(Near the North Korean border)

right There are a little less than 2 million ethnic Koreans in China. Many live in and around Yanbian, near the North Korean border. They have traditionally had a reputation for eating cold noodles, wearing plastic boat-shaped shoes and doing the crane walking, willow twig waving Korean dances. Korean women hold swing and seesaw competitions during the Dragon Boat Festival, held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, usually in June.

Many Koreans in China are descendants of immigrants who arrived in the 17th century and settled in Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces. The largest Korean communities are in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province. At one time the Chinese believed the Koreans were cannibals and the Koreans thought the same thing about the Chinese. Koreans are considered more friendly than the Chinese and only rarely do Koreans marry Han Chinese. Koreans also have a reputation for being hard-working.

According to the Chinese government Koreans are “the Nationality that Honors the Teacher and Reveres His Teachings.” Chinese Koreans live mainly in Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning Provinces and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Yanbian—which borders the northern part of North Korea in Jilin Province—was home to 2.2 million people in 2010, of which about a third were Koreans. This is the largest concentration of Koreans in China. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~]

Most Koreans in China are engaged in agricultural production. Some are involved in forestry and trading with North Korea. The Chinese say they are exceptionally adept at growing rice, with region around Yanbian being the main rice producing area in northeast China. Most of the ethnic Koreans in China are Buddhists, but there is also a large proportion following Christianity and saying mass in Korean. According to the Chinese government: “The Korean nationality attaches special importance to culture and education, and is fond of singing, dancing and sports activities. At present, her average level of being educated ranks the highest among all the nationalities of the whole country. Diligence, frugality, plainness, tidiness, hospitality, respecting the aged and cherishing the young, as well as being united and helpful to each other are the good traditions and moral practices of the whole Korean nationality. In the War of Resistance Against Japan, China's War of Liberation and the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, the people of Korean nationality have performed immortal feats.” ~

Korean population in China: 0.1374 percent of the total population; 1,830,929 in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census; 1,929,696 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 1,920,597 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. Koreans in China make up the largest ethnic Korean population living outside the Korean Peninsula. Many think the above figure for 2010 is too small. According to some sources if the smaller groups of South and North Korean expatriates are added in the total number of Koreans in China is roughly 2.5 million people. The percentage of Koreans in Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Yanbian, Jilin Province shrank from around 40 percent in 1990 to 32.5 percent in 2010. Worldwide there are about 83 million Koreans, with 50.4 million in South Korea, 25.3 million in North Korea, 2.1 million in the U.S., 900,000 in Japan, 176,000 in Russia and 176,000 in Uzbekistan. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture

The largest concentration of Koreans is in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in eastern Jilin Province. Under its jurisdiction are the cities of Yanji and Tumen, and the counties of Yanji, Helong, Antu, Huichun, Wangqing and Dunhua. Covering a total area of 41,500 square kilometers, Yanbian encompasses mountains and valleys. The highest point 2,744-meter-high Changbai Mountain —White Head peak. Located on the border of North Korea, this extinct volcano contains a crater lake, from which the Yalu and Tumen rivers originate, flowing south and north respectively, and forming the boundary with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to the east. Another community of Koreans lives in the Changbai Korean Autonomous County in southeastern Jilin. [Source: *|*]

Yanbian and Changbai have traditionally been among of China's major sources of timber and forest products, including ginseng, sable pelts and deer antlers. It has also been a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers. Copper, lead, zinc and gold have been mined here since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the area also has deposits of iron, antimony, phosphorus, graphite, quartz, limestone and oil shale. Yanbian is a major tobacco and rice producer and is famous for apples and pears. The ginseng, sable and deer antler produced in Korean areas have long been known as the Three Treasures in China and other places in Asia.

History of Koreans in China

left The ancestors of the Koreans in China today are Koreans who settled in northeast China from the Korean Peninsula, which is south of northeast China to the south of the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. The earliest Korean settlers can be traced back to more than 300 years ago. Many emigrated from Korea during the 19th century, and again during the Japanese Occupation in the early 20th century. In the 1860s, a series of natural disasters struck Korea, leading to deadly famines. Along with the Qing dynasty's loosening of border controls and acceptance of external migration into Northeast China, this pushed many Koreans to migrate. By 1894, an estimated 34,000 Koreans lived in China, with numbers increasing to 109,500 in 1910. [Source: ~ Wikipedia]

Koreans in both China and Korea suffered during the Japanese occupation of northeast China and Korea. They were forced to speak the Japanese language and adopt Japanese surnames and some were put to work as forced labor in mines and factories. After the Japanese were forced out of Korea and China in 1945, there was a resurgence of cultural awareness among the Koreans. Newspapers in the Korean language sprang up, including the Jilin Daily (later renamed the Yanbian Daily), Heilongjiang Daily and the Liaoning Daily. In 1947, the Yanbian Korean Publishing House was founded in Yanji, and the Yanbian People's Radio went on the air. Special Korean programs are also aired by the Central People's Broadcasting Station and the Heilongjiang People's Broadcasting Station. [Source: *|*]

Particular attention was paid to education. In 1949, the Yanbian University was founded in Yanji. Other institutions of higher learning established during the early post-liberation period include the Yanbian Medical Institute, the Yanbian Amateur Agricultural University and a teachers college. Universal secondary education was realized as far back as 1958. As a result, there are now large numbers of people of Korean origin at all levels of leadership in many areas of China, and at renowned educational institutions in China's major cities. The Korean ethnic minority has set up an efficient network of health care centers and hospitals, including the Yanbian Hospital, a tuberculosis treatment center, an anti-epidemic hospital and a psychiatric sanatorium. The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture boasts high standards of maternity, childcare and family planning, as well as an enviable record in the fight against endemic diseases. *|*

The Yanbian area is noted also for its culture and art troupes and cultural organizations. At the prefectural level, these include the United Association of Yanbian Culture and Art Workers and the Yanbian Branch of the Chinese Writers Association. The Yanbian song and dance, modern drama and theatrical companies are famous all over the country, and many Korean artists study at advanced institutes in other parts of China. *|*

Language of Koreans in China

Most ethnic Koreans in China speak Mandarin Chinese and many also speak fluent Korean as their mother tongue. Most Chinese of Korean descent have ancestral roots and family ties in the Hamgyong region of North Korea and speak the Hamgyong dialect of Korean according to North Korean conventions. However, since South Korea has been more prolific in exporting its entertainment culture, more Korean Chinese broadcasters have been using Seoul dialect. The so-called Korean wave (Hallyu) has influenced fashion styles and increased the popularity of plastic surgery. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Korean is an Ural-Altaic language along with Finnish, Mongolian, Hungarian and Turkish. These languages are unrelated to any of the world's other major language groups and they originated from the Altaic region in Mongolia and Siberia. Korean has a sentence structure similar to that of Japanese. And, big Korean words are often similar to words in Chinese and Japanese the same that some big English words are similar to Latin-based words in French and Spanish.

Koreans use one set of words when speaking to an older person and another set of words when speaking to a younger person. The same is true when a person of high status converses with a person of low status. Korean also use one set of words when speaking to members of their family members and a different set when speaking to outsiders. There is even a whole set of words reserved for speaking to Korean royalty. Different regions of Korea have different dialects with distinct pronunciation and vocabulary. Hangul, the Korea's phonetic alphabet, is perhaps the world's clearest and most logical alphabet. It is consists of 24 phonetic symbols and 40 elements that are linked with sounds in the Korean language. Unlike English, there are no tricky spellings or unclear pronunciations.

Customs of Chinese Koreans

Since ancient times, Korean placed importance on the custom of respecting elders. For example, young boys and girls are expected to address their elders respectfully; smoking and drinking are not allowed in front of elders unless you have to drink. When drinking, one should never drink with one’s back towards the elders; when dining, rice and dishes should first be served first to seniors. When guests come, tables and banquets should be arranged separately for elder guests. Delicacies should be put in front of the elders. Juniors should not take their delicacies before the seniors move their chopsticks. When a young person encounters a senior person, whether they are acquainted or not, the younger person is expected to offer a respectful greeting. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Koreans like to hold a grand "sixty-year-old birthday banquet" when an old person is sixty years of age. In the eyes of Koreans, being sixty years of age is a milestone on the road of life. At the sixty-year-old birthday banquet, the old person wears a full dress, sitting at the middle of a "long life table" accompanied by seniors in the neighborhood. When it is time to congratulate the old person, sons, daughters, close relatives and their spouses—in the order of males first, females later and older ones first, younger ones later, lead by the eldest son—walk in turns to the table, honoring the old person on bended knees, and drink a toast and thank the 60-year-old elder for bringing them up and wish them health and long life. The English translation of the song for the occasion— "Happy Birthday, Mum"—goes:

The family happily gathers under the same roof to congratulate on mother's six-year-old birthday,
Happy laughters and cheerful voices are heard, warm currents gush to the mind.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Your son and daughter-in-law hold a grand sixty-year-old birthday banquet for you, and propose a toast for your health. ~

You have brought sons and daughters with much ado, and they will bear it in mind,
Wishing you to enjoy your late years, and we propose a toast to you.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Your daughters and sons-in-law propose a toast for your health.

You have also brought up grandsons and granddaughters, and they offer birthday felicitations to you,
They dance happily and trippingly to wish you long-time happiness.
Oh, dear mum! Wishing you long life, wishing you long life,
Grandsons and granddaughters bend before you to wish you long life.
(If it is the father's birthday, substitute "Dad" for "Mum") ~

Chinese Korean Emphasis on Education

Koreans have traditionally attached much importance to education. Korean sayings go: "However difficult the life is, the children must be afforded to go to school " and "We would rather gnaw at the barks in order to afford the children to school". According to research and statistics from 1990, 822.5 out 1,000 Korean were educated, far above the national level of 698.1 and the average level for minorities. At that time 20 of every 1,000 Koreans had a college education (44 of every 1000 in Yanbian), again far above the national level of 6. According to the Chinese government : “As a result of the fairly high cultural qualities of the Korean nationality, the number of people who are engaged in brainwork such as science, culture and so on is far more than that of the average national level, and numbers of scientific and technological as well as cultural and arts talents are constantly emerging. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

After the liberation of the Northeast, the Korean people in Yanbian, under the lead of the Chinese Communist Party, opened many schools and accelerated the development of education. In 1949, there were 31 middle schools. By 1952, elementary education was basically universal. In 1958, junior high school education was popularized and senior high school education developed to a large extent. By the 1960s illiteracy had been essentially eliminated. In 1958, the first university for minorities in China was established - Yanbian University. After 1958, a number of institutions of higher learning were established, such as Yanbian Medical Institute, Yanbian Agricultural Institute, Yanbian Branch School of Jinlin Academy of Arts, and Yanbian Teachers' Training School. ~

Korean Life in China

Yanbian is fairly evenly populated, with villages set a few miles apart from each other and ranging in size from about a dozen households to several scores. The houses are built of wood with low-eaved tile or thatched roofs. They are heated by flues running under a raised platform in the main rooms, which serves as a bed and also a place to sit on. Shoes are removed before entering the house. [Source: *|*]

The Koreans are very fond of music. They sometimes sing and dance to the accompaniment of drums and flutes in the fields or on construction sites. Traditional festivals are celebrated heartily, especially the Lunar New Year, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Other occasions for merriment are the 100th day after a baby's birth and a person's 60th birthday. *|*

In the old days, men labored in the fields while women worked around the house. The eldest son became the head of the family upon the death or incapacitation of the father. Monogamy was practiced but early marriage and adoption of child brides and boys to carry on the family tree were common. *|*

Korean Food in China: Hammered Cakes and Cold Noodle


Their cuisine is very spicy and includes kimchi (pickled vegetables), cold noodles, sticky rice cakes and dog meat. Chinese consider Korean cuisine to pungent, cool and light. Rice is the staple food. Koreans eat fish, beef, chicken, and, but seldom eat ducks, geese, mutton or any other greasy food. Hammered cakes and cold noodles are distinctive Korean foods enjoyed by both Koreans and non-Koreans alike.

Pickled vegetables (kim-chi) is the most characteristic Korean dish. It is a must for every family and eaten at every meal. There are various kinds. Generally they are classified into: 1) over-wintering pickles and 2) those that can be pickled and eaten at any time in spring, summer or autumn. The most common kinds are pickled cabbage, pickled radish and pickled cucumber, of which red-colored kim-chi made from celery cabbage in winter is the most popular. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

The hammered cake—which can be further divided into cakes made of sticky rice, little glutinous millet and big glutinous millet—is the most famous among more than fifty kinds of cakes of Koreans in China. To make hammered cakes: 1) steam sticky rice. 2) Then pound with a mallet repeatedly until the rice comes a sticky dough. 3) Shape the dough into balls and dip them into cake powder (usually made from soya beans, mung bean, sesame or perilla seeds) or white sugar or honey. ~

North-Korean-style cold noodles are made from buckwheat, wheat, corn starch or flour, corn, jowar plus peels of elms. When making it: 1) put the noodles into a cooking pot with boiled water. 2) When they are cooked, take the noodles out, wash them continuously with cold water and save the water for later use. 3) In addition, stew a pot of soup with thin beef or chicken, and let it cool off for later use. 4) Add the soup into the noodles, and mix it with condiments like red pepper powder, soy sauce, vinegar, monosodium glutamate, sesame, and pickles, together with slices of beef, chicken or egg filaments. The soup plays a key role in making the cold noodle, and therefore the saying "seven parts the soup, three parts the noodle". There are broth types, bean juice types and pickle types of cold noodles. The choicest type is pheasant soup. When the soup is ready, one is supposed to throw out the grease to get rid of the fishy smell. Cold noodle are smooth and stretchy with a sweet, sour peppery taste. ~

Dog Meat, Kim-Chi and Big Catsup Soup

Koreans have traditionally enjoyed dog meat and dog meat soup. Dog meat, many Koreans and Chinese believe, can help drive away the heat and prevent heat exhaustion, and build up one's health. Nevertheless, there is taboos with eating dog meat: one should not kill dogs nor eat dog meat at festivals, weddings and funerals or house warning parties. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Kim-chi (winter pickled vegetables) is popular with Koreans in China as it is with Koreans everywhere. Prepared in late autumn, or around the beginning of winter according to the Chinese traditional calendar every year, it is made from cabbage, salt, capsicum powder, garlic, ginger, fruit, spices and seafood such as dried, unshelled shrimps, dried scallop, oyster, walleye or pollack. The methods for making it vary in different places and among different people. The usual way is like this: 1) peel off the outer leaves of cabbage, wash them clean and soak them in brine for two or three days. 2) Take the cabbage leaves out, wash them with clean water, and drip to remove the water. 3) Then break off the leaves of cabbage one by one, and 4) with fingers and thumbs, slather on the cabbage leaves the spicy kim-chi paste made of capsicum powder, mashed garlic, ginger powder, salt, sugar, and monosodium glutamate. 5) Finally, put the cabbage into vats, cover the vats tightly and store them in a cellar or cool place to let them ferment gradually. In half a month or so, the kim-chi is ready to be eaten. When having it, chop it into sections. The taste is sour, pungent, garlicky and sweet. ~

Soup is an indispensable food in the everyday life of Koreans in China. Koreans usually have soup both at breakfast and supper. There are many kinds of soup. One of the most popular and most frequently consumed ones is called big catsup soup. It is made from catsup, vegetables, edible seaweed, shallot, garlic and water. Sometimes, it is also made with meat or fish of various kinds. Hot soup is served in winter, while cool soup is prepared in summer. Big catsup soup, it is said, is not only tasty, but also whets the appetite and invigorates the function of the spleen, which is good for the health. ~

Korean White Clothes

Koreans have always liked dressing in white plain clothes and are sometimes called "Compatriots in White Clothes". In the old days, most Koreans inhabited in mountain villages, where the most available raw material to make clothes was flax and the hand-loomed cloth woven from flax was usually white. With the introduction of modern culture, outside materials such as machine-loomed cloth, silks and satins have become widely used, and colors used in clothes and personal adornments have became more diversified. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Traditional Korean clothes include upper outer garments for males and females, trousers, skirts, coats, robes, waistcoats, large bamboo hats and shoes resembling boats. In addition to everyday clothes, there are clothes for special occasions such first birthdays and weddings. The men's upper outer garment has a slanting front and baggy sleeves. At each side of the front of the garment, there is a ribbon, which is tied in the upper middle part of the right front of the garment. Traditionally-dressed Korean men like wearing "waistcoats" (weskits). In winter, they often wear short overcoats or overcoats made of cotton or fur, as well as pants with wide waists and loose crotches and trouser legs. These are convenient for crossing one’s legs while sitting on ondols (kangs. heated brick beds or floors). These kinds of paints have traditionally been worn with a sash-like belt and bindings on the lower parts of the trouser legs. ~

Traditionally-dressed Korean women often wear short coats and long skirts. Their upper outer garment resembles that of the men's, but is shorter and smaller. The sleeves are long and narrow with long ribbons that are made from silks and satins in red, purple or other colors. The cuffs and front of young women's garment are often have colored silk and satin edges. In winter, some young women wear overcoats, and some older women wear waistcoats with fur inside and silks and satins outside. Long skirts are classified into two types: tied skirts and pail-shaped skirts. Middle-aged and elderly women usually wear the former. The tied skirt is an un-sewed skirt that is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, and reaches the feet. The wrinkle of the skirt is fairly wide with many small pleat. The band of the skirt is sewed at the two sides of the waist of the skirt, and is tied around the waist before being tied at the right side of the waist. The skirt of this sort should be worn with plain and white underskirt inside.

Traditionally-dressed middle-aged and young women usually wear vest-like pail-shaped skirts with pleats. The length of the skirt is below the knees and is convenient for laboring. The colors of their garments and skirts often depend on the age of the wearer. In the old days, middle-aged women favored plain and white garments and skirts, while young ladies prefered yellow garments and pink skirts. The colors worn by women nowadays are brighter and more varied.

Music and Dance of Koreans in China

Korean folk songs, which Koreans in China call "ballads", are regarded as melodious and expressive. When one person is singing, many others support him or her in the chorus. It is said that this not because "a person who is good at singing has many followers" but rather because that "songs from the heart can evoke the strongest sympathetic response". Famous folk songs such as “Song of the Root of Balloon Flower,” “Young Men from Ah Li,” “By the Riverside of Noduoer” are well-known among Koreans in China. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Instruments used in Korean classical music, traditionally enjoyed by the upper classes, include the taegum (a Korean wind instrument); the kayagum (a 12-string zither whose sound is produced by pressing the strings with the left hand and plucking them with the right); kumungo (traditional six-string Korean zither), ajaeng (seven-string zither); cholkayagum (12-metal-string zither); and pyenchong, (an instrument made up of 16 bronze bells first used in the 12th century). Other wind instruments include flutes, hollow vertical bamboo flutes and short vertical bamboo flutes. Among the copper wind instruments are suona horns and clanking horns.

The most commonly played classical Korean instrument is the kayagum. Describing the music produced by this instrument Hwang Byung-ki told the Rough Guide to World Music, "The pieces have the beauty of the ages, like old and grand trees. There is no feeling of structure or climax...What you hear in this music is a natural rather than artificial beauty. What is essential when playing a melody on the kayagum is the vibrato and the microtanal shading on the notes. If a melody makes a leap a leap down you can think of it like a waterfall, and the bottom note needs to vibrate in the water bubbles at the bottom of a waterfall. This is what gives Korean music its special character."

Dating back to the Jiaye Kingdom in the south of Xinluo, the kayagum comes in two types: one used in ceremonial classical music and one used in popular music. The former one is about 177 centimeters in length and 33 centimeters in width. Each has 12 strings, and each string has one post to adjust the pitch. The latter is around 152 centimeters long, and about 17-21 centimeters wide. Each has also 12 strings. After the reformation in China, the number of strings reached 18. Two pitches of 4 and 7 were added to widen the range and increase the volume. When you the kayagum, put one end of the instrument on your knee, the other end on the floor. It can be played both as a solo and accompanying instrument.

In China, Korean dancing is regarded as dainty and elegant and has been compared to white cranes spreading their wings and willow branches sweeping the water surface. Korean character traits found in Korean dancing include: unrestrained emotion and softness coupled with hardness. Among the most famous folk dances are the harvesting dance, tambourine dance, dance while carrying water on the head, twisting hemp thread dance, fan dance, sword dance, crane dance and monk dance. The harvesting dance is a traditional dance that happiness of farmers harvesting a bumper crop. When it is danced, the dancers play all sorts of drums and folk musical instruments while twirling, skipping and jumping. There are supple and nimble group dances as well as soaring and salient solo dances. Sometimes short humorous plays are inserted now and then.

Swinging, Springboards and Other Traditional Korean Games

Koreans are fond of games and sports activities. Football, wrestling, skating, swinging and foot races are all popular. Games and entertainment activities played almost exclusively by girls and women include swinging, springboard jumping and the heel-and-toe walking race with an urn on the head. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Traditional Korean girls swinging is called "Game of the Half Celestial Being ". In the old days, the ropes of the swing are fastened on branches of tall trees. Now there is special-purpose frame for swinging made of wood or iron tubes with two ropes fastened to the crossbeams and a board for sitting on while swinging. Korean swings include versions for a single person and for two persons. In competitions there are four ways of determining the winner: 1) The first way is to place two poles at the front of the swing and tie a rope with a small bell on them. The girl who rings the bell the most times wins. 2) The second way is to gradually raise the rope with a small bell. The one who rings the bell hung on the highest rope ring is the winner. 3) The third way is to fasten a rope under the swing. The one who draws back the longest rope is the champion. 4) The forth way is to place leaves or flowers in the trees at the front of the swing to serve as a target. The one who touches them with her feet or bites them wins this game. Swinging requires physical strength, technique and courage. It embodies the strong and brave character of Korean women.

Springboard jumping has a long history and has traditionally been most popular among girls of middle scholl age. A Korean folk saying goes: " Girls who didn't jump the springboard will endure difficult labor". The popular kind of springboard is 5.5 meters long, 44 centimeters or so wide and 5 to 6 centimeters thick. Somewhat similar to a teeter-totter, it consists of a board pad erected in the middle of the springboard that is 30 centimeters high. In the game, a girl stands at each team end of the springboard and alternately jump up and down, using their jumping and rebounding force of the board to send other girl flying the air. The girls fly upwards and downwards respectively. Variations include jumping with one's knees bent, spinning, and doing a scissors or splits. There are two ways of competing: one is to see who can jump the highest. One way to measure height is to attach a a rolled up thread to the wrist of each girl. The one who draws out the longest thread wins. The other way is to judge the competitors not only on the basis of height but also on the movements, poses and tricks they perform in the air. Some girls can do flips and twist and perform with ribbon and hoops.

The foot race with an urn on the head is directly rooted in productive labor. In a competition participants walk with a jar or pot filled with water or rice of the same weight. They cannot support the jar or pot with their hands. The one who first reaches the finish line without spilling any water is the winner.

Chinese Korean Football and Wrestling

While swinging and springboard jumping are regarded as women’s sports, football (soccer) and wrestling are considered as men's sports. Chinese regard Koreans as being good at soccer and the Chinese Korean stronghold of Yanbian has always been honored as "Land of Football". In the past, in the streets and lanes of villages, towns and cities, kids play football. Most schools, factories and mines have football fields. Matches of various kinds and levels are held frequently. Teams and players from Korean areas have traditionally done well on the bational level in China. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Korea's national sport is ssirrum (pronounced she-reum), a form wrestling in which combatants grab onto sashes (sat-ba) wrapped around their opponents waist and thigh and try to knock their opponents off their feet. The sport dates back to old Korea when wrestling matches were held in sandy rings during big festivals and holidays and the winners were given an ox as a prize.

Ssirrum wrestler are big men but not nearly is big as sumo wrestlers. They eat about a 10,000 calories a day and sweat a lot in the matches. Ssirum wrestlers battle each other within a small sand ring and are only allowed to use certain moves to bring their opponent down, such as the leg hook, the pushing throw, the sideways throw and the inside trip. Wrestlers, who are divided into two divisions: over 100 kilograms and under 100 kilograms.

Successful ssirrum wrestler are good at sizing up their opponents and skilled at using a combination of balance and force in the right place and at the right time to bring their opponents down before they fall over themselves. Winners are awarded various titles depending on their level and champions are referred to as the "Strongest Men Under the Heavens" and awarded trophies shaped like an ox.

In China ssirum is known by the Chinese translations of names like "Wrestling by Lifting up the Counterpart " or "Trip -and -Fall Wrestling", and used to be called "Indian Wrestling" or "Ancient Wrestling". The anklet sashes are made from flax or white cotton cloth, and are about three meters long. About 90 centimeters is wrapped around the waist and the rest is wrapped around the right thigh. The waist is also bound with a cloth waistband about 1.5 meters long.

Before the match starts both wrestlers touch their right knee to the floor with their left one bent. Both of them lean forward slightly, hugging each other by the right shoulder and grasping each other's thigh-binding sash with the left hand and seizing the other's waistband with the right hand. When the referee blows the whistle, the two sides stand and start wrestling. During the match, a wrestler is not supposed to wrench his opponent’s neck or arms, nor should he hurt his counterpart with his head or fists. If he hurts his rival on purpose, he is warned and told to stop it. In serious cases, he is ejected and forfeits the match. Other moves such as such as an inner hooked fist, outer hooked fist and hammering a rival’s shoulder. There is no time limit. Standard matches usually employ the system of "three sets, two wins", and have three levels, which are children, youth, and middle-aged levels.

Korean wrestling has a fairly long history. In a A.D. 4th century Koryo Dynasty tumulus in Ji'an, Jilin Province, there is a fresco of a wrestling match, in which two persons are wrestling, one person presides over the match and a crowd of people watch. In the Koryo Dynasty, wrestling champions were called the equivalent of "Hercules", and were highly praised and honored. The King's bodyguards "the armored soldiers" were often wrestling champions. This measure greatly promoted this game's popularization and development. On festive occasions or during slack seasons in farming, people have traditionally gathered and entertain themselves with wrestling.

Korean Chinese in South Korea

There were 377,560 Korean Chinese legally registered in South Korea as of 2009. Tens of thousands---maybe hundreds of thousands---more work illegally in the country. Many send money back to relatives in China. New arrivals are helped by churches and organized groups to adapt to their new lives and find jobs.

Korean Chinese began arriving in South Korea in early 1990s when China’s northeastern provinces suffered as they were excluded from Beijing’s economic reforms. Their numbers began to increase after a new law passed in South Korea in 2004 allowed migrant workers and a work visa was created for Korean Chinese in 2007. Between 2003 and 2009 the number legally-registered Korean Chinese in South Korea rose from 132,305 to 377,560 in 2009.

Many ethnic Koreans in China long to go to South Korea. Yin Shuilan, an ethic Korean who emigrated to South Korea in 1998, told the Los Angeles Times, “For us going to Korea is like going to heaven, a place where money grew on trees. There is nothing in China.

Yiu toiled in fields and at restaurants to save enough money to emigrate and was repeatedly denied visas and was cheated by shady brokers, When she finally made it to South Korea she was $80,000 in debt to friends and family. Her husband arrived eight months after she did and together they worked six years ro pay off the debt.

Yiu has found that life in South Korea is no picnic. She works six days a week, 12 hours a day, in a fish soup restaurant in Seoul and spends an addition two hors a day commuting back and forth between her workplace and home, often returning from work just shy of midnight. “I work a lot, but I make more money than I ever dreamed of when I was in China,” she said.

Most of the jobs that are available to Korean Chinese are in restaurants, factories, construction sites and as domestic servants. Yoon In-jin a sociologist at Korea University told the Los Angeles Times, Korean Chinese “make an economic contribution in sectors most Koreans don’t want to work in but need to be covered in society.” A big issue now is whether or not to extend the five-year work visa or reform it so that workers don’t have return after they have invested a great amount of time creating a new life for themselves in South Korea.

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Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~; 3) Ethnic China \*\; 4) \=/; 5), the Chinese government news site *|* New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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