The Ancestral Land

The Ancestral Land

A Chapter by MeratheRestless

As the Soviet Union stagnated in the 1980s, men had begun to disappear from homes throughout the Central Asian republics. These countries had always been poor lands and the promise of work was alluring. The most popular destination of course was Russia, but that was not the only option depending on one's background.

In the 1930s at the height of Stalin's purges, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans had been rounded up from Russia's Far East and deported to the steppes of Central Asia to lead harsh lives with precious little freedom. The Koryo-saram as they were called had found themselves deprived of their Korean culture and forced to assimilate. Until the late 1950s they had been confined by law to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan relocating to the other republics as they gained full Soviet citizenship.

Also in Russia's Far East, specifically on the disputed island of Sakhalin, there existed another group of Koreans. These were the ones who had migrated voluntarily to Sakhalin from Korea during the Japanese occupation and remained after the occupation ended rather than move to Japan. While the political climate made it impossible for them to migrate to southern Korea, the USSR maintained strong relations with northern Korea and in the 1950s most Sakhalin Koreans were forced to take DPROK citizenship in order to avoid becoming stateless.

"Apa was first generation Korean-Russian." Third Uncle said bitterly referring to his father. "Born and raised on Sakhalin same as European Russians, yet wasn't good enough to have Soviet identification documents. He's never set one foot in North Korea in all his 73 years."

Joon already knew this part of the story. Both of his grandparents were DPROK citizens and their children by extension. That was a fact his manipulative parents had attempted to use to their advantage. As if overworked and underpaid local police were going to kick in the door at any moment, arrest the whole family, and put them on a train to North Korea to certain doom. As if Grandmother, who had risked life and limb to escape over the border to the USSR and had lived in Kyrgyzstan since her oldest Russian born son was 5 weeks old, had any plans whatsoever of returning to North Korea. The DPROK citizenship, accursed as it seemed, actually had some usefulness though that the Hyeong family would one day benefit from and set off the series of events that led to Joon's conception.

"Hell Apa was the first person in his family to learn fluent Russian, but Russia never did a damn thing for him and if not for Korea we wouldn't have survived perestroika!" Third Uncle continued.

"So why were me and my sister born in South Korea, but only have Russian passports?" Joon queried though he already knew the answer.

"Where was Seok born?"

In Russian territory to an unwed mother who was technically stateless since she definitely was not about to tell anyone she was a fugitive. Somehow she had managed to obtain Soviet citizenship and documents for her baby to enable their escape to the steppes. When the USSR collapsed, Seok alone chose to be Russian unlike his brothers who'd taken Kyrgyz citizenship. Yet another slap in the face to his family.

Misir had finally gotten up and disappeared into the kitchen to make some tea for them, mainly to clear up his stepfather's head before Joon angered or annoyed him and he honed in on Misir. Joon would never received his uncle's wrath. Oh no, Grandmother had admonished him even as a teenager to be very good to his eldest brother's children, when she assigned him the task of escorting the tiny children to her. It went without saying that Misir was quite jealous of his stepfather's close relationship with Joon.

"You mean Seth?" Joon cracked a smile as his uncle's head and eyebrows lifted in confusion. "That's what the Americans call him. Even my mother does."

His uncle's expression was the same as Joon's mother's had been when he referred to his father as Seok. The annoyed and arrogant Eurasian had snapped in Korean that his son was never to call him Seok again. Seth had a new life now and Seok had been through way too much bullshit that he preferred to forget.

"Your mother was charismatic and easily to like for a black woman, I'll give her that, but Umma and Apa never appreciated her trying to Americanize Seok." Third Uncle sighed. "She changed him."

Misir returned from the kitchen a few minutes later with three cups of a malty brew. Immediately Joon recognized it as Russian chifir, a potent strongly brewed tea drunk by primarily by jailbirds and soldiers. The effects were an intense caffeine high, not unlike the one experienced from taking illicit drugs. In other words, only an idiot would want to drink it. Joon was not an idiot and yet he still accepted his cup, stirred in some kind of berry jam, and gulped greedily eager for anything to take his mind off of the last 10 days.

"That's why they wanted him to stay with Apa in Incheon but once he met her in Anjeong-ri, he was sprung and nothing could keep him away from her. He would've moved heaven and Earth to be with her."

Again Joon knew most of this story already. In the 1980s as the USSR teetered on the verge of collapse, the newly prosperous and modernized South Korea began offering its' citizenship automatically to holders of DPROK citizenship regardless of location of birth. All the DPROK nationals had to do was come to South Korea and the government would fix them right up. Grandfather had been in Incheon working for long stints of time since 1986. Seok-Eun arrived in 1989 upon obtaining his school leaving certificate, followed by youngest brother Hyuk-Yeong in 1992, the same year that Joon was born.

It was in their ancestral homeland that scandal rocked the family and all hell broke loose.

© 2017 MeratheRestless

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Added on July 26, 2017
Last Updated on August 3, 2017




Really there's not much to tell. I study in university, work a part time job, go to Kingdom Hall twice a week, out preaching at least twice per month, and spend the rest of my time at home. Don't like.. more..