Go to contents

Student Club Promotes Korea-Russia Ties

Posted December. 23, 2005 03:00,   


Baek Joo-hyun, the counselor for Political Affairs at Korean Embassy in Russia, gave a presentation titled, “The Development of Korean-Russian Relations in a Dynamic Northeast Asia” at a regular gathering of the “Kareiski,” a student club at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations made up of 20 Russian students and 40 Korean students studying in Russia (the word “Kareiski” refers to Koreans in Russia).

Baek was the first Korean diplomat to work in the former Soviet Union during the 1990s.

Baek was nervous as he fielded sharp questions from the meeting’s participants, but he answered carefully based on his long experience as diplomat. “I watched German re-unification and the collapse of the former Soviet Union with my own eyes. Historical incidents sometimes strike at an unexpected hour,” he said.

The club organizes meetings such as these by inviting outside professionals to speak in a casual atmosphere three to four times per semester. Not long ago, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency’s Eastern Europe director and the Moscow branch manager of the Korea Tourism Organization were also invited.

When the North Korean nuclear issue came to a head, a high-ranking diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in Russia was invited to speak on U.S. policy regarding the North Korean nuclear issue.

Students also listen to speakers talk about their experiences and about life.

This school was originally founded to train diplomats and overseas-bound workers during the former Soviet era. However, diplomacy is not as popular these days in Russia, and foreign companies and energy related businesses that offer salaries dozens of times higher are favored. One student confessed, “I entered this school to become a diplomat, but am considering joining a private company because of better treatment.”

Baek talked about some of his most rewarding moments and hardships as diplomat, saying “I also went through a similar experience 20 years ago,” and gave an advice, “View life in a bigger picture than just immediate economic gains and losses, and choose your career path prudently.”

Counselor Baek said the most memorable moment in his career as a diplomat was when he arranged a meeting between Gennady Osipovich, the Soviet fighter jet pilot who shot down Korea Airlines Flight 007 over Sakhalin, Russia in September 1983, and the victims’ families, and even interpreted for them for nine hours.

Students nodded when Baek recalled the event. “It was hard to interpret the feelings in addition to the spoken words,” Baek said.

The Kareiski Club also holds various events such as Korean movie screenings. The president of the club, Alexandro Shevchenko, said, “We will open a special course on tea ceremonies soon.”

Most of the Russian students are future Korean professionals who are majoring in Korean studies. Many of them were associated with or developed an interest in Korea for a lot of reasons even before entering school.

Nicolai Slekov, currently a sophomore studying international relations, decided to major in Korean studies after he won a visit to Korea in a Russian version of a quiz show called “Umniki Umnicha,” held by LG Electronics for high school students. Anya Schnin’kovskaya, a female student also studying international relations, was born in Vladivostok just a short distance away from Korea, and gained an interest in Korea naturally.

Most of the members of the club eventually join the Russian Foreign Ministry and Korean companies. The first vice president of the club, Yilya Pyodortov, is currently taking an MBA course in Korea thanks to a Samsung Electronics scholarship. He plans to work for Samsung after finishing a three-year course of study in Korea. “I think being a member of the Kareiski Club helped me be selected for the scholarship,” he said.

It also is a club that helps Korean students in Russia adapt to local life. Lee Ro-ah, the club’s co-president, said, “Our club is a forum for future major players to experience bilateral relations.”

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com