According to historical records, Koreans first settled down in the Maritime Province of Russia in November 1863. Koreans called this region “Gaecheok-ri (開拓里)”, which was later called Gugaecheok-ri. Although it had only 13 households at first, the Korean town flourished with households increasing to 500 ~ 600 before they were forcibly removed from the place in May 1911 by the Russian government’s (formerly known as the Soviet Union) movement of shutting down the whole town in their justification of preventing cholera. Even though it was also a place where many important independence movements of Koreans were made, such as Ahn Jung-geun’s planning of the Harbin patriotic deed, the place now leaves not a single trace of evidence that it was once a place where Koreans lived and flourished.
Koreans were moved from Gaecheok-ri to the north region, which is 500 ~ 600m away from their original settlement. The place was called “Shingaecheok-ri (新開拓里)”, or “Shinhanchon”, which means New Korea Town, while Korean schools, Korean Newspaper stations, such as Haninshinbosa (韓人新報前) and independence gate (Dongnimmun Gate), among others, were found and the region was used as a place for Koreans to create an independence movement against Japan’s occupation over Korea.
However, Koreans yet again were to be deported from their homes. In 1937, Koreans were driven away to Central Asia under Stalin’s command. A Korean guide, who is currently living in Vladivostok, also heard of the historical stories from Koreans who managed to come back after decades have passed from deportation, and explained that around 200,000 Koreans were deported. Furthermore, the deportation was completed in around 50 days during the freezing winter, wherein around 25,000 people ended up dead. The deportation by the Russian government was known to be the first and last deportation by the Soviet Union.
Currently, Vladivostok left only two certain traces that showed Koreans had once lived here. The “Shinhanchon Memorial Monument” was the first trace. It was set up in August 15th, 1999 to commemorate history and the historical meaning of the Koreans.
ST, Oh Se-ik
One other important and sad evidence that exists is a single house that shows the only sign that Koreans ever once lived there. The house is left alone and is surrounded by storages, which differs from the neighboring houses of the current Russian apartments. The only trace of Korean history in Russia seems to be lost, and the house appears as if it is going to collapse at any moment. The only sign, in which the people can recognize the house and the area as the place where Koreans once dwelled upon, was the address sign on the left upper side of the house which says “Сеульская 2A” – read as Seulskaya, which means Seoul Street. Moreover, this house, which is the only trace of historical record in the whole of Vladivostok that shows Koreans ever existed in this region, is not lived by a Korean family, which clearly demonstrates how Korean history is being treated.