August 16, 2022

The story of the Sakhalin Korean rebellion

Short-lived rebellion by Koreans of southern descent ultimately severed ties to ancestral homeland

In December 1976, the sleepy city of Korsakov, on the southern-most tip of Sakhalin island, witnessed a picture that few if any Soviet cities outside Moscow or Leningrad would see in the days of Brezhnev. It was the sight of a real, open anti-government demonstration, albeit small. A group of Koreans – actually, members of few extended families – gathered in front of the local party committee. Their demand was simple: They wanted to be allowed to return to their homeland, South Korea, from which they – or rather elder members of the families – had come in the 1930s and 1940s.

The 1976 “Korsakov incident” and its tragic aftermath, which we will discuss in a moment, were consequences of the Sakhalin Koreans’ repatriation movement. But these events came as a great shock to the authorities.