How is it that approximately half a million ethnic Koreans currently inhabit the former states of the USSR? The story behind this relatively obscure, yet intriguing history begins in 1937, when Stalin began a campaign of massive ethnic cleansing and forcibly deported everyone of Korean origin living in the coastal provinces of the Far East Russia near the border of North Korea to the unsettled steppe country of Central Asia (around present day Kazakhstan) 3,700 miles away. The film’s use of archival footage and interviews presentsa first-hand account of the 180,000 Koreans who became political pawns during the Great Terror, but this film is much more than a tale of remarkable hardship and survival. As Chung shows us, the impression we often have of the Asian diaspora settling in “lands of opportunity” is an incomplete one. Furthermore, in the course of telling their stories, the picture of today’s Korean Kazakhs – speaking perfect Russian – crystallizes the same questions of national, cultural, and ethnic identity that are faced by immigrants in any country, especially Canada.
– John Mani