The original route of the Koryo Saram, the Korean people who migrated to the Russian Far East over 155 years ago from the province of Hamgyong in the very north of then-unified Korea, now stretches from the modern states of North Korea into the Russian Federation.
Both the symbolic and de facto border separating the Choson dynasty-run Korea from the neighboring Qing dynasty-dominated China and the Russian Empire back then was (and still is) the Tumen river or Tumangang in Korean.
Leaving Tumangang behind and carrying out this historical one-way crossing – never to return back again – became the physical and philosophical countdown for Koryo Saram as a diaspora and the cornerstone of their self-identification as overseas Koreans based in the former Soviet Union and originating from the Far Eastern Russia.
Nonetheless, this subconscious longing for Korea runs through the genes of the Koryo Saram and manifests in an acute curiosity toward the present-day DPRK, where their ancestors originally came from. As a researcher of the overseas Korean diasporas and the descendant of the Koryo Saram myself, this was a personal journey.