For more than 150 years, Koreans have migrated from their home country or countries after the division of the peninsula. The term for this immigration activity and the characteristics or circumstances surrounding as well as subsequent are referred to as the Korean diaspora, which remains quite evident today. Obviously the division of the homeland is one of many reasons for how the diaspora was melded, crafted and has altered shape throughout the years. The main condition for this is where the immigrants migrated from. For example, many Northerners migrated to Japan, Russia and China when times were tough in their country. What is meant by this is they could not find work or feed their families. In addition, the Japanese persecuted many Koreans from the North during their time in power and these individuals fled to the closest locales which would be China and Russia. Besides China and Russia, the United States is the fourth largest recipient of Korean immigrants but the diaspora for the Korean Americans is decidedly different due to the restrictions placed on immigration from Asia from 1924 until the early 1950’s. Therefore, most immigrants came from the South.
Essentially the division of the Korean homeland produced expected results except in Japan which was an anomaly. This was a result of Koreans always being viewed as second class citizens. As Japan is a capitalist country, it would be assumed Koreans residing there would be partial to the South, but most of these immigrants hailed from the North. In addition, how the two Koreas reacted towards compatriots after the division had an effect on the diaspora. The North pursued immigrants much more fervently due to a labor shortage, which contributed to the Korean Japanese feeling stronger ties to them. Typically though, the immigrants felt ties to whatever part of Korea they came from, which is to be expected.
Over time, the Korean immigrants’ assimilation or loyalties to their host countries definitely evolved. Many that had migrated to China stayed there after they could go home and pledged their allegiance to the Communist Party. Unfortunately, during the times of Chinese political shifts many of these Koreans were persecuted. Many still chose to remain in China rather than return to their homeland. The same situation applied in Russia to a degree. The Koreans were certainly looked upon differently as they were a minority but also pledged their loyalty to the Communist Party during the Revolution. Today, many of these people feel no strong ties to their former homeland as they are fourth or fifth generation and have chosen to remain in Russia after the 1990’s collapse. They are now more Russian than Korean. In Japan, again this is different, many Koreans have chosen to stay amidst a tremendous amount of racial discrimination by the Chinese. When they did return to North Korea they were treated badly and the link to their former country has grown much weaker. They now tend to identify more with the South if any form of Korea at all.
Korean Americans enjoy a unique situation. Only after the immigration ban was lifted did many immigrants travel to the United States. These were mostly residents of South Korea that were well-educated, middle to upper middle class and Christian. They came to the United States to improve their lives and valued education highly. As many of these individuals are now only third generation, their impact on American society has yet to felt, but should be significant in coming years. As far as the Korean American’s loyalty to the adopted nation, it appears they do have a connection with their mother country, typically South Korea, but enjoy being American citizens as well.