Thursday, May 31, 2007

Problems in Repatriating

Browsing the internet post-class today, I found an article (thanks, Wikipedia) that discussed repatriation of Koreans from Japan after the Korean War, with the majority of people returning between 1960 and 1961. I was primarily interested in the Japanese wives of Korean citizens, who, though moving to Korea with their husbands, were promised by the North Korean government the ability to visit their families in Japan every few years. Reality has proven this not to be an option; in fact, most women have not been able to keep up contact with relatives in Japan.

This reminded me of post-World War II Soviet Union, wherein Moscow sent Welcome Home letters to Russian ex-patriates living in France. A good deal of Russians returned, bringing their French families, only to be jailed or executed upon arrival. The lucky ones were sent to live and work in remote cities in Russia, and their French partners unable to keep contact with friends and family back in Western Europe. (If you're interested, there is a very melodramatic movie that came out in the late 90's about the topic.)

I'm curious as to just how many countries have adopted this post-conflict policy: to encourage not only ex-patriates, but their foreign families, to return home -- only to keep them locked up. A sad sort of homecoming, it seems.


rfishel said...

In addition to what you have pointed out, a lot of Koreans moving from Japan to North Korea also lost a lot of their wealth and belongings upon arrival. I have recently read a few stories about families who made a good living in Japan who then came to North Korea to support the homeland, only to find their money and assets dwindling away over time because of the government. I have also read that even though North Korea is supposed to be isolationist, they often turn their backs to North Korean citizens receiving gifts and money from abroad because it is one of the only things that is able to sustain the NK economy.

Jolan said...

A good example, I think, of one of those stories is that of the Chong family, as discussed in Martin's book. They'd made a decent living while living in Japan, but decided to repatriate to Korea after the war. They'd brought over some assets, which only served to ostracize them. I think the fact that they had to lend out their black Toyota to whichever semi-important government official is particularly telling.