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Koryo-Saram: Ethnic Koreans in Ukraine

21. February 2013 by Dasha 0 Comments

Roughly translating to "Korea Person," Koryo-saram are ethnic Koreans who reside in the former Soviet Union. Despite losing much of their own traditional language and customs, the Koryo-saram have left a distinct mark on Ukrainian culture.


History of Koryo-Saram

Korean peasants first migrated to Russia in the mid-19th century. Pushed out by Korea’s wealthy elite who owned most of the nation’s farmland, the Koryo-saram settled in the eastern most corners of Russia in hopes of a better life. Despite facing war, deportation, and anti-Korean sentiments, the Koryo-saram’s numbers grew, and today nearly half a million ethnic Koreans call Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine home. 


Koryo-Saram Today

Today, around 14,000 Koryo-saram live in Ukraine, with most residing in in Kharkiv, Kiev, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Cherkasy, Lviv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, and Crimea. Kharkiv is home to the Association of Koreans in Ukraine as well as a Korean language school ran by the Association. The school is vital as most Korean-Ukrainians are unable to speak Korean thanks to years of government suppression.  

Famous Korean-Ukrainians

Oleksandr Sin has been the mayor of Zaporizhzhia since 2010. Zaporizhzhia is the sixth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 776,000 people. 


Viktor Tsoi was a Korean-Russian musician who helped found the Russian rock movement. Tsoi and his band Kino first rose to fame in the early 1980s, thanks to their anti-establishment lyrics and call for social change. The band released 7 albums altogether, but their career was cut short after Tsoi died in a car accident in the summer of 1990. However, Russians haven’t forgotten the legendary musician. In 1999, Russia released a stamp dedicated to Viktor, and fans honor the rock star at a wall on Moscow’s famous Arbat Street. Even Google got in on the action, publishing a Google Doodle inspired by the wall. Google shared the Doodle on June 21, 2012, Tsoi’s 50th birthday. 



Ukraine has a rich history full of unique customs and traditions inspired, in part, by immigrants like the Koryo-saram. Head over to Hot Russian Brides to chat with Ukrainian women today!


Photo/Source: Wikipedia