A Forgotten People. The Sakhalin Koreans.
This documentary produced by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson presents the saga of the Koreans who spent 50 years on Sakhalin Island. Koreans were brought by the Japanese to the Island as forced laborers during World War II, only to be abandoned to the Soviet Union when Japan surrendered. Forgotten by everyone including their own country, less than 1,000 remain of the original over 40,000 laborers.
What’s President Theodore Roosevelt got to do with the Korean diaspora?
President Theodore Roosevelt is widely considered one of the best presidents of the U.S. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. His successful efforts to broker the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, known as the Treaty of Portsmouth, won him the Nobel Peace Prize (only 3 other U.S. presidents achieved this feat). But did you know that Roosevelt was also responsible for emboldening Japan’s imperial ambitions over Korea during the early 1900s? When Roosevelt was president, the world was focused on the Russo-Japanese War, a contest for control of North Asia. Roosevelt knew that Japan coveted the Korean Peninsula as a springboard to its Asian expansion. Nevertheless, he “approved” the Japanese annexation of Korea and decided to cut off relations with Korea, emboldening the Japanese to increase their military might and their imperial ambitions. In fact, it is the Treaty of Portsmouth that established Japan’s exclusive dominance over the Korean Peninsula and gave the southern half of Sakhalin Island to Japan. At the time, President Roosevelt wrote about the Japanese as “a wonderful and civilized people, entitled to stand on an absolute equality with all the other people of the civilized world.” Much of the Korean diaspora, including Sakhalin Koreans, Russian citizens and residents of Korean descent living on Sakhalin Island today, can be traced to the Japanese colonial era, which started in 1910 and which was “accepted, if not encouraged” by the one of the greatest U.S. Presidents in history.