Vladislav Kushnirenko – Chance meeting with the Korean delegation of historians

Communication with other teachers is extremely important for any teacher. It not only helps to get an emotional relief, but also provides an opportunity to look at the teaching activities from the other side. Such communication is more useful especially if we are talking about the colleagues from another country.

It happened in August, when the labor detachment of high school students under my leadership cleaned a Monument to the partisans. A large bus stopped near the square. Then I saw Asian tourists getting off the bus. My students did not pay attention to them —  because it is not surprisingly to meet guests from Japan, China or Korea in Khabarovsk. But there was something special in these tourists. Instead of a quick “photo shoot” near the monument with a short story of the guide, the guests listened attentively to the head of the group, who gave a small excursion for them. After that, something happened that immediately made it clear – they are not tourists.

One of them approached the monument and laid flowers on it, and the whole group bowed. We were surprised. It was also surprising how approvingly tourists looked at the students who were carefully removing the grass between the bricks. Soon we got answers to our dumb questions. It turned out that tourist who laid flowers at the monument speak Russian well. Moreover, the head of the group was a Professor of history, a well-known and respected scientist dealing with the Korean liberation movement. These tourists were his students, most of them were teachers. And they visited a Monument to guerrillas because of a professional interest.

When I told the Russian-speaking Korean that I am a history teacher too, he shared this information with the professor. His reaction surprised me. The Professor shook my hand and said something approvingly in Korean. Then he introduced me to the students. When they heard about my job, they clapped and started asking questions. One of them asked me ” When you study the history of Russia, do you pay attention to Korean history?” It was evident that everybody was interested in this. I replied that we love our country and its great history, but we also study the history of other countries. The history of Asia is especially interesting for us, taking into account the geographical proximity and the pace of modern development of this region.

After a picture together and kind words, a group of Korean historians disappeared, left me alone with my thoughts. How much can we learn from people with a different culture and mentality.  For example, in relation to teachers — when a Russian-speaking Korean was talking about his Professor, he spoke with sincere respect and admiration. And the students treated me not just like a young Russian, but like a member of a difficult and important profession. Then I realized that Koreans don’t perceive teachers as employees, but as mentors and bringers of knowledge. We don’t have such attitude in Russia! We can learn from the Koreans to be respectful to the history of other nations. Their bow to the Monument is in my memory forever! We can also follow them in respecting the work — tourists sincerely praised the students for cleaning the monument.

This chance but amazing meeting gave me the opportunity to look at my profession from the other side, from the point of view of the Asian mentality. This allowed me to realize how important and necessary my work is. Because I contribute not only to improving the level of knowledge of students, but also to the education of a whole generation. We have a lot to learn from our neighbors from Korea.

The author: Vladislav Kushnirenko – history and social science teacher.

                                                                                                   Translated by Anna Maistrenko, APIR Center

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