An increasing percentage of the approximately 321,000 Koreans living in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, in particular Uzbekistan, began migrating to the Russian Federation in l992 when various forms of discrimination against nonindigenous peoples increased in those republics. Most of these migrants to Russia have settled in Maritime (Primorskiy) Territory, where their commercial activities have competed with local merchants and stirred numerous anti-Korean incidents. In 1996 about 36,000 Koreans also were living on Sakhalin Island.
When economic conditions deteriorated in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the mid-1990s, the North Korean government allowed thousands of carefully chosen guest workers to find manual jobs in Vladivostok and other parts of the Russian Far East. As North Korean guest workers have sought asylum in Russia, the question of their repatriation has caused Russia a difficult diplomatic problem in its relations with North Korea and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), in view of Russia's intensified efforts to expand commercial ties with South Korea without alienating putative ally North Korea. Korean arrivals in Russia from Central Asia and from North Korea receive support from the Association of Ethnic Koreans and from South Korea. Another Korean émigré organization, the United Confederation of Koreans in Russia, lends vocal support to North Korea in its disputes with South Korea. Tensions between the two Korean populations were very strong by 1996. Russian migration officials feared a much larger influx of North Koreans if the North Korean government collapsed.