A group of 121 ethnic Koreans in Uzbekistan will begin touring South Korea this week to revisit their ancestral roots and bear witness to their modern homeland after being forcibly moved to the Central Asian nation by the Soviet Union during the last century, officials said Thursday.
More than 300,000 ethnic Koreans, known as "Koryoin," reside in Central Asia as a legacy of the mass immigration of Koreans to the region during the declining years of Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Yonhap News Agency reported.
Many families initially moved to Siberia, looking for economic opportunities, but were later forcibly moved to Central Asian states under Joseph Stalin's rule of the Soviet Union in the late 1930s.
Hoping that the weeklong trip that begins Friday will allow the visiting group a chance to renew their pride in their ethnic homeland, the foreign ministry in Seoul said its itinerary includes a series of trips to industrial and cultural sites.
Many of the immigrants were born in the 1930s or 1920s, according to a statement released by the ministry. They will meet with several senior government officials while traveling across South Korea, it added.
The trip comes as South Korea and Uzbekistan have been accelerating their economic and political cooperation over the years. Uzbekistan is one of the most resource-rich nations in its region and is looking for joint economic cooperation with nations abroad.
Korea was divided into South and North Korea a few years after its liberation from Japan's decades-long colonial rule during the first half of the 20th century.