A sizable community of Koreans ended up in Kazakhstan following Stalinist anxieties. There seems to be no valid reason behind the forceful eviction of the Koreans who inhabited land near the border and other parts of the country. The inhuman act may have solely arisen from dictatorship attitudes and greed-driven imperialism. These Koreans were deported into inhospitable regions to the north in what was dubbed as “dekulakization” (Gelb, p. 398).
The Koreans suffered inhumane treatment such as being crammed into un-road worthy vehicles that transported them over long distances. This exposed them to communicable diseases killing thousands while others succumbed to injuries sustained through fatal road accidents. The deportees suffered psychological anguish as they were being taken to regions they had no knowledge of. The long tiring journeys were combined with hunger with an average of forty families sharing one stove to prepare their meals. Any form of protests against the mistreatments they were going through was met with harsh repercussions (Gelb, p. 400).
In contrast, the Zainichi Koreans living in Japan before World War I had entered Japan voluntarily in search of improved education and job opportunities. Due to their low education, they performed manual work in mining and construction. The Japanese government assimilated them into their national records and they were initially treated similarly to other citizens of Japan. With time, however, they faced discrimination resulting in lower wages and poor living conditions compared to the locals. The lives of all Koreans in diaspora whether in Russia, Kazakhstan or Japan were challenging. Ethnic discrimination is one factor that can be seen to contribute to this kind of treatment.
The Koryo-saram and the Zainichi Koreans may have faced oppression mainly due to the perceptions of the locals who regarded them as unwarranted competitors. As if punishing the Korean deportees and immigrants, it is evident they were denied employment opportunities or credits to help them start small enterprises. For instance, in Kazakhstan, it was reported that only one thousand out of the six thousand deported there could be housed (Gelb, p. 403).
Why else would the Korean nationals not be allowed to grow food crops or fish in hitherto unexploited lakes? The permission was denied without any apparent reason given. This forced many to migrate to neighboring areas to seek employment opportunities. This led to breakdown of family units and increased hostility from locals. Most adults worked in mines, handcrafting and other minor unsustainable enterprises. They were also subjected to impromptu evictions now and then. This meant they could not sell their properties and those who managed did so at throw away prices. The little money could not sustain them for fare leave alone starting up new lives. All these point to mistreatment and disregard of human dignity.
Various attitudes towards their country of origin and opinions about their future have always been expressed. Even with their improved economic progress later after freedom rights were extended to them, many doubted the Koreans’ ability to keep their culture or wish to return to their homeland. This could be as a result of the Korean government lack of concern over the welfare of the deportees. With their continued inhabitance of the foreign countries, there is enough reason to believe that they prefer the discrimination and other challenges there instead of going back to their politically unstable and economically impoverished motherland.
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