Editor, The Beacon:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s trip to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East presents an ironic post-note.

Korea in the late 1800s was a single entity. As today, it was subject to drought and bad weather. Famine was a constant threat. After some famine events, some Koreans immigrated to eastern Russia because Korean conditions were dire.

At the time, the Russian Far East was sparsely settled and communications with Moscow were spotty at best. The area was essentially controlled by czarist Russian designees. Treatment of Koreans was up to the governors. Sometimes Koreans were treated as at-will settlers, allowed to farm or work under local arrangements. At one point they could own businesses, but that tolerance was inconsistent.

When turmoil over the Russian government began in the early 1900s, Koreans were targeted for removal from the niche they had developed in the Far East. On short notice — less than a week — more than 100,000 Korean immigrants were uprooted and transported west to Siberia. Most Koreans brought no belongings whatsoever. Traveling by rail, they were dropped off in undeveloped Siberia and left to fend for themselves.

In the 1980s, my daughter made the acquaintance of a woman whose mother was the sole survivor of a trainload of Koreans left in Siberia. The woman’s mother made her way to Kazakhstan, where she eventually settled.

That now Russia’s leader and a Korean despot are meeting in an attempt to contrive a mutually beneficial strategy presents one of the ultimate ironies in a decade of ironies swirling around Russian efforts.

Joan Carter



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