Times Weekender; Young Russian Looks into Korea with Sharp Eyes

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 30, 2000 | Go to article overview

Times Weekender; Young Russian Looks into Korea with Sharp Eyes


The name Vladimir Tikhonov probably won't ring a bell to many Koreans. And even people who may have read the 29-year-old Russian's writings in vernacular newspapers may question whether he is qualified to express his opinions on Korea.

At first glance of his writing, Tikhonov can be easily mistaken as just an ``ordinary foreigner,'' living in Korea with enough command in Korean to express peripheral opinions on Korea.

However, judging him on those lines would be an underestimation of his understanding of Korea.

In his past three years as a professor of Russian language at KyungHee University, Tikhanov did not limit himself to solely teaching Russian, but became a keen student of the Korean society.

His criticisms of the Korean society seem harsh at first, especially in the field of Korean scholarship, in which he says the relationship between a professor and a student is based on ``mutual interests'' and is seriously ``distorted.''

``Although there are some exceptions, what I observed is that in Korean academ cs, it is very typical for a person in a higher position to force the person in a l sser position to do what ever he wants,'' Tikhonov said, adding that he expected Korean socie y to be based more on classical Confucianism where relations are built on respect and morality -- not on mutual interest.

``What we have in modern Korea, however, is a much more primitive relationship, where more influential, and people with connections, sometimes very cruelly exploit the younger people. And the younger people just accept the situation hoping to get some protection in exchange.''

To give an example, Tikhonov said just last week, he received an ``order'' from a senior professor to translate a Korean document into Russian. which he politely refused.

Some people may dismiss his criticism and say that the young foreigner's criticism comes from a lack of knowledge on the Korean history and Confucian teachings which devised a hierarchical system that showed everyone's place in society and their relationship to one another.

However, Tikhonov's scholarly background in Korean literature and history gives weight to his arguments.

Although he is too modest to use the word ``fluent,'' Tikhonov is very fluently -- and even writes and understands Chinese characters. It would not be an over statement to say that he knows more Chinese characters than many Koreans undergraduates..

It was toward the end of Socialist rule in the 1980s, during the political hardship in Russia when Tikhonov turned to literature and sought psychological comfort in Korean classical novels. …

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