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Of these only 17.5% gave Korean as their first language.

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About one-fourth reside in Siberia and the Russian Far East; the Korean population there trace their roots back to a variety of sources.Aside from roughly 33,000 CIS nationals, mostly migrants retracing in reverse the 1937 deportation of their ancestors, between 4,000 and 12,000 North Korean migrant labourers can be found in the region.The 19th century saw the decline of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea.A small population of wealthy elite owned the farmlands in the country, and poor peasants found it difficult to survive.Koreans leaving the country in this period were obliged to move toward Russia, as the border with China was sealed by the Qing Dynasty.

However, the first Koreans in the Russian Empire, 761 families totalling 5,310 people, had actually migrated to Qing territory; the land they had settled on was ceded to Russia by the Convention of Peking in 1860.

The name Soviet Korean was also used, more frequently before the collapse of the Soviet Union.); however, this usage makes no distinctions between ethnic Koreans of the local nationality and the Korean nationals (citizens of North Korea or South Korea).

In Standard Korean, the term "Koryo-saram" is typically used to refer to historical figures from the Goryeo dynasty; However, the Sino-Korean morpheme "-in" (인) is not productive in Koryo-mal, the dialect spoken by Koryo-saram, and as a result, only a few (mainly those who have studied Standard Korean) refer to themselves by this name; instead, Koryo-saram has come to be the preferred term.

Smaller numbers of South Koreans and ethnic Koreans from China have also come to the region to settle, invest, and/or engage in cross-border trade.

In the 2001 census in Ukraine 12,711 people defined themselves as ethnic Koreans, up from 8,669 in 1989.

There is also a separate ethnic Korean community on the island of Sakhalin, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans. Unlike the communities on the Russian mainland, which consist mostly of immigrants from the late 19th century and early 20th century, the ancestors of the Sakhalin Koreans came as immigrants from Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces in the late 1930s and early 1940s, forced into service by the Japanese government to work in coal mines in Sakhalin (then known as Karafuto Prefecture) in order to fill labour shortages caused by World War II.