Sung-ok Tigay

Far from Distant Shores: Identity Limbo in the Korean Diaspora

Sung-ok Tigay

Ushtobe, Kazakhstan, September 2014

Sung-ok Tigay, 92, was deported from Vladivostok at the age of 13 and lost her parents soon afterward. She recalls that while living in earth dugouts that Kazakhs helped them dig, up to five people per dugout might die overnight due to the cold weather, illness, or starvation. Like many others, she was later hosted by a Kazakh family and developed a close relationship with them that is still appreciated and maintained today. Nowadays, Sung-ok sings herself to sleep with old Korean folksongs. She used to sing many of these songs in the rice fields of the arid Kazakh steppe, where she worked until her hands became fractured. She knows more than a hundred songs by heart. Many of these songs have not been written down and are not widely known in modern Korea.