Roman Mars [00:01:09] This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. In the summer of 2002, Tatiana Kim took her first trip abroad. She was going to Ansan, South Korea, which is a city that’s about a half an hour drive outside of Seoul.
Tatiana Kim [00:01:25] I was visiting Ansan to spend the summer break with my grandparents. They had recently moved into a very special apartment complex.
Roman Mars [00:01:33] That’s Tatiana, by the way.
Tatiana Kim [00:01:35] Even though on the surface it seemed like any other building, there were these little details that stuck out to me. The halls and elevators were a little wider and had handrails all the way across for people to hold onto. And for some reason, there was also a Red Cross office right on the premises.
Roman Mars [00:01:55] But the most distinctive feature about this complex was the people who lived there.
Tatiana Kim [00:02:00] There were about a thousand residents who were all elderly. And even though everybody was of Korean descent, they all spoke Russian. Sometimes I’d meet other teenagers who were visiting their grandparents. But just like me, none of them spoke any Korean. Only Russian. In the kitchens, our grandmothers would cook us both panchan and borsch.
Roman Mars [00:02:22] And that’s because every person in this complex came here from the same place, an island off the coast of Russia called Sakhalin.
Tatiana Kim [00:02:32] In Russian, the complex is called “Sakhalin Village,” but in Korean the settlement has a different name: Gohyang Maeul, meaning “Hometown Village.” Gohyang Maeul was constructed specifically as a settlement for people like my grandparents–ethnic Koreans who had returned to the country after being trapped for decades on Sakhalin.
Roman Mars [00:02:55] Separated from their homeland and abandoned in the midst of huge geopolitical events, tens of thousands of Koreans spent nearly 50 years stranded behind the Iron Curtain, waiting for a chance to return home.
Tatiana Kim [00:03:11] I grew up on Sakhalin. It’s a long, skinny island off the Russian coast, just north of Japan. In fact, it’s so close to Japan that when you stand on the southern tip of the island, you can actually pick up a Japanese cell signal. Winters can get very cold and snowy there. Even in the summer months, the average temperature doesn’t usually get above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roman Mars [00:03:37] Apparently, Sakhalin used to be the home of a Tsarist penal colony. And Anton Chekhov once described it as “hell.”
Tatiana Kim [00:03:44] I swear he was wrong, though. It’s a beautiful place to live.
Roman Mars [00:03:49] I’ll take your word over Chekhov’s.
Tatiana Kim [00:03:51] When I started traveling to other countries, the first question people usually ask is, “Where are you from?” When I answer from Russia, I get puzzled looks. “You don’t look Russian,” they usually say. But there are a lot of Koreans in Sakhalin and we’ve been there for a long time.
Roman Mars [00:04:10] Throughout its history, control of Sakhalin has passed back and forth between two powerful empires–Russia and Japan.
Tatiana Kim [00:04:18] Around the turn of the 20th century, Russia and Japan were fighting a war over territory in East Asia. And by 1905, Russia had lost.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:04:28] So not only lost, but completely decimated.
Tatiana Kim [00:04:32] This is Jae-Hyung Park, Assistant Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong. He says that under the terms of Russia’s laws, Korea came under Japanese control and Russia was forced to give up some of its territory, which included the southern half of Sakhalin.
Roman Mars [00:04:49] After the war, Sakhalin was split at the 50th parallel and given to Japan.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:04:54] At that time, people used to cut a country by parallel, like a cake.
Roman Mars [00:04:59] Although the environment was frigid, Sakhalin was valuable because it was rich with natural resources like coal, timber, and fish. But Japan needed to bring in cheap labor to extract those resources.
Tatiana Kim [00:05:11] Which is how Koreans ended up on Sakhalin.
Roman Mars [00:05:14] At this point, the economy of Korea was severely weakened. And there were hardly any jobs left in the country. There was, however, plenty of work for those who were willing to travel north to the Japanese-controlled half of Sakhalin and brave the harsh conditions of the island.
Tatiana Kim [00:05:30] When Japan entered World War II, the government needed the raw materials to fuel their military. And with Japanese men drafted into combat, more and more Koreans were forced to work in the timber yards and coal mines on the island as conscripted workers. This is my grandmother on my mother’s side, Chon Sam Soon. She’s 89 years old and lived through this time. She says that working in the mines was incredibly dangerous, but the Korean workers weren’t even seen as real people. So even if they died, they wouldn’t be properly buried. She’s saying these were the places where workers were sent to. And a lot of people died.
Roman Mars [00:06:29] So Korean migrants ended up on a remote island working in harsh conditions on behalf of the Japanese Empire. That is, until August 15th, 1945.
Newscaster #1 [00:06:41] Suddenly we got the word–from our private telephone line from the White House–the Japanese have accepted fully the surrender terms of the United Nations. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the Second World War.
Tatiana Kim [00:06:51] It was a huge occasion marked all over the world. And in Korea, the end of the Second World War was celebrated as Liberation Day–the moment when 35 years of Japanese colonial rule finally came to an end.
Newscaster #2 [00:07:05] 23 million Koreans achieved the freedom from Japanese oppression against which they had never ceased to fight.
Roman Mars [00:07:13] Towards the end of the war, Soviet forces invaded the southern half of Sakhalin. And as part of the Japanese surrender, the entire island became the territory of the USSR. This meant that all the Japanese and Korean people who were living there needed to return to their home countries because they were now on foreign soil. In Sakhalin alone, there were 400,000 Japanese citizens who needed to be repatriated.
Tatiana Kim [00:07:37] And because many Koreans were brought to Sakhalin by the Japanese government, they expected to return with them. Many waited at the port alongside the Japanese nationals as the boats began arriving in Sakhalin to take people home.
Changzoo Song [00:07:51] And then Japanese were taken to Japan, but not Koreans.
Tatiana Kim [00:07:56] This is Changzoo Song, Senior Lecturer in Korean and Asian Studies at the University of Auckland. He says that Koreans on Sakhalin were left behind.
Roman Mars [00:08:06] That’s because when Japan surrendered, it was forced to give up many of its colonies, including Korea.
Changzoo Song [00:08:12] Legally, until then, Koreans were Japanese citizens because Korea was a direct part of the Japanese Empire.
Roman Mars [00:08:21] This complicated the status of Koreans on the island because they weren’t Japanese citizens anymore, but they also didn’t have a functional Korean government yet to help them get back home.
Tatiana Kim [00:08:32] So an estimated 23,500 Koreans were trapped on Sakhalin and had no way of returning.
Changzoo Song [00:08:40] So all these Koreans, no one claimed. And no one paid attention. They were all desperate.
Roman Mars [00:08:54] Koreans in Sakhalin waited. And even after the North and South Korean governments were established in 1948, it just made repatriation more complicated because now there were two different Korean countries.
Tatiana Kim [00:09:07] South Korea was closely affiliated with the capitalist U.S., while the North stayed aligned with the Communist Soviet Union. The USSR actually did allow for the repatriation of Sakhalin Koreans, but only to their ally nation, North Korea.
Roman Mars [00:09:23] And there was one enormous problem with that.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:09:27] These conscript workers were mostly from southern province, Busan and Chola province. So, they are being repatriated to a North North Korea, which is not their homeland, actually.
Tatiana Kim [00:09:38] And the truth is, the Soviet Union had no reason to help Sakhalin Koreans return to their home country. With hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers now gone, the USSR was reliant on Korean labor to continue developing the island.
Changzoo Song [00:09:52] Soviet Union always need the people to develop–to maintain a certain level of production of foods, fishery, mining, building railway, and so on.
Tatiana Kim [00:10:06] Someone had to be there to work in the mines, cut the timber, and fish for food. Why allow Koreans to leave when they were a valuable workforce?
Roman Mars [00:10:17] The first generation of Koreans on Sakhalin had a difficult time adjusting to life under the USSR.
Tatiana Kim [00:10:24] They didn’t speak the Russian language, and many had never even seen Westerners before. A new reality under the Soviet Union was absolutely foreign to them. What made things harder was that most people had come to the island as temporary workers. So, parents, siblings, and sometimes spouses and children were left in Korea. This is my grandmother again. She’s saying that my grandfather was one of those people who had to leave everything behind when he came to Sakhalin. She says my grandfather didn’t want to go to Sakhalin, but he was conscripted to work for a couple of years. He had left behind a sweetheart who was waiting for him back in Korea. But by the time the war ended, there was no way to return home.
Changzoo Song [00:11:22] They lost all the hope. And they were in despair because they suddenly realized they cannot go home. They lost any motivation to work. They said we drank, and we sang. And the songs they were singing–you know, “I want to go my homeland.” They were really in despair for a while.
Tatiana Kim [00:11:46] This song, Come Back to Busan Port, was really popular among Sakhalin Koreans. It’s about missing loved ones who have been separated from Korea.
Roman Mars [00:12:10] By the 1950s, it was clear that this problem of repatriation was not going to be solved anytime soon. The Korean War and the Cold War both made it impossible to negotiate a diplomatic return. The South Korean government was busy rebuilding its country, and the Soviet government needed the labor. So, the USSR started allowing Sakhalin Koreans to apply for Soviet citizenship.
Tatiana Kim [00:12:33] But many people outright refused. In their eyes, citizenship meant commitment to the Soviet Union. This is Yulia Din, Senior Researcher of the Sakhalin Regional Museum, speaking to me in Russian. She says that in the eyes of these Koreans, adopting Soviet citizenship meant that you were giving up on the dream of one day returning home. Yulia is also Sakhalin Korean. And she says, to this day, her mother and aunt are not Russian citizens. They don’t have a passport, just a residence permit for stateless citizens. This created a lot of challenges for people. Every time they wanted to leave their town for any reason, they had to ask permission from the local police station. Things like visiting family or going to a funeral in a different part of Sakhalin were more difficult. Yulia says that stateless citizens had problems everywhere that others don’t have.
Roman Mars [00:13:44] The reality of the situation was that returning home was impossible. The Soviet Union was not going to allow them to leave, and Korea and Japan were not coming to rescue them.
Tatiana Kim [00:13:55] So if politics could not change, Sakhalin Koreans would have to. They needed to adapt if they wanted to build a better future for themselves and for the next generation. They learned Russian and sent their children to Soviet schools. Koreans integrated more, and in the process, Korean culture on Sakhalin started becoming its own unique identity.
Changzoo Song [00:14:18] You can tell that Sakhalin Koreans culture–even first-generation culture by then–it was a mixture of Korean culture, Japanese culture, and Russian culture layered in their language life, in their food.
Tatiana Kim [00:14:34] You could even see this blending of culture in the way my grandmother communicates. She’s saying that when she speaks, sometimes Japanese comes out, sometimes Russian or Korean. Growing up, I saw this hybrid culture all around me. For the New Year celebration, we would make Russian dumplings with kimchi mixed in it. And every year, when we honored our ancestors who passed away, our soban would have incense and a bottle of Russian vodka on it. As far back as I can remember, being ethnically Korean in Russia was something to be proud of.
Roman Mars [00:15:20] Since the end of World War II, there was essentially no communication between the USSR and South Korea. There were no phone calls and no mail service between separated family members, so many people weren’t sure if their loved ones were even still alive. Most people behind the Iron Curtain could only rely on their memories of the poor and rural country they had left behind, and many even believed that South Koreans were worse off than in the North.
Tatiana Kim [00:15:46] Which was actually true for a little while. But from the 1960s onward, the South Korean government began rapidly recovering from the devastation of war. By the 1980s, South Korea was flourishing. And one event in particular gave Sakhalin Koreans a glimpse of just how far their country had come–the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. This is my dad. He was 32 years old at the time and was watching the Seoul Olympics with his family. He says that everyone in Sakhalin watched. The house was full of elderly Koreans sitting in front of the television. He says that everyone kept talking about how developed Korea had become and how much progress it made. During the competitions, the older people were acting like kids again–cheering like children.
Roman Mars [00:17:30] Seeing South Korea as a developed nation and watching Soviet and Korean athletes competing alongside one another gave people hope that it would be possible to go back soon. The world was changing. New political ties were forming, and technology was evolving.
Tatiana Kim [00:17:45] All of these things led to a line of communication finally opening up between Sakhalin Koreans and their home country, which happened for the first time in the year 1990, surprisingly, on national public television. This is from a KBS live broadcast, called Reunions of Separated Families for Sakhalin Koreans. The goal of the special was to reunite Korean families who had been torn apart by war and geopolitical drama. South Korea and the Soviet Union arranged a video conference call where separated families were finally able to speak again over video link.
Roman Mars [00:18:31] In many cases, people were learning that their relatives were still alive on national television.
Tatiana Kim [00:18:36] In this clip, a Sakhalin Korean man is seeing his mother for the first time in 45 years. He keeps saying, “Mom, mom,” while she cries uncontrollably. Here’s my dad, again. He says that no one was indifferent. Everybody was crying. His mother–my babushka–was there watching, too. She knew many of the people who participated in this broadcast. She would cry, and she would say, “I know her.” And then she would tell him what their names were and what she remembered about them.
Roman Mars [00:19:32] When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Koreans on Sakhalin finally had an opening to return home. Some went immediately.
Tatiana Kim [00:19:41] Returns mostly took place through visiting programs assisted by humanitarian organizations or by religious groups. But Yulia Din, from the Sakhalin Regional Museum, says that the early years of return were incredibly rocky. She says it was a “nightmare.” People who really wanted to leave mostly had to either use their own money or rely on relatives in South Korea. There was no governmental support to help people resettle at that time. There were people who wanted to leave Sakhalin just for the sake of leaving. For them, returning to Korea was the end goal. Many older Sakhalin Koreans had been waiting for so long to repatriate that they were willing to move back at any cost. Some sold everything they had. Others left their spouses if they refused to go with them.
Roman Mars [00:20:42] For many who returned in those early years, it was not the reunion they dreamed of for five decades. South Korea had changed completely, and now they were strangers in a new country. What should have felt familiar was foreign to them.
Tatiana Kim [00:21:01] Yulia says that because many of the people repatriating were older, their relatives had already died. And at this late stage of life, it was difficult to start over again. “It was just an irrational desire to return.”
Jae-Hyung Park [00:21:20] This concept of homeland is very tricky one. Yeah. At the beginning, homeland is a nice place. But later on, homeland can become a hell.
Roman Mars [00:21:33] Regardless of the difficulties, the goal of successful repatriation never went away. Throughout the 1990s, the new Russian government was much more open to letting people leave the country. The Korean and Japanese governments also started to acknowledge the existence of Sakhalin Koreans and wanted to do something to correct past injustices.
Tatiana Kim [00:21:52] In order to make amends for its part in using forced labor, the government of Japan earmarked ¥3.2 billion to pay for the transit, housing, and financial assistance of Sakhalin Koreans. The South Korean government provided land to build housing on.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:22:10] It was a joint venture between Russia and Japan. And then the Korean government worked together. It’s an incredible diplomatic achievement for Russia, Japan, and Korea because these three countries–they cannot talk to each other, they have so many past issues. They agreed to do this, and then they came through. So, it’s a big achievement.
Roman Mars [00:22:32] This international cooperation allowed people from Sakhalin to move to a number of housing complexes and nursing homes across South Korea. And in the year 2000, a formal repatriation program was established. The first and only settlement constructed specifically for Sakhalin Koreans was built in South Korea.
Tatiana Kim [00:22:51] It was Gohyang Maeul–or Hometown Village–the very same community that I visited my grandparents at in Ansan.
Roman Mars [00:22:59] This complex was meant to address the problems associated with repatriation. Residents didn’t just get free housing but a support system to navigate a new country.
Tatiana Kim [00:23:09] More than a thousand elderly Sakhalin Koreans received a small apartment, along with a modest pension, since most of the residents had retired or couldn’t work. There was good health available and friendly staff. They also had access to the Korean and Japanese Red Cross on site, who helped residents get anything they might need for their new homes.
Roman Mars [00:23:31] Today, the community comprises eight different apartment buildings and houses more than 700 people. There’s a lounge for playing mahjong and lotto, which is like the Russian version of Bingo, and a room for playing table tennis. There’s even a local choir and a karaoke room, all just for former Sakhalin Koreans.
Tatiana Kim [00:23:50] Residents have basically everything they would ever need without having to leave this small Russian Korean community. My grandma says that Gohyang Maeul is quite livable, and she took a liking to it. She can talk to her grandchildren whenever she wants, and she can travel back to Russia once a year.
Roman Mars [00:24:15] But having a comfortable life is a big change. And idle hands are difficult to get used to.
Tatiana Kim [00:24:21] In the Soviet Union and Russia, all the Koreans fought to survive. Many people from this generation, like my grandmother, never learned how to just… enjoy life. And with all of this time and no grandchildren around to take care of, it was an uneasy feeling. Yulia Din’s grandfather repatriated to South Korea in the early 2000s. And she says she thinks about something her grandfather said to her–when she asked him how he liked Korea, he told her that there was nothing to do there, except for one thing: to stare out the window and wait until you die.
Roman Mars [00:25:15] But the biggest criticism with the repatriation program was that it was only available to a select few who qualified: those who were born before August 15th, 1945.
Tatiana Kim [00:25:26] The program was only open to what they call the first generation of Sakhalin Koreans. These were the people who had been born prior to the end of World War II. This generation would be allowed to return to Korea and would be financially supported, but only if they were willing to leave behind their families that they had built on Sakhalin.
Roman Mars [00:25:45] So in attempting to reunify separated families in Korea, the repatriation program ended up causing even more family separations.
Changzoo Song [00:25:54] I mean, ideally, yeah, you would just allow the whole family to come. However, imagine that you have already three generations–you know, the first generation, second generation, third generation. So, Tatyana, you are third generation?
Tatiana Kim [00:26:10] Yep.
Changzoo Song [00:26:10] But depending on the age when they were born, even second generation–already, they lost quite a bit of Korean language. And South Korea–it would be a foreign country.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:26:23] So this is the tragedy of the diaspora, right?
Tatiana Kim [00:26:26] Here’s Jae-Hyung Park, again.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:26:28] When they leave Sakhalin, they go back to Korea. Now their homeland has become Sakhalin. And then that takes some years for them to process, you know. Oh God, it was not the land, you know? Actually, it was the people that I was attached to. And then my people are now in Sakhalin, my homeland. My home is in Sakhalin now.
Roman Mars [00:26:54] In 2020, new legislation was passed that expanded the eligibility requirements for Sakhalin Koreans to repatriate. Now the first generation are allowed to bring one direct descendant and that person’s spouse. But for a lot of younger Sakhalin Koreans, it’s less about returning to an ancestral homeland than it is a practicality. For them, there are both opportunities and obligations waiting in South Korea.
Tatiana Kim [00:27:19] My mom actually moved to Gohyang Maeul to care for my grandmother just last year. She is grateful for the chance to come to South Korea. They don’t need to worry about rent on their apartment, and she gets good health care there. But for Sakhalin Koreans my mom’s age, moving there is a completely different experience. My mom says that deep into her bones, she’s a Russian. In Russia, she feels like a fish in the pond. But in Korea, it’s a little difficult. Even though she speaks the language, she still has trouble communicating with native Koreans, especially the younger ones.
Roman Mars [00:28:08] Despite all the assistance that the South Korean and Japanese governments have provided, or the legislation that has been passed, or housing complexes that were built, it simply isn’t enough. Repatriation came 50 years too late. Much of the first generation who yearn to return to South Korea died long before the program started. And the people who did live to see their homeland again were too old to make the most of it.
Tatiana Kim [00:28:33] Jae-Hyung Park says that the word where Gohyang Maeul gets its name from is a powerful word in Korean. The literal translation is “hometown,” but it’s a much bigger, more meaningful word than that.
Jae-Hyung Park [00:28:47] Gohyang is a concept of… It’s a homeland concept in Korean. It’s, like, a very much–how do you say… It’s an emotional one, right? Yeah, it’s an emotional one. It’s not attached necessarily to the concept of a nation. It’s a land concept that is like a particular town or village that they are born. People wanted to go back to those same particles, you know, in the land. Same earth, same plants, trees around them. And that’s where they believe that they are rooted.
Tatiana Kim [00:29:27] There is a monument in Sakhalin at the port in Korsakov. It’s a tall metal statue that looks like an abstract pair of sails pointing towards the sea. This monument is dedicated to the tens of thousands of forgotten Koreans who never got a chance to go home. I visited back in February.
Tatyana Kim (field tape): [00:29:45] Starting again, since I messed up the first recording. I’m at the Korsakov port. Korsakov is a small town. I see small houses.
Tatiana Kim [00:29:59] There is a plaque, of course. I translated some of it from Russian.
Tatyana Kim (field tape): [00:30:02] “To those who haven’t got to meet their motherland. August 1945, in Korsakov Port, there were 2000 of our peers who were forced to…”.
Tatiana Kim [00:30:16] I actually moved from Russia to the US a few months ago and wanted to visit the monument before I left. In a way, it made me feel closer to the story. Even though I was leaving the country by choice, it wasn’t clear when I’d be able to return home to Sakhalin. My dad actually drove me to the monument, and on the way back we started talking about the 1988 Seoul Olympics and what it must have been like to see his homeland on television. He made a very important distinction that I hadn’t really thought about before. I had insinuated that Korea was his homeland, but my dad corrected me. He said that the Soviet Union is his homeland. Korea is his motherland. Motherland is the place that you are connected to by your ancestors. And even though he feels Korean, it will never feel like home. This is from a home video of my babushka, my grandmother from my father’s side. It was her birthday back in the year 2000. She’s standing and singing at her dining room table, which is full of Russian and Korean food. Friends and relatives of both Korean and Russian descent are sitting together, drinking vodka–maybe a little too much vodka. She passed away in 2020, and I wish that I could have talked to her for this story. I will always remember how easily she moved between three languages: Korean, Russian, and Japanese. She mixed them up and made her own unique words and phrases. Babushka decided to remain on Sakhalin, even though she was given the chance to leave. I’m so grateful that she stayed because she was a huge influence on my life. So much of me came from her. The history of Koreans and Sakhalin is a sad one, but it’s not only about loss. I want to believe that it’s also about the creation of something entirely new–a new mixed culture, new perspectives, new families, new lives. Even though Korea, Japan, and Russia all had difficult political relationships with one another, Babushka brought the best parts of each identity together. She embraced them all to make something wonderful and different exactly where she was.
Roman Mars [00:33:49] This story was produced by Tatiana Kim and Vivian Le, edited by Emmett FitzGerald. Coming up, we wrap up “The Future of…” Advance is proud to offer free curbside services at most locations for most vehicles to help drivers like you get back on the road. Head to your local Advance Auto Parts to get your existing battery tested for free. If you need to buy a new battery, they can recommend and install one that’s right for you, including the powerful, durable, and reliable DieHard Battery. Plus, Advance team members will test your starter and alternator to make sure your car starts and charges for even the longest road trips. They’ll also install your new wiper blades for free, loan out tools for your DIY projects, perform check engine light scanning, and more. Go to advanceautoparts.com, download the Advance mobile app, or visit a store for more details. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. When you’re at your best, you can do great things. But sometimes life gets you bogged down, and you may feel overwhelmed or like you’re not showing up the way you want to. Working with a therapist can help you get closer to the best version of you. You don’t need to wait for a crisis to benefit from therapy. A great therapist can save the day before the day needs to be saved. If you’re thinking about giving therapy a try, BetterHelp is a great option. It’s convenient, flexible, affordable, and entirely online. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists any time at no additional charge. You want to live a more empowered life; therapy can get you there. Visit betterhealth.com/invisible today to get 10% off your first month. That’s betterhelp.com/invisible. Many of today’s occupations didn’t really exist a decade ago. Driverless car engineers, cryptocurrency analysts, podcasters–if I’m being honest. From Etsy seller to emoji translator, new opportunities to build a career are popping up every day. And Squarespace is the ultimate tool for professionals to build a site to market their brand and sell anything. Features like Squarespace Analytics allow you to use insights to grow your business. The appointment scheduling feature allows you to add online booking and scheduling to your Squarespace website. With the video studio app feature, you can create and share Pro-Level videos. Squarespace even offers a member area feature, where you can sell access to gated content, like videos, online courses, or newsletters. All the modern tools you need for the new jobs of today. Head to squarespace.com/invisible for a free trial, and when you’re ready to launch, use the offer code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. This time of year means spring cleaning. And it’s also your annual reminder that you need more storage space. Article has everything you need to organize your bedroom, living room, and dining room with dressers, nightstands, sideboards, and more. I think my favorite piece of furniture in my house is my Geome sideboard. It’s where I hold my records and CDs. And I’m going to anticipate your next question–yes, I still have hundreds of CDs. You know why? Because if I did not have the CD of Bob Mould’s Hubcap album, I wouldn’t be able to listen to it. It’s not really available for streaming, but I don’t worry about that because I have the CD in the upper right corner of my Geome sideboard. Plus, Article has all the other furniture you want to get your space looking its best. Thanks to their online-only model, Article has some really delightful prices too. Article offers fast, affordable shipping across the U.S. and Canada. Plus, you pick the delivery time. They’ll send you updates every step of the way. Their knowledgeable customer care team is there when you need them to make sure your experience is smooth and stress free. Article is offering our listeners $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. To claim, visit article.com/99 and the discount will automatically be applied at checkout. That’s article.com/99 for $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. Over the last several months, we produced a series of episodes called “The Future of…” With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we’ve been exploring how changes to the way we live, learn, work, and play may shape our health and wellbeing in years to come. The project was conceived at the very start of the COVID pandemic. So even though the futures that we were looking at went well beyond that immediate health crisis, we used that drastic shakeup in our lives and routines to really look at our accepted status quo with fresh eyes. Our first episode was all about the future of the office. It turned out that people have been going back and forth about what makes a healthy and productive office since there have been offices.
Allison Arieff [00:39:07] So, you know, Facebook, when they were first emerging as a company, they bought the old Sun Microsystems building in Menlo Park and doubled the amount of people in the same office space. Of course, they didn’t pitch it that way. They said, “Oh my God, this is so amazing. We have all these collaborative collisions and spontaneous interactions because everyone’s in here.” And then they hired Frank Gehry to design this giant warehouse next to the doubled-in-size Sun Microsystems. And to me, that building looks exactly like the rows of desks of, like, little telephone banks that secretaries had in the 1950s. But it was supposed to be so radical and so amazing that everybody was on the same floor, and they were all going to be so innovative. But it’s so retrograde.
Roman Mars [00:39:56] The next episode was all about the future of broadband, which has become a central utility in the modern world. But a last mile problem and a consortium of private Internet service providers are keeping it from reaching all the people who need it.
Katie Thornton [00:40:09] The goal of for-profit companies will always be to make money, which is why a lot of people still believe that quality internet access for everyone means eventually treating broadband as a right, not just a commodity. And that requires intervention by people who are accountable to votes and not just dollars.
Roman Mars [00:40:28] Then we looked at the future of public health data and how an interconnected global population requires more modern approaches to the gathering and sharing of information critical to our survival.
Delaney Hall [00:40:39] There are just so many examples of how our COVID data was unstandardized or incomplete. Like, did you know that a lot of our local health departments are still at the mercy of fax machines?
Roman Mars [00:40:52] And finally, we looked at the future of environmental law and conservation with the rise of the environmental personhood movement.
Rose Eveleth [00:40:59] Rights of nature is pretty much what it sounds like–the idea that you could treat nature like a person, legally.
Roman Mars [00:41:06] Each story will entertain you and get you thinking about the future that we’re all about to share. All episodes are out now. Just scroll through or search the 99% Invisible feed for “The Future of…” and listen. Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support. 99% Invisible was produced this week by Tatiana Kim and Vivian Le. Edited by Emmett FitzGerald. Fact checking by Graham Hacia. Mix and tech production by Martín Gonzalez. Music by director of sound Swan Real. Translation by our very own 99PI intern Sarah Baik. You came just in the nick of time. Special thanks this week to Yi Sunyoung, Pak Sun Ok, Lee Sou Din, Ha Soonee, Kim Dyun Chel, and of course… to Tatiana’s babushka, Moon Kha Ok. 99% Invisible’s Executive Producer is Delaney Hall. Kurt Kohlstedt is the digital director. The rest of the team includes Chris Berube, Christopher Johnson, Lasha Madan, Sofia Klatzker, Jayson De Leon, Joe Rosenberg, and me, Roman Mars. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building — in beautiful uptown Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99pi at 99pi.org.