)


II.b Early Sakhalin Koreans : Voluntary Recruitment


            In contrast to the situation in northern Sakhalin, Karafuto experienced a gradual increase in the Korean population. The Korean population of 934 in Karafuto drastically rose to 5,813 by 1934. Male workers who sought higher income comprised the vast majority of the early Sakhalin Koreans, but occasionally female Koreans who followed their family members were included.
Although most Sakhalin Koreans claim that they were forcibly drafted and totally exploited, their assertion contains a misconception. By 1939 Japanese government did not implement coercive draft towards Sakhalin Koreans. Rather, most Sakhalin Koreans before 1939 went voluntarily to pursue a better working condition and higher wage. Japanese government and major companies, advertising that labor opportunity in Sakhalin assures a better labor condition and income, encouraged low class Korean farmers to enlist themselves in the list of newly employed Sakhalin miners and lumberjacks.
To many Korean farmers suffering from abject poverty, the labor contract in Sakhalin was seen as an opportunity for themselves to become rich in a short time. Therefore, male farmers mostly in Gyeong-sang, Jeon-la, and occasionally Chung-cheong province (8) volunteered for working in Sakhalin in the hopes of supporting their family members and accumulating wealth quickly. At first a father or a son in a family went to Sakhalin as a worker, and after he settled in Sakhalin the rest of family members immigrated to Sakhalin.
It is concluded that the early Sakhalin Koreans did not experience the coercive draft. Rather, they enjoyed relatively stable living conditions. However, after the war they had to suffer a similar treatment to the later Sakhalin Koreans, who were forcibly relocated to Karafuto.


II.c Later Sakhalin Koreans : Coercive Draft


            From 1939 onward, the Japanese suffered a desperate lack of labor force due to the continual warfare. As the extent of Japanese participation in World War II increased, especially after evoking the Pacific War in 1941, the Japanese supplemented the lacking labor force and resources from its colonies: Korea, Taiwan, etc. Accordingly, Sakhalin, abounding in natural resources including coal and lumber, became a subject of exploitation by Japan during the World War II. From 1943 to 1945, the Japanese condition became much more desperate: in response to the oil blockade by the Allies, the Japanese had to use synthetic oil extracted from coal.
At that time, Sakhalin mining industry suffered a lack of laborers compared to its speed of expansion since the Japanese male workers were conscripted to the front. Therefore, Japanese government mobilized, and later coercively drafted Korean laborers to supply the labor force in Sakhalin coal and lumber industries.
The quota of workers to be drafted was imposed in most towns in Gyeong-sang, Jeon-la, and Chung-cheong provinces, and Japanese local officials and Korean collaborators took charge of draft. Advertising that working for two-year contract in Sakhalin is the chance of earning a lot of money and enjoying better working conditions, Japanese government encouraged and persuaded Korean male workers to acquiesce. However, coercive methods were also practiced when the number of enlisted workers did not fulfill the quota. Accounts of Mr. Kim, Dong-sun reveal that many of the later Sakhalin Koreans were not even notified that they were going to Sakhalin:

(9)

Until the end of World War II and the surrender of Japan, most Sakhalin Koreans endured the hard labor in the hopes of better future in Korea. However, only later they realized that they had no way to return to their motherland, and their family.


II.d Transfer Route


            Sakhalin Koreans had two ways from Korea to Sakhalin: the first was sailing from Busan to Korsakhov, the largest port of Sakhalin on Aniva Bay, via Osaka; the second was landing on Japan and moving to Hokkaido by train, and eventually to Korsakhov by ship. In the late years of Japanese occupation of Korea, the second route was preferred. The Korean workers gathered in Busan were grouped into the units of 100 men and relocated to Japan. Then, the train for Sakhalin Koreans transferred them to Wakanai of Hokkaido. Finally, Koreans arriving at Ootomari were allocated to different coal mines and forests. The transfer process took 10 to 15 days on average.


II.e Labor Conditions of Korean Miners


            As soon as Karafuto prefecture was officially established, Japan initiated the promotion of mining industry. With Karafuto Mining Corporation leading the development of coalmines from the northern part of the occupied Sakhalin, major companies including Mitsubishi group and Mitsui group participated in cultivation of coalmines in the southern part. As a result, over 30 of the mines had been operating during the Japanese rule over southern Sakhalin.
Most of the Korean laborers arriving at Port Korsakhov were allocated to the mines all over southern Sakhalin. They were to supplement the Japanese workers who were relocated to the front of World War II. Most of the Korean workers were inexperienced and uneducated, and they suffered from harsh conditions.

(10)

Most of Sakhalin Korean miners worked for 8 to 12 hours a day on average, and 2 to 3 workers shifted work everyday. Frequent cases of testimony from Sakhalin Koreans accuse that they suffered from the violence of Japanese supervisors. Furthermore, poor facilities and inexperience of Korean miners resulted in frequent accidents and industrial disasters.

(11)

Korean miners with family were allowed a better housing facility, but the single Sakhalin Korean miners were concentrated in camps. 3 or 4 dormitories comprised the camp, and each room was filled with 30 to 40 workers. The inhabitants of a dormitory shared one bathroom. Moreover, as the Japanese authorities appropriated part of their food rations, most Sakhalin Koreans suffered insufficiency of nutrients, A Sakhalin Korean put it as follows:

(12)

Each miner had a mandatory bank account, to which his monthly income was deposited. Moreover, the Japanese government deducted their wages in the pretext of housing, food, and other expenses of living. Only 5% or 10% of the income was actually paid monthly for the allowance of miners.
The Japanese government regularly postponed paying, insisting that the income would be paid when the contract was expired. Some of the Korean miners were even told that their income would be sent to their family in Korea. Even though the contract was over, Korean miners were persuaded, or coerced to work more because of "bad conditions due to the war," as the Japanese authorities claimed.
Despite suffering hard labor and physical abuse, most Sakhalin Koreans could not receive their allowance due to the surrender of Japan in 1945. By 1945 the total savings of Korean laborers¡¯ income reached 18,700 dollars, and the amount of insurance reached 7 million dollars. However, Japanese government defaulted in their income in the excuse of defeat in World War II. Even today, many Sakhalin Koreans demand the compensation by a series of lawsuits. However, recent cases only turned out to be dismissed, remaining a serious controversy.


II.f Double Relocation


            In the later years of the Pacific War, the U.S. forces seized both the naval and air supremacy over the Japanese. Having difficulty transporting natural resources from Sakhalin to the mainland Japan, on August 11, 1944 the Japanese government filed a secret document, and around 3,000 of the Sakhalin Korean coal miners were once again relocated to the mines in mainland Japan.
The victims of so-called double relocation were scattered all over the Japanese Islands. Only a few of them managed to return to Korea. However, the rest of double relocation victims are highly improbable to survive by today. Therefore, it is assumed that practical difficulty in tracing their location and history hinders further studies about their lives.


III. The Soviet Phase



III.a The Soviet Invasion of Southern Sakhalin


            As the predicted defeat of Japan in World War II became substantiated, the Russian army initiated the advance into Sakhalin as a part of Operation August Storm. On August 11th, 1945, therefore, the 56th Rifle Corps attacked the southern portion of Sakhalin occupied by Japan. However, the Red Army advance was stalled because of a strong Japanese resistance. While small-scale skirmishes continued, the Japanese inhabitants practically prepared for truce and return to their motherland. Finally, on August 25th, 1945, the Red Army occupied Toyohara and fully conquered the entire Sakhalin territory. During the invasion, according to Japanese official claim, about 20,000 civilians were killed.
During the Soviet invasion of Sakhalin, Japanese police and civilians committed massacres of Sakhalin Koreans. Japanese inhabitants in Sakhalin, in the shock and confusion due to the Soviet attack and the surrender of Japan in World War II, attributed their misfortune to the Korean laborers. Most cases of massacres are left in veil due to the lack of information. Yet, the two cases are comparatively well reported: the masscre in Kamishisuka on August 18, 1945, and the mass murder in Mizuho Village, from August 20 to August 23, 1945. Mr. Woo, Jung-goo, the Sakhalin Korean who happened to have encountered the only survivor from the Kamishisuka massacre, testifies as follows:

(14)

As shown, the rumors about Sakhalin Koreans, mostly accusing Korean laborers of espionage for Soviet Union, spread quickly among the Japanese settlers in Sakhalin. The main source of such misleading rumor was the panic and apprehension of the Japanese from the surrender in World War II. The popular sentiment of depression among Japanese civilians and soldiers resulted in the vindictive reactions towards Koreans.


III.b Diplomatic Isolation


            According to the US-USSR Agreement on Repatriation, approximately 292,600 of the Japanese immigrants in Sakhalin were repatriated. (15) By the early 1950s, nearly all the Japanese immigrants were evacuated from Sakhalin Island. In contrast, the Korean laborers in Sakhalin, approximately 43,000, excluded from the repatriation list in the pact.
Sakhalin Koreans were isolated in diplomatic contradiction: on one hand, Japan refused to take responsibility on Sakhalin Koreans, claiming that they are no longer Japanese citizens according to Cairo Declaration. On the other hand, Soviet Union tacitly disapproved the repatriation attempts of Sakhalin Koreans because they consisted of the major labor force in Sakhalin coal mining industry. Even the U.S. did not heed upon the matter of Sakhalin Koreans in the discussion of post-war resolution. As the U.S. GHQ had a difficulty dealing with post-war resolution in East Asia, the interests of Japan, which wanted no nuisance, were fully reflected during the discussion of post-war resolution. Thus, even though Sakhalin Koreans were normally classified as Japanese nationals, they were excluded from the repatriation list.
Even though the vast majority of Sakhalin Koreans had no chance to return to their homeland, a small fraction of those Koreans in Sakhalin were exempt from the diplomatic isolation. In 1956, Japan and the Soviet Union agreed on the repatriation of the Japanese women, who married Sakhalin Koreans and therefore were blocked from returning to Japan, along with their family. Therefore, 2,345 of Sakhalin Koreans, by virtue of their having Japanese wives, settled in mainland Japan. (16)


III.c Repatriation Efforts


            From 1960s onward, the outsider world paid more attention to Sakhalin Koreans. Accordingly, the repatriation efforts were initiated actively. In January 1958, the former Sakhalin Koreans, who had early received permission to settle in Japan by virtue of their having Japanese wives, formed the organization for repatriation of the Koreans still in the Soviet Sakhalin to South Korea. Park No-hak, the leader, petitioned the Japanese government a total of 23 times to discuss the issue of Sakhalin Koreans with the Soviet government. (17)
His efforts begot a growing attention from both Japan and South Korea. South Korean citizens and media, inspired by the sentiment of co-ethnicity and sympathy from the suffering of Japanese imperialism, took a favorable position towards the repatriation attempts by forming a popular consensus towards Sakhalin Koreans. At the same time, Rei Mihara, a housewife in Tokyo, formed a pressure group for the support of Sakhalin Koreans, and 18 Japanese lawyers took a legal action to force Japanese government accept diplomatic and financial responsibility for the repatriation of Sakhalin Koreans. (18) As a result, Korea and Japan initiated the discussion about the repatriation of Sakhalin Koreans under the auspices of the Red Cross. Even the Soviet Union agreed on the emigration of Sakhalin Koreans under the permission of Japan.
Despite all the efforts in favor of Sakhalin Koreans, once again the international diplomacy went unfavorable to Sakhalin Koreans. Political tension between Japan and the Republic of Korea arose when the Japanese government claimed that the Republic of Korea should meet the entire cost of repatriation, while the Korean government responded that Japan takes the primary responsibility for Sakhalin Koreans. The North Korean government, to prevent the exodus of Sakhalin Koreans with North Korean nationality, opposed to the repatriation plan of the Soviet Union on the basis that the repatriation is an aggressive policy of Korea and Japan against North Korea. Moreover, as the South Korean media depicted Sakhalin Koreans as the oppressed minority under the tyranny of Communism, the Soviet Union was infuriated by the anti-Communist nuance of international sentiment towards Sakhalin Koreans. By 1976, around 2,000 of the Koreans applied for repatriation.
Still, the Soviet government in Sakhalin announced that people willing to emigrate could file an application at the Immigration Office. The Soviet government tacitly expected that only a minor fraction would apply due to the assimilation of most Sakhalin Koreans to Russian society. However, the number of people willing to emigrate outnumbered the initial expectation of Soviet Union. Within a week, over 800 of Sakhalin Koreans applied for returning to South Korea. In addition to the anxiety about the mass exodus from Sakhalin, pressure from North Korea led the Soviet Union to reconsider its initial support of Sakhalin Koreans.
Finally, the Soviet authorities withdrew all the support for the repatriation and forbade issuing exit visas to Sakhalin Koreans. Shocked at the sudden change of the Soviet policy, the people who were to return to South Korea led a series of public demonstrations. Such an open dissent only brought a negative consequence: reversing the humanitarian stance towards Sakhalin Koreans, the Soviet authorities arrested more than 40 people of five families, deported them in North Korea. As the policy of intimidation and suppression continued, the first repatriation efforts failed.


IV. The Post Soviet Phase



IV.a Improving International Relationship


            Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost and Perestroika brought a significant change of attitude towards Sakhalin Koreans by easing the emigration regulations of the Soviet Union in 1987. Concurrently, in 1985 Japan agreed to fund the repatriation of the first generation of Sakhalin Koreans. Taro Nakayama, the former Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, announced an official apology for Sakhalin Koreans on April 18, 1990:

"Japan is deeply sorry for the tragedy in which these (Korean) people were moved to Sakhalin not of their own free will but by the design of the Japanese government and had to remain there after the conclusion of the war." (19)

In 1989, Korea and Japan agreed to fund for the support and repatriation of Sakhalin Koreans. The Korean government entrusted the Korean Red Cross to promote the short-term visitation and repatriation projects. Especially, as the South Korea was recognized worldwide by successfully hosting the Seoul Olympic Games, Sakhalin Koreans also became deeply interested in the situation of the South Korea.
During the 1990s, South Korea and Sakhalin established a close relationship in terms of commerce and communication. North Korea, fearful for the growing influence of South Korea among Sakhalin Koreans, also vied for the influence in Sakhalin. Consequently, workers from the North Korea were sent to Sakhalin. Also, the North Korean government encouraged Sakhalin Koreans to visit and study abroad in the North Korea. The competition between South and North Korea became apparent in the radio and television broadcasting, in which the two countries blamed and degraded each other. However, the ongoing economic contrast between South and North Korea made the offers from North Korea less attractive.
South Korea and Japan jointly funded for Gohyang Village, the residential complex for elderly Sakhalin Koreans in Ansan, a satellite city of Seoul, under the auspice of the Korean Red Cross. By the end of 2002, 1,544 people settled in South Korea and another 14,122 people had traveled South Korea on a short-term visit.


IV.b Sakhalin Koreans Today


            According to the unofficial census of Sakhalin local administration in 2002, the number of Koreans and their descendants is approximately 29,592, comprising 5.4% of the entire population in Sakhalin. (20) Among the Koreans remaining on Sakhalin, roughly 7,000 of the first generation survived, while their descendants comprise the rest of the Sakhalin Korean population. About the half of the entire Sakhalin Koreans reside in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, where Koreans constitute nearly 12% of the population. (21) Various factors account for the decrease in population of Sakhalin Koreans: natural decrease; permanent repatriation of approximately 1,600 Sakhalin Koreans to the South Korea; and deportation of Sakhalin Koreans to the mainland or North Korea.
After the decline of the Soviet Union, mass exodus of Russians in Sakhalin to the mainland occurred. As the remaining Sakhalin Koreans became an increasing proportion of the population, the Russian authorities feared that the ethnic Koreans would become a majority of the island and demand an autonomy or even independence. However, far from the anxiety of the Russian government, the majority of Sakhalin Koreans were fully integrated into the Russian society. Especially, locally born descendants of Sakhalin Koreans began to consider Russia as their home.
Today, the racial difference is no more considered a major factor of social disparity in Sakhalin. By 2004, inter-ethnic resentment between Russians and Koreans nearly waned. However, the Russians in the mainland still express dismissive impression towards Sakhalin Koreans, who have experienced a racist attitude of Russians during their short-term trip, college study, and settlement on the mainland Russia.


IV.c Contemporary Problems


            Despite the alleviating conditions of Sakhalin Koreans, they still have unsolved problems concerning the war atrocities of the Japanese government. In August 1991, the descendants of the victims of the 1945 Korean massacres in Sakhalin filed a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court, but later in July 1995 only found that the suit was dismissed. Similar cases of lawsuit are still in process today.
Even the repatriated Sakhalin Koreans suffer many problems. Accustomed to the Communist society, Sakhalin Koreans have difficulty assimilating into the market economy and highly urbanized society of South Korea. Moreover, Sakhalin Koreans residing in South Korea often find that they are viewed as foreigners by the South Korean locals. About 10% of the 1,544 Sakhalin Koreans repatriated in South Korea chose to return to Sakhalin Island due to the adaptation problems.
Moreover, the mental stresses due to the isolation from their offspring remaining in Sakhalin and their relatives showing indifference are common among the Sakhalin Koreans. As the descendants of Sakhalin Koreans were fully integrated into the Russian society, they insisted on remaining on Sakhalin on behalf of their occupation and family. The repatriated Sakhalin Koreans who left their children in Sakhalin either chose to return or suffered a serious deal of mental stress.
A few younger Koreans also chose to move to South Korea, but they suffered even more serious problems, including the difficulty in communication and repulsion of the South Korean locals to the Sakhalin Korean immigrants, and returned to Sakhalin. On the other hand, college students studying abroad in Sakhalin also report difficulties in befriending Sakhalin Koreans. (22)


V. Lifestyle of Sakhalin Koreans



V.a Language


            During the period of Japanese occupation of Korea, Koreans were deprived of their culture and language. Usage of and education in Korean language were strictly prohibited, and the policy of cultural assimilation was implemented. Accordingly, Sakhalin Koreans were also the subject of deprivation of their native language. They were even forced to change their names in Japanese style. An account of Sakhalin Korean reveals that the Japanese supervisors discriminated among the miners according to the ability to speak Japanese:

(23)

Especially, Sakhalin Koreans were used to speaking Japanese because the adaptation formed in a relatively young age. Even many Sakhalin Koreans regard it easier to speak in Japanese:

(24)

After the Russian advance into the Sakhalin Island, Sakhalin Koreans were required to assimilate themselves into another language, Russian. As they suffered difficulty learning Japanese, the Koreans in Sakhalin faced another difficulty of learning Russian. In contrast to the strict policy of Japan, the Soviet Union at first took a relatively liberal stance towards the ethnic minorities. Usage of distinctive language among the minorities was allowed, and Koreans had a chance to study Russian with Korean as a base language. However, in the late years of Soviet rule the usage of Korean language was again restricted.
Despite their deprivation of their language, Sakhalin Koreans made a consistent effort to preserve Korean language. A weekly Korean newspaper, Saegoryeo Shinmun, has been published since 1949; Sakhalin Korean Broadcasting, the Korean language broadcasting services for Sakhalin Koreans, began in 1956. The spoken language used among Sakhalin Koreans is based on southern dialects in Gyeong-sang and Jeon-la provinces, while writing follows the North Korean standards due to the frequent contact with North Koreans.


V.b Economy and Occupation


            In the beginning of the settlement in Sakhalin, Korean laborers experienced the poverty similar to that of the occupied Korea. Since the Japanese government defaulted in the delayed payments to Sakhalin Korean miners, Sakhalin Koreans had a serious difficulty overcoming the food shortage during the transitory period from 1945 to 1950. Especially, family members of injured or died male workers had the burden to support the others. Teenagers and wives should work instead of their injured fathers. Most Sakhalin Koreans occupied in mining, lumbering, and farming even after the Japanese colonial rule.
During the rule of the Soviet Union, Sakhalin Koreans had a better economic condition. Sakhalin Koreans were applied the same regulation of working hours with that of Russians: 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. The Koreans in the Soviet nationality also received the governmental pension: male workers received pension from the age of 55; female workers from the age of 50. The variety of job opportunity also widened as Sakhalin Koreans were gradually integrated into the system of Soviet Union. However, the Sakhalin Koreans without the Soviet nationality suffered the discrimination in terms of promotion and employment.
Gorbachev's reformation brought a rather negative impact on the economic condition of Sakhalin Koreans. Gradual application of capitalistic economy included the modification of social welfare services of the former Soviet Union. Especially, the drastic increase in the educational tuition became a pressure to many elderly Sakhalin Koreans whose children were willing to apply for colleges.


V.c Family Structure and Marriage


            Accustomed to the Korean tradition of arranged marriage, Sakhalin Koreans experienced a cultural shock in terms of family structure and marriage. As the male workers comprised the majority of Sakhalin Koreans, those Sakhalin Koreans lacked female Koreans to marry to. In addition, the workers who left their family in Korea or lost their family in Sakhalin felt a need of remarriage. Moreover, the trend of free marriage spread among the Sakhalin Koreans.
From the occupation of the Soviet Union, international marriage between Russians and Koreans was commonly practiced among the younger generations. Although people from the old generation expressed bewilderment and shock to have foreigners as their sons- or daughters-in-law, later the old Sakhalin Korean themselves practiced the international marriage.


V.d Religion


            Since the Soviet Union strictly prohibited all the religious activities, only recently the religious activities were catalyzed among Sakhalin Koreans. However, traditional religious practices of Korea, such as Mudang (25) and Jesa, (26) are preserved well despite the persecution of the Soviet Union. It is evaluated that Sakhalin Koreans have preserved traditional religion and rites well and thus ensured their identity as Koreans. (27) Most Sakhalin Koreans still practice Jesa, and preserve a strong cultural and moral basis on Confucianism.
From 1990, Protestantism, via the South Korean missionaries, was introduced among Sakhalin Koreans. Even though the Russian Orthodox and the regional administration of Sakhalin prevent Korean Protestants from mass conference, the number of Protestant churches rose to more than 40. Missionaries from South Korea also serve to promote the affinity of Sakhalin Koreans to South Korea.


V.e Relationship with Russians


            In contrast to the suppressive and dismissive attitude of the Japanese, Russians expressed a liberal stance towards Sakhalin Koreans. As the Soviet Union consisted of diverse ethnic groups, the local administration recognized the distinctive Korean language and cultural traits. However, after Sakhalin Koreans' demonstration against the Soviet refusal of Korean repatriation, the Soviet Union initiated a strict oppression of the Korean minority in Sakhalin. Many Sakhalin Koreans who expressed resentment or criticism of the Soviet authorities were arrested by secret police and deported to North Korea, and the practice of Korean culture and language was also restricted. The aggressive policy of the Soviet Union abated with Gorbachev's reformation.
Still, there was a disregarding sentiment among the Russians that Koreans are the people of a feeble and destitute country. Such a stereotype towards Sakhalin Koreans began to change when the South Korea successfully hosted the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Russians began to regard Sakhalin Koreans with admiration and amazement. Accordingly, Koreans in Sakhalin today enjoy a higher social position.


V.f Traditional Culture : Music


            In contrast to other Korean minority groups in other parts of Russia, Sakhalin Koreans have a stronger preference for traditional Korean music. Yet, Korean pop music is less widespread. In Sakhalin, the study of traditional Korean music has been receiving emphasis and popular support. The Ethnos Arts School, established in 1991 in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, has taught teenagers traditional Korean dance, singing, Gayageum (28), and other traditional instruments of Korea.


Professors sent from North Korea supervise the education of traditional Korean music in Sakhalin.


VI. Conclusion


            For decades, Sakhalin Koreans suffered as the oppressed minority in the historical context. Korean laborers in Sakhalin have suffered the imperialistic exploitation of Japan, and the cultural and diplomatic suppression from the Soviet Union. Moreover, they experienced a series of rapid ideological and cultural changes. In contrast to the common misconception about Sakhalin Koreans, interestingly, not all the Korean laborers were forcibly drafted to Sakhalin. However, it is evident that regardless of the background of settling on Sakhalin all Koreans suffered hardships.
Despite the confusion in terms of identity and culture that they suffered, Sakhalin Koreans have made efforts to preserve the traditional value of Korea, including language, religion, and music. Consistent support from the outside world enabled the Sakhalin Koreans to return to their motherland.
Still, Sakhalin Koreans face various contemporary problems: continual lawsuits of compensation for the war atrocities of Japan; adaptation and integration into the South Korean society; the disunity among the family member due to the cultural gaps, etc. These issues need more time to be fully evaluated, and suggest a further study focusing on the contemporary controversies over Sakhalin Koreans.


VII. Notes

(1)      Wikipedia : Sakhalin
(2)      A system of penal servitude of the prison farm in Imperial Russia. Prisoners were relocated to uninhabited area of Siberia and forced to perform hard labor
(3)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.310
(4)      Epstein, 1937, p.1112
(5)      Funk, 1944, p.314
(6)      Choi, 2003, p.74
(7)      Referring to the administrative units of South Korea
(7)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.311
(7)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.55-56
(10)      Yi, 2004, p.53
(11)      Yi, 2004, p.60-61
(12)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.61
(13)      A measurement unit of volume, approximately 0.181 cubic meter
(14)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.105-107
(15)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 B, p.314
(16)      Choi, 2003, p.105-106
(17)      Wikipedia : Sakhalin Koreans
(18)      TIME Magazine, 1976
(19)      Wikipedia : Sakhalin Koreans
(20)      CIFLLPJO, 2006 A
(21)      Wikipedia : Sakhalin Koreans
(22)      Wikipedia : Sakhalin Koreans
(23)      Yi, 2004, p.53
(24)      Yi, 2004, p.95
(25)      Referring to the shaman in Korea. Believed to act as an intercessor between gods and human beings, a Mudang manages Korean traditional religious rites
(26)      Referring to the Korean traditional rites of prayer to ancestral spirits
(27)      Lee, 2007
(28)      A zither-like instrument supposedly invented around the time of the Gaya confederacy


VIII. Reference