Vladivostok News :: 22 Koreans to be repatriated from Sakhalin

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March 30, 2004

22 Koreans to be repatriated from Sakhalin

The Vladivostok News

22 first generation Sakhalin Koreans will return to their native land under a resettlement program organized by the Red Cross and the governments of Japan and South Korea, the Sakhalin Times reports March 26.

The expatriates, who will soon live in Ansan, near Seoul, belong to the first generation of Koreans brought to Sakhalin as bonded labourers by Japanese colonizers. Under the resettlement program, Tokyo allocates money for the construction of residential complexes and the South Korean Government donates the land. While the latter has been willing to accept and resettle a large number of Sakhalin Koreans, the former, according to the Red Cross, is not doing enough for the project, citing financial constraints and the on-going recession as excuses.

Following the expulsion of Japanese from Sakhalin first generation Koreans have never become fully integrated into Russian society - they were not repatriated to South Korea as this country did not have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union until the late 1980s.

If subsequent generations managed to blend into the multi-racial Sakhalin society very few of them follow Korean customs and even less speak the Korean language. In wanting to know more about their country of origin they were seen as traitors. The low-point in relations occurred in 1980, when a Korean passenger aircraft was shot down near Korsakov.

Relations between Russia and both North and South Korea have improved markedly since the fall of communism. The Sakhalin Times reports that since September 1989, around 15,000 Sakhalin Koreans have visited their homeland, while more than 1,000 elderly people have since moved to South Korea. Delegations of Sakhalin Koreans have also visited their relatives in North Korea.

Expansion of business activities have led to many more opportunities for Sakhalin Koreans to visit their homeland and many young people now work in South Korea, attracted by the high salaries. At the same time Korean investors participate in the international tenders for the right to develop the Sakhalin Shelf and also participate in works contracts. South Korea is extremely interested in an increase of liquefied gas supplies to its market.

The Korean influence is extremely strong in Sakhalin with popular varieties of processed food, ready-made salads, and restaurants. Almost all the foreign students in Sakhalin State University are South Koreans while the Korean church is extremely active in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the island's administrative center.

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