Daughter of Sakhalin Koreans gains citizenship

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jun 20, 2014 - 19:45
  • Updated : Jun 20, 2014 - 19:45
A stateless descendant of Koreans who were forced to move to Sakhalin by the Japanese during the colonial period won the right to South Korean citizenship, more than a year after filing an administrative litigation against the government in 2012.

The 60-year-old, whose last name is Kim, is the first descendent of Koreans relocated to the Russian island to obtain South Korean citizenship. She has been living as a stateless person on Sakhalin since she was born to Korean parents who were forcibly moved to the island by the Japanese to fill labor shortages during World War II.

During the Japanese colonial period of the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945), the southern half of Sakhalin was also under the control of Japan.

After Japan surrendered in 1945, control of the island was returned to the Soviet Union. While almost all of the Japanese living on the island were returned to Japan, many Koreans, including Kim’s parents, could not secure permission to leave. There was still a shortage of labor on the island and the stateless Koreans were forced to stay.

The South Korean government estimates that there were some 43,000 Koreans on the island when World War II ended.

Kim’s late parents, who never returned to Korea and never applied for Russian citizenship, had told their daughter to obtain Korean citizenship before they died.

In August of 2012, Kim filed with the Seoul Administrative Court to be recognized as a South Korean citizen under a law on the registration of Korean nationals residing abroad. Under the law, South Koreans who never applied for foreign citizenship while living abroad are considered South Korean nationals.

The court decided in her favor this week.

By Claire Lee (