The Koryo saram in Kyrgyzstan

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The paper uses the case of the Koryo saram in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, to reflect on the redefinition of the relationship between the Republic of Korea and post-Soviet Koreans.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Kyrgyzstan and Korea and integrating insights from scholarship on diasporic communities and Korea’s foreign policy, the paper’s argument is two-fold. One, the Republic of Korea has in recent decades made available a variety of programs aimed at strengthening the ties with Central Asian societies. While some of these targeted local Koreans only, most were actually aimed at forging closer cultural and institutional bonds between Korea and Central Asian societies. In fact, such efforts, which range from cultural diplomacy to a variety of programs at home are part of a broader multi-dimensional effort to set a cultural, institutional and – especially – economic footprint in a region of increasing importance to South Korea. Two, Kyrgyzstan’s Koryo saram are a highly heterogeneous community themselves, divided by country of origin (many migrated from neighbouring Uzbekistan), age and experiences of mobility (to Russia, the west or South Korea). Local Koreans do not speak with one voice, and their experience tells – taken as a whole – an interesting story of de- and multi-centred identities.
Period8 Oct 20189 Oct 2018
Held atEdinburgh University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Korean diaspora
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Central Asia
  • post-Soviet
  • identity
  • Koryo saram