From New World Encyclopedia
Revision as of 04:36, 4 March 2023 by Rosie Tanabe (talk | contribs)
Yuliy Kim, bard and playwright of Russia
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 198,000 [1]
Flag of Russia Russia 125,000 [1]
Flag of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 105,000 [1]
Flag of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 19,000 [1]
Flag of Ukraine Ukraine 12,000 [1]
Flag of Tajikistan Tajikistan 6,000 [1]
Flag of Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 3,000 [1]
Russian, Koryo-mar
Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism, Buddhism, others[2]

Koryo-saram (Russian: Корё сарам; Koryo-mar: 고려사람), the name ethnic Koreans in the Post-Soviet states use to refer to themselves. Approximately 500,000 ethnic Koreans reside in the former USSR, primarily in the newly independent states of Central Asia. Large Korean communities in southern Russia (around Volgograd), the Caucasus, and southern Ukraine also exist. Those communities traces their roots to Koreans who lived in the Russian Far East during the late nineteenth century.

A separate ethnic Korean community lives on the island of Sakhalin, typically known 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 1800s and early 1900s, the ancestors of the Sakhalin Koreans came as immigrants from Kyongsang 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 known as Karafuto Prefecture to fill labor shortages caused by World War II.[3]

Koryo-saram in Russia constitute one of the largest ethnic Korean communities in the Korean diaspora. The majority immigrated from Korea before the division of Korea into North and South, and before the Japanese annexation of Korea. Koryo-saram maintained a commitment to see a Korea independent of Japanese rule between 1910 to 1945, forming guerrilla army forces engaging the Japanese army. After the division of Korea into communist north and democratic south in 1948, and after the Korean War, most Koryo-saram have decided to remain in Russia as their new home. Maintaining Korean culture and language has proven a challenge for the Koryo-saram.


The name "Koryo-saram" appears to originate from the word "Korea" rather than from the Goryeo dynasty. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Koreans in Russia went by the name Soviet Korean. Russians often lump Koryo-saram under the general label Koreitsy (Russian: корейцы); that usage makes no distinctions between ethnic Koreans of the local nationality and the Korean nationals (citizens of South and North Koreas).

In Standard Korean, the term "Koryo-saram" typically refers to historical figures from the Goryeo dynasty;[4] to avoid ambiguity, Korean speakers use a word Goryeoin (Korean: 고려인; Hanja:高麗人, meaning the same as "Koryo-saram") to refer to ethnic Koreans in the post-Soviet states.[3] The Sino-Korean morpheme "-in" (인) is not productive in Koryo-mar, the dialect spoken by Koryo-saram. As a result, only a few (mainly those who have studied Standard Korean) refer to themselves as Goryeoin. Instead, Koryo-saram has become the preferred term.[5]


Immigration to the Russian Far East and Siberia

The Joseon Dynasty of Korea declined during the nineteenth century. A small population of wealthy elite owned the farmlands in the country, poor peasants finding difficulty to survive. Koreans leaving the country during that time moved toward Russia, as the Qing Dynasty sealed border with Korea. Many peasants, considering Siberia a land with a better standard of living, migrated there. As early as 1863, migration had already begun, 13 households recorded near Novukorut Bay. Those numbers rose dramatically. By 1869, Korean composed 20 percent of the population of the Maritime Province.[6] Prior to the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Koreans outnumbered Russians in the Russian Far East, and the local governors encouraged them to naturalize.[7] The 1897 Russian Empire Census found 26,005 Korean speakers (16,225 men and 9,780 women) in the whole of Russia, while a 1902 survey showed 312,541 Koreans living in the Russian Far East alone.[7][8] Korean neighborhoods could be found in various cities and Korean farms were all over the countryside.[3]

In the early 1900s, both Russia and Korea came into conflict with Japan. Following the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Russia enacted an anti-Korean law at the behest of Japan, under which Russia confiscated the land of Korean farmers and laid off Korean laborers.[9] At the same time, Russia continued to serve as sanctuary for the Korean independence movement. Korean nationalists and communists escaped to Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Manchuria. With the October Revolution and the rise of communism in East Asia, Siberia became home to Soviet Koreans who organized armies like the Righteous Army to oppose Japanese forces.[3] In 1919, Korean leaders who gathered in Vladivostok's Sinhanchon (literally, "New Korean Village") neighborhood supported the March First Movement for Korean independence. That neighborhood became a center for [nationalism|nationalist]] activities, including arms supply; the Japanese attacked it on April 4, 1920, leaving hundreds dead.[10]

Deportation to Central Asia

Between 1937 and 1939, Stalin deported over 172,000 Koreans to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, on the official premise that the Koreans might act as spies for Japan. Russia purged and executed many community leaders, a decade and a half passing before Russia permitted Koryo-saram to travel outside of Central Asia. Up until the era of glasnost, Russia prohibited Koryo-saram from speaking openly of the deportations.[3] The deportees cooperated to build irrigation works and start rice farms; within three years, they had recovered their original standard of living.[11] The events of that period led to the formation of a cohesive identity among the Korean deportees.[11] As Russians had prohibited the Korean language for decades, subsequent generations lost the use of the Korean language. The deportations had a profound effect on Koryo-saram's attitudes towards Korean culture. Koryo-saram became highly assimilationist, achieved high education levels and one of the best command of Russian among the minority nationalities.

Contemporary population

Scholars estimated that as of 2002, roughly 470,000 Koryo-saram lived in the Commonwealth of Independent States, including 198,000 in Uzbekistan, 125,000 in Russia, 105,000 in Kazakhstan, 19,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 9000 in Ukraine, 6000 in Tajikistan, 3000 in Turkmenistan, and 5000 in other constituent republics.[1]


The 2002 census gave a population of 148,556 Koreans in Russia, including 75,835 male and 72,721 female.[12] About one-fourth reside in Siberia and the Russian Far East; that Korean population traces their roots back to a number of places. Aside from approximately 33,000 CIS nationals (most of whom trace their roots to migrants of the 1937 deportation), between 4,000 and 12,000 North Korean migrant labourers live in the region. Smaller numbers of South Koreans and ethnic Koreans from China have also immigrated to the region to settle, invest, and/or engage in cross-border trade.[13]

Other European countries

In the 2001 census in Ukraine 12,711 people declared themselves ethnic Koreans, up from 8,669 in 1989. Of those only 17.5 percent gave Korean as their first language. The vast majority (76 percent) gave their mother tongue as Russian, while 5.5 percent recorded Ukrainian. The largest concentrations live in Kharkov, Kiev, Odessa, Nikolaev, Cherkassy, Lvov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhie, and Crimea. The largest ethnic representative body, the Association of Koreans in Ukraine, located in Kharkov, serves as home for approximately 150 Korean families; the first Korean language school opened in 1996 under their direction.[1].[1][14]

Central Asia

The majority of Koryo-saram in Central Asia reside in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Korean culture in Kazakhstan centers in Almaty, the former capital. For much of the twentieth century, Kazakhstan constituted the only place in Central Asia with a Korean language newspaper (the Koryo Shinmun) and Korean language theater.[15] The local governor sheltered the Korean population from the restrictions placed on them elsewhere. The censuses of Kazakhstan recorded 96,500 Koryo-saram in 1939, 74,000 in 1959, 81,600 in 1970, 92,000 in 1979, 100,700 in 1989, and 99,700 in 1999.[16]

The population in Uzbekistan has largely settled in rural areas. That population suffered in recent years from linguistic handicaps, as the Koryo-saram spoke Russian but not Uzbek. After the independence of Uzbekistan, many lost their jobs because of their inability to speak the new national language. Some emigrated to the Russian Far East, but found life difficult there as well.[17]

A small Korean community has established in Tajikistan. Mass settlement of Koreans in the country began during the late 1950s and early 1960s, after the loosening of restrictions on their freedom of movement which had previously kept them confined to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Pull factors for migration included rich natural resources and a relatively mild climate. Their population grew to 2,400 in 1959, 11,000 in 1979, and 13,000 in 1989; most lived in the capital Dushanbe, with smaller concentrations in Qurghonteppa and Khujand. Like Koreans in other parts of Central Asia, they generally possessed higher incomes compared to members of other ethnic groups. With the May 1992 onset of civil war in Tajikistan, many fled the country. By 1996, their population had fallen by over half to 6,300 people.[18] Most are engaged in agriculture and retail business.[19] Violence continued even after the end of the civil war. In 2000, suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members exploded a bomb in a Korean Christian church in Dushanbe, killing nine and wounding 30.[20]

Return migration to Korea. As many as 10,000 Uzbekistanis work in South Korea, a sizable portion of them ethnic Koreans. Estimates of remittances from South Korea to Uzbekistan exceed $100 million annually.[21]


After their arrival in Central Asia, the Koryo-saram quickly established a way of life different from that of neighboring peoples. They set up irrigation works and became known throughout the region as rice farmers.[11] They interacted little with the nomadic peoples around them, and focused on education. Although they soon ceased to wear traditional Korean clothing, they adapted Western-style dress rather than the clothing worn by the Central Asian peoples.[22]

Koryo-saram have preserved the Korean cuisine particularly well. The cuisine of the Koryo-saram resembles the cuisine of the Hamgyong provinces in North Korea, dominated by meat soups and salty side dishes.[23] Neighboring peoples know the Koryo-saram particularly for their bosintang (dog-meat soup), served to honored guests and at restaurants.[23]

The ritual life of the Koryo-saram community has changed in from traditional Korean customs. Marriages have taken on the Russian style.[23] At traditional Korean funerals, the family writes the name of the dead in hanja, or Chinese characters. As hardly anyone among the Koryo-saram can write in hanja, the name has increasingly been written in hangul only. On the other hand, the rituals for the first birthday and sixtieth anniversary have been preserved in their traditional form.[24]

Personal and family names

Korean surnames in
강/姜 (Kang) Кан (Kan) Kang
김/金 (Gim) Ким (Kim) Kim
문/門 (Mun) Мун (Mun) Moon
박/朴 (Bak) Пак (Pak) Park
신/申 (Sin) Шин (Shin) Shin
한/韓 (Han) Хан (Khan) Han
최/崔 (Choe) Цой (Tsoy) Choi
양/梁 (Yang) Ян (Yan) Yang

Many Korean surnames, when Cyrillized, take on a spelling and pronunciation slightly different from the romanisations used in the United States. The resulting common pronunciations can be seen in the table at right. Korean naming practices and Russian naming practices conflict in several important ways: Koryo-saram have resolved each of those conflicts in a different way, in some cases favouring Russian patterns, in others, Korean patterns.


After the first generation of settlers, Koryo-saram tended to abandon traditional Korean naming practices and follow Russian naming patterns, using a Russian given name, Russian-style patronymic (derived from the father's name, whether Russian or Korean), and Korean surname. For example, Kim Jong-il registered as Yuri Irsenovich Kim (Юрий Ирсенович Ким) in Soviet records, where the "Irsen" in the patronymic consisted of the Cyrillization of the given name of his father Kim Il-sung.[25][26] Succeeding generations tended to have both a Russian given name and a Russian patronymic.[27] That differs from the pattern typical in the United States, where Korean American parents often register their children with a Korean given name as their legal middle name (e.g. Daniel Dae Kim, Harold Hongju Koh).

Surnames of married women

Married couples use of surnames constitutes another area in which traditional Korean naming practices clashed with Russian custom. In Russia, a wife traditionally takes her husband's surname after marriage, whereas Korean women, following the Chinese practice, retain their original surname even after marriage. In that regard, the Koryo-saram appear to have kept to Korean tradition much more closely, rather than adopting the Russian practice. For example, out of 18 ethnic Korean babies born in the Kalinin district of Alma Ata, Kazakhstan in 1980, ten had parents with different surnames, possibly indicating the extent of that practice. [28]

Declining for gender

Russian surnames typically indicate the gender of their bearer, while Korean surnames lack grammatical gender. In the former Soviet countries of Central Asia, many inhabitants, notably the Turkic peoples, had prefixes ov or ova added to their surnames. Examples include even national leaders such as Nursultan Nazarbayev and Islam Karimov. Koryo-saram names follow that practice follow the Korean practice of gender free names.[28]

Generation names

In Korea, siblings and cousins of the same generation commonly have one hanja syllable in common among all of their names, a practice known as dollimja. Russians have no equivalent practice. Koryo-saram often reject Korean names, because of a poor command of the Korean language among their relatives. Birth records show that many siblings have been given Russian names starting with the same letters of the alphabet by their parents, indicating that the practice of dollimja has continued in a localized form.[28]


Due to deportation and the continuing urbanization of the population after 1952, the command of Korean among the Koryo-saram has continued to fall. That contrasts with other more rural minority groups such as the Dungan, who have maintained a higher level of proficiency in their ethnic language. In 1989, the most recent year for available data, the number of Russian mother tongue speakers among the Koryo-saram population overtook that of Korean mother tongue speakers.

The dialect spoken by Koryo-saram resembles the Hamgyŏng dialect more closely than the Seoul dialect, though dialect has become somewhat mutated over the generations. Many of those who retain some command of Korean report difficulties communicating with South Koreans.

Languages among the Koryo-saram population
Year Total population Korean L1 Russian L1 Russian L2 Other L2
1970 357,507 245,076 111,949 179,776 6,034
1979 388,926 215,504 172,710 185,357 8,938
1989 438,650 216,811 219,953 189,929 16,217

Relations with Korean expatriates

Probably as a consequence of ethnic ties, South Korea stood as the second largest import partner of Uzbekistan, after Russia, and one of its largest foreign investors. The car manufacturer Daewoo set up a joint venture (August 1992) and a factory in Asaka, Andizhan province, in Uzbekistan.

The 2005 South Korean film Wedding Campaign, directed by Hwang Byung-kook, portrays two aging bachelor farmers from rural villages who hope to find wives. Having no romantic prospects in Korea, they opt to go through an international mail-order bride agency, which sends them to Uzbekistan and tries to match them with Korean women there.[29]

Prominent Koryo-saram

In Cultural Fields

  • Alexander Kan, Russian-language fiction writer.
  • Anatoly Kim, Russian-language fiction writer. [9]
  • German Kim, head of the Department of Korean Studies at Al-Farabi University, Kazakhstan, and a leading scholar in the history of Koryo saram.
  • Nikolai Shin, Uzbekistani painter
  • Lavrenti Son, Russian and Korean-language playwright
  • Yuliy Kim, singer, songwriter
  • Roman Kim, one of the top contestants on Kazakhstani entertainment programme SuperStar KZ
  • Victor Tsoi, lead singer of the Russian band Kino and a major figure in the development of the Soviet rock scene in the 1980s.
  • Anita Tsoi, pop singer.

In Sports

  • Nellie Kim, Olympic gold medal gymnast, born in Shurab, Tajikistan to a Korean father and Tatar mother
  • Kostya Tszyu, Australian boxer of Russian, Korean and Mongol descent, born in Serov, Russia

In Politics

  • Valery Kan, the youngest person ever elected to the Ussuriysk Duma
  • Alexandra Kim, the first Korean communist
  • Mikhail Kim, delegate to the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [10]
  • Georgy Kim, Kazakhstan's Minister of Justice. [11]
  • Kim Gyong Chun (金擎天/김경천), leading anti-White Army partisan leader in Siberia during the Russian Civil War. [12]
  • Kim Jong-il, leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, born in Vyatskoye.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Kwangseo Ki. 구소련 한인사회의 역사적 변천과 현실 [Korean society in the former Soviet Union: historical development and realities,] Proceedings of 2002 Conference of the Association for the Study of Overseas Koreans (ASOK). (Seoul: Association for the Study of Overseas Koreans, 2002-12-15.)
  2. Bridget Schlyter, Korean Business and Culture in Former Soviet Central Asia. (Stockholm: Forum for Central Asian Studies), See footnote 10. accessdate 2006-12-11
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Byung-yool Ban. Koreans in Russia: Historical Perspective. 2004-09-22, accessdate 2006-11-20 [1]. Korea Times
  4. See, for instance, the Koryo-saram category on the Korean wikipedia
  5. Ross King and German Kim. East Rock Institute, "Introduction" [2]. Microsoft Word accessdate 2006-11-20
  6. Kwang-kyu Lee (2000). Overseas Koreans. (Seoul: Jimoondang. ISBN 8988095189), 7. (in English)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Lee, 2000, 8.
  8. Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. (General Population Census of the Russian Empire in 1897) Demoscope.ru. accessdate 2007-05-20
  9. Lee, 2000, 14.
  10. Lee, 2000, 15.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Lee, 2000, 141.
  12. press release, 2002-10-09, Russian Census. Федеральная служба государственной статистики. accessdate 2006-07-26
  13. Jeanyoung Lee. Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship: Ethnic-Korean Returnees in the Russian Far East, [3] 2006. accessdate 2006-11-23 Inha University [[PDF]
  14. Pavlenko, Valentina Nikolaevna. Establishing a boarding school for Koreans in Ukraine (30).
  15. Lee, 2000, 122.
  16. Aleksandr Nikolaevich Alekseenko, [4] PDF «Республика в зеркале переписей населения» ("Republic in the Mirror of the Population Census") Sotsiologicheskie Issledovaniia 12 (2001): 58-62
  17. Lee, 2000, 143.
  18. Tae Hyeon Back. The social reality faced by ethnic Koreans in Central Asia. Department of Korean Studies, Bishkek Humanities University [5]. 2004 accessdate 2007-03-26
  19. Yeong-ha Choe, 타지키스탄 내전과 한국교민 (The Tajikistan Civil War and ethnic Koreans). Donga Ilbo, 1998-12-13, accessdate 2007-03-26
  20. Dong, Xiaoyang; Su, Chang (2005-08-07). "Strategic Adjustments and Countermeasures against Extremist Forces of Central Asian Countries after 9/11". Proceedings of the Central Asia Symposium, Monterey, California, pp. 45-77, Fort Monroe, Virginia: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. URL accessed 2007-03-26.
  21. Il-hyun Baek, Scattered Koreans turn homeward 2005-09-14 [6] Joongang Daily accessdate 2006-11-27
  22. Lee, 2000, 40.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Lee, 2000, 249.
  24. Lee, 2000, 250.
  25. Byoung-sun Chung, The Chosun Ilbo Sergeyevna Remembers Kim Jong Il.
  26. [7] Lawrence Sheets, National Public Radio. 2004-02-12. accessdate 2007-02-19 A Visit to Kim Jong Il's Russian Birthplace.
  27. Jon Chang, "Central Asia or Bust." Koream Journal, Feb 2005. Chang noted that in a Korean cemetery in Uzbekistan, most of the gravestones were inscribed only in Cyrillic, and most of the deceased had a patronymic derived from a Russian given name.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Kim, German Nikolaevich. "Names of Koryo-saram." Unpublished. Translated to English by Steven Sunwoo Lee and posted on his website; retrieved from Google cache here
  29. Tae-jong Kim. Farmer Looks for Love in Upcoming 'Wedding Campaign'. The Korea Times 2005-08-21 [8]. accessdate 2006-10-16

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bergsten, C. Fred, and In-bŏm Chʻoe. 2003. Korean diaspora in the world economy. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics. ISBN 9780881323580.
  • Kim, German N. 2003. Koryo Saram, or Koreans of the Former Soviet Union: In the Past and Present. Amerasia Journal 29 (3):23. OCLC: 98152939
  • Kim, German N., and Julian Ross Paul King. 2001. Koryô Saram : Koreans in the former USSR. New Haven, CT: East Rock Institute. OCLC: 63132652
  • Lee, Kwang-kyu. 2000. Overseas Koreans. Seoul: Jimoondang. ISBN 8988095189
  • Yi, Kwang-gyu, and Walter H. Slote. 1993. Overseas Koreans in the global context. Seoul, Korea: Association for Studies of Korean[s] Abroad. OCLC: 34247058

External links

All links retrieved April 24, 2018.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.