The Soviet Koreans have managed to establish themselves economically in spite of the obstacles they have encountered. Initially, Korean immigrants consisted mostly of peasants and laborers who performed cheap farm labor. Koreans in the Far East region engaged in various types of hard labor including cultivating different kinds of crops, fishing, silkworm breeding, and mining. Rice was sown for the first time in 1917 in the Maritime Province by Koreans who had brought the seeds from Korea. Koreans were successful rice growers and rice production grew rapidly. A sizable settlement of Koreans in the 1930s made an important contribution to agricultural development in the Russian Far East Region (Ussuri-Khanka plain) by struggling on lands previously thought to be unsuitable for farming.
Koreans victimized by Stalin had to rebuild their lives with their bare hands once again. They transformed the virgin soil into tsvetusushchii gorodok (a blossoming city), and many were awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor, including Kim Byung Wha and Kim Man Sam, for their efficiency and productivity on collective farms. On these collective farms Koreans engaged in cultivating rice on previously barren land as well as growing cotton, maize, sugar beets, vegetables, and fiber crops. They also acquired a knowledge of animal husbandry from the local inhabitants.
In Uzbekistan there are more than 100 ethnic Korean farmers who have been honored as heroes of Socialist labor. The hard labor of Koreans systematically increased the income for the collective fund, which made possible the establishment of schools, hospitals, restaurants, libraries, sport teams, and cultural activities within their community.