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September 28, 2020

25 Rare Photographs Capture Everyday Life of Ethnic Koreans in the Former Soviet Union in the Early 20th Century

Koryo-saram is the name which ethnic Koreans in the post-Soviet states use to refer to themselves. The term is composed of two constituents: “Koryo”, which is one of the names of Korea, and “saram”, meaning either “person/people”.

Approximately 500,000 ethnic Koreans reside in the former Soviet Union, primarily in the now-independent states of Central Asia. There are also large Korean communities in Southern Russia (around Volgograd), Russian Far East (around Vladivostok), the Caucasus, and southern Ukraine. These communities can be traced back to the Koreans who were living in the Russian Far East during the late 19th century.

There is also a separate ethnic Korean community on the island of Sakhalin, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans. Some may identify as Koryo-saram, but many do not. Unlike the communities on the Russian mainland, which consist mostly of immigrants from the late 19th century and early 20th century, the ancestors of the Sakhalin Koreans came as immigrants from Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces in the late 1930s and early 1940s, forced into service by the Japanese government to work in coal mines in Sakhalin (then a part of the Empire of Japan as Karafuto Prefecture) in order to fill labour shortages caused by World War II.

The word “Koryo” in “Koryo-saram” originated from the name of the Goryeo (KoryƏ) Dynasty from which “Korea” was also derived. The name Soviet Korean was also used, more frequently before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russians may also lump Koryo-saram under the general label koreytsy; however, this usage makes no distinctions between ethnic Koreans of the local nationality and the Korean nationals (citizens of North Korea or South Korea).





























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