[KS] RE: American Culture in Korea
h0727cej at rz.hu-berlin.de
Mon Jun 21 02:48:37 EDT 1999
At 14:59 16.06.99 -0700, you wrote:
>I was a US soldier in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. When I had
the chance to trave to East Berlin I was shocked to see many asian and
african people living there. What is the history of asians in East Germany?
Well, what I can tell you is not based on any research - and as a scientist
I feel a bit uncomfortable issuing news without beeing able to prove them,
but if you would accept this...
Right after the start of the Korean War, dozens, later hundreds of
(North)Koreans came to East Germany. The consisted mainly of three groups:
(1) orphans, (2) university students, (3) industrial trainees. Here are
some numbers from my book (Die DDR und Nordkorea: Der Wiederaufbau der
Stadt Hamhùng von 1954-1962, Aachen: Shaker 1996):
1955: 334 students, 298 orphans, 302 industrial trainees
As far as I know, nearly all of them have returned home when the
relationship between the Soviet Union and the PRC worsened. Just a couple
of weeks ago I have discovered one of the former North Korean students who
did not go back to North Korea but fled to West Germany and is now retired.
He will hold a lecture at our Institute and tell us about his life - this
is going to be very interesting.
Again, it was a war that led to a new influx of Asian people to East
Germany. I am not quite sure, but I think most of the Vietnamese who came
to the GDR were just cheap labor, they received a vocational training at
one of the bigger enterprises and returned back home or continued to work
in East Germany. Their number must have been by far larger than that of the
Koreans, and there have been some sentiments against them in the
population. I remember further that the Vietnamese have specialized in
making rather fashionable clothes and selling them very successfully on
private markets or via personal ties, with the negative sideeffect that one
sometimes had problems to buy a linen sheet, because the Vietnamese
"taylors" used them as raw material.
This is true even for the end of the 80s, that means they continued to come
to the GDR long after the Vietnam War was over. And while all North Koreans
have been strictly ordered to return home after the unification of Germany
(and they did obey this order), many Vietnamese remained here and built up
what is called the Cigarette-Mafia (selling smuggled cigarettes on the
streets and killing each other from time to time). This has dealt a heavy
blow to the image of Asians especially in East Germany and Berlin, and
that's why many Koreans and Japanese feel uncomfortable here - the
skinheads just cannot tell the difference between a Vietnamese and other
The Africans you have seen must have come mainly from Cuba, but also
Angola, Mosambique etc. The biggest number of African (or African looking)
people in Est Germany was here to study at a university, I think.
That's all I know, I hope it helps.
Fon: +49-30-55 99 878
e-mail: ruediger.frank at rz.hu-berlin.de
More information about the Koreanstudies