Hundreds of Sakhalin Koreans Allowed to Return Home after Decades of Limbo

The Foreign Ministry in South Korea has announced that hundreds of Sakhalin Koreans would return to South Korea in the coming weeks under a government support project after decades of limbo. 

According to ministry officials, on Thursday, a total of 260 Sakhalin Koreans, including twenty-one forced laborers and their immediate family members, and relatives would arrive in South Korea in phases from Saturday through December 10.

“We hope the return of Sakhalin Koreans and the support project would somewhat heal their wounds from the heart-wrenching history,” a ministry official said

About 43,000 Koreans were reported to have been forced into labor on Sakhalin Island in the early 1900s.

Many of them have returned to South Korea after Seoul and Moscow forged diplomatic relations in 1990, but others remained in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

The average age of the first-generation Sakhalin Koreans set to arrive in South Korea is 88.

Government officials said the program would provide financial support for the Sakhalins’ airfare, early settlement fees, and public rental homes to help them “help heal their pain from the dark history.”

The Sakhalin Koreans with Russian citizenship would be awarded permanent residency in South Korea or dual citizenship should they choose to.

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