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A Forgotten People: The Sakhalin Koreans

Japan took 6 million people from its colony of Korea for the war effort; 43, 000 went to Sakhalin, a remote island north of Japan, near Siberia. They mined coal, maintained the railroad and logged the forests.

With:
Narrator: Dai Sil Kim-Gibson. Independent filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson profiles a poetic and pragmatic group of Koreans relocated to Sakhalin Island by the Japanese during WWII who evocatively describe their situation and are resigned to being pawns of larger forces. Owing to factual vagueness at points, the moving docu "A Forgotten People" won't qualify as definitive political history, but Kim-Gibson persuasively sings the song of the displaced.

Japan took 6 million people from its colony of Korea for the war effort; 43, 000 went to Sakhalin, a remote island north of Japan, near Siberia. They mined coal, maintained the railroad and logged the forests.

TX: TX:Presented by the National Asian American Telecommunications Assn. Producer, director, writer, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson; Narrated segments using old footage and stills briefly outline important parts of the story — including world events such as the Japanese surrender and the Yalta conference — but mainly serve to bridge testimonials from original Koreans about the brutal conditions, and most importantly, their feelings about same.

A miner recalls: “Every day some died, were paralyzed, or lost legs and arms. We worked in such dangerous places hugging our empty stomachs. All for the Japanese emperor and the Pacific war; to these we devoted our lives.” A failure to clarify certain details underscores the program’s fundamental point about the primacy of individual experience over large-scale political change.

Only 20,000 of the Koreans on Sakhalin survived the war years. At war’s end the entire island came under Soviet control, and the Koreans assumed they would be able to return home.

But they were subsequently forgotten in a series of treaties and agreements as the Soviets rebuilt the island and then conscripted the Koreans.

Now part of Russia, Sakhalin has 700,000 inhabitants, 6% of which are Korean; 1,000 of the original 43,000 are still living, and the second and third generations have adapted to the Russian influence.

Under the auspices of the Red Cross, some have been allowed to return to their homeland for visits. With the help of music by Byung-Ki Hwang and equally lyrical photography by Steven Schecter, Kim-Gibson conveys the essentials.

Dedication to “all those forced to toil and suffer far from their homelands” seems apt and sincere.

A Forgotten People: The Sakhalin Koreans

Production: A Forgotten People: The Sakhalin Koreans (Tue. (21), 10-11 p.m., KCET)

Crew: Camera, Steven Schecter; editor, Richard Stilwell; sound, Jon Oh; music, Byung-Ki Hwang.

With: Narrator: Dai Sil Kim-Gibson. Independent filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson profiles a poetic and pragmatic group of Koreans relocated to Sakhalin Island by the Japanese during WWII who evocatively describe their situation and are resigned to being pawns of larger forces. Owing to factual vagueness at points, the moving docu "A Forgotten People" won't qualify as definitive political history, but Kim-Gibson persuasively sings the song of the displaced.

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