Koreans - Orientation



Identification. Koreans living in the former Soviet Union have traditionally identified themselves either as Koryo Saram (people who came during the Koryo dynasty, A.D. 932-1392) or as Chosun Saram (people from Chosun, an ancient name for Korea meaning "Land of the Morning Calm"). But the name "Sovetskii Koreets" (a Soviet Korean) has become widely used since the 1960s. This identification allows for a distinction to be made between the Koreans of the czarist and Soviet eras.

Location. Worldwide, approximately five million Koreans live outside Korea today. The largest number, 1,800,000, live in China; 700,000 live in Japan; 1,000,000 in the United States, and 500,000 in the former Soviet Union. Unlike Koreans in China, however, the Koreans in the Soviet Union never formed an autonomous regional political unit. Two-thirds of Soviet Koreans are settled in Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian republics of Turkemenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The whole area stretches north to south from the Aral-Irtysh watershed to the Soviet-Iranian and Soviet-Afghan borders, and west to east, from the Caspian Sea to the Sino-Soviet frontier. The largest numbers of Koreans are concentrated in Uzbekistan, living on kolkhozy and sovkhozy with other nationalities. The climate of Central Asia is characterized by extremely hot summers and freezing winters but is pleasant during spring and fall.

Demography. In the 1989 Soviet census Koreans are listed as one of nine ethnic groups numbering more than 400,000. The Soviet Koreans numbered 439,000, ranking 28th in population of the 130 enumerated ethnic minorities of the USSR. In 1959 Koreans in Central Asia numbered 213,000 and in 1970 the numbers had increased to 250,568.

Linguistic Affiliation. Soviet Koreans speak the Korean language. Its affiliation with other languages is a subject of linguistic dispute. The 1989 census data show that 49.4 percent listed the Korean language as their native language. Nearly half of the total Korean population in the former USSR speaks Russian as their second language.


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