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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Forced Migration of Koreans to Sakhalin and Their Repatriation

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2004, v.44 no.4, pp.111-132

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Abstract

Imperial Japan mobilized Korean people as soldiers, workers, and comfort women after the start of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937. Approximately 150,000 Koreans were forcibly conscripted to work as coal miners in Sakhalin from the second half of the 1930s until liberation in 1945, after which 43,000 remained, detained in Sakhalin because of the Japanese government's irresponsible actions, combined with the Soviet interest in securing a cheap labor force. Only a small number who were married to Japanese women were able to return in the 1950s.The civilian-led repatriation movement that began in the late 1950s did not bear fruit, due to the indifference of Japan and the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, the Japanese government began to show interest in the issue of the Sakhalin Koreans on a humanitarian level, but avoided taking any responsibility. The South Korean government could not afford to pay attention to the issue for economic reasons, while the North Korean government approached it from the standpoint of maintaining their regime. The Soviet government assumed a passive, lukewarm attitude toward the matter only after post-war reconstruction had reached a certain level. In this sense, the problem of the Sakhalin Koreans can be best explainedbest-explained best explained vis--vis the dynamic relations among South and North Korea, the Soviet Union, and Japan during the Cold War. The repatriation movement was transformed from a civilian-led to a government-led one during the second half of the 1980s. Japanese politicians and the Soviet perestroika policy provided the necessary momentum required to resolve the problem. After the first group of repatriates finally set foot in their homeland around 1990, the stream of returnees never stopped.

keywords
forced mobilization repatriation movement Koreans in Sakhalin Korean migration of Sakhalin forced mobilization repatriation movement Koreans in Sakhalin Korean migration of Sakhalin

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