[Letters] Honoring our ancestors, cousins
On Oct. 31, the Goryeoin Cultural Center opened in Ussuriisk, Primorsky Krai in the Russian Far East. Also known as the 140th Anniversary Memorial of the Korean Migration in Russia, the opening of the center for Korean-Russians has significant meaning.
Primorsky Krai is the place where Koreans established the most intense independence movement in the later Joseon period and during the Japanese occupation. The descendents of the independence fighters paid overdue respect to those patriotic souls with the small memorial in Ussuriisk, the center of Primorsky Krai. Moreover, the Goryeoin Cultural Center in Primorsky Krai can play the role of a bridge of renewed friendship between Korea and Russia as the two countries are to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.
While the cultural center is only one small building, a lot of hard work went into completing the construction. It took as long as five years to purchase an abandoned Soviet-era kindergarten building from the city of Ussuriisk and complete the remodeling work. The funding was a challenge, and domestic and foreign builders did not honor the contract in the middle of the construction. Whenever there were troubles, fellow Koreans helped the project with donations and attention. Especially whenever the project was halted due to lack of funding, the generosity of benefactors became the driving force to overcome the difficulties. Those who helped and promoted the project include late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Pastor Kang Won-ryong, Venerable Song Wol-ju and former Red Cross President Seo Young-hun.
In the Goryeoin Cultural Center, visitors can explore the history of Korean migration to Primorsky Krai and the independence movement in the Migration History Exhibition. You can also learn Korean at the educational center, and there also is an outpatient clinic, Korean culture experience center, multipurpose performance venue and accommodations for Korean visitors. The Goryeoin Cultural Center aspires to become a place of communication and friendship among not just the Goryeoin but also the Russians and other minority ethnic groups in the region.
In order for the center to function and carry out its mission, it needs the attention and love of the Korean citizens. Most of all, the center desperately needs funding for the operation budget. According to the staff, the first three years are critical for the center to become stable and fully functional. Until it can be operated independently, it has to be backed by donations and gifts. It is only natural that we Koreans support the Goryeoin Cultural Center as the descendents of the independence fighters. It will also greatly help the center if Korean companies make advances into Primorsky Krai.
As the center of transportation and logistics, Ussuriisk has the potential to grow as a core of Primorsky Krai. The remains of Donggyeongseong, one of the five capitals of Balhae, are found near Ussuriisk, and there are many significant historical sites related to the independence movement, such as the memorial monument of Lee Sang-seol, an early independence movement leader and King Gojong’s secret envoy to The Hague, and the famous monument marking Ahn Jung-geun’s pledge by cutting his finger. Also, Razdolnoye Station is where 180,000 Korean-Russians were forced to move to Central Asia by Stalin in 1937. If Korean companies seek business opportunities here in Ussuriisk, they can make business profits and help the center operate at the same time. I hope that the Goryeoin Cultural Center, a fruit of much endeavor, can become the ground of history education as well as friendship.
Lee Bu-young, chairman of the Goryeoin Cultural Center Promotion Committee