Tigers with Wings



Russian Ladies praise Korean Education

    Y.S.Kim (1998.7.5)

    I came back last night from my trip to Armenia. Armenia is a small country surrounded by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran. There are many Armenians in the United States, and they are known as very stubborn people. In 301 AD, Armenia adopted Christianity as the national religion 32 years before the Roman Empire did. However, it is very interesting to note that Armenians still preserve their pagan traditions.

    Like most of the former Soviet republics, Armenia is depressed from the economic point of view. But they know how to make themselves happy. On my hotel floor, there were many French girls from Paris, and I was able to compare them with their Armenian counterparts. Indeed, to my eyes, the Armenian girls were quite capable of pushing those French girls to back seats.

    Quite contrary to the impression we have about the former Soviet republics, Armenian maintains a very close tie with Russia because they need each other. For instance, Armenia's Turkish border is guarded by Russian combat troops. The physics conference which I attended was jointly organized by Yerevan State University and JINR (Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna). For all practical purposes, the JINR was running the show, and its director and his secretarial staff came all the way from Dubna (north of Moscow).

    I was told by the organizers that I would receive an honorarium (extra money) of 50 USDollars, but I was not happy in view of the financial problems Russians are having these days. Yet, it would be very rude to decline their offer. After some agony, I pulled out a piece of Korean wisdom: to eat up and drink up. Then, two intelligent-looking Russian ladies came to me and hand-delivered to me five fresh $10 bills. I then proposed to them that I and they go to one of Yerevan's best French restaurants and spend all $50 (about $300 if spent in the U.S.). They laughed and readily agreed with me. So we went, and spent happy hours there. It would not be appropriate to mention here their names and their positions, but both of them spent more than 20 years at JINR as administrators and they know very well the physics world.

    After we left the restaurant, we spent one hour on the streets. At one point, we met an ice-cream vendor who speaks fluent English. I asked him how old he is, and he said sixteen. I then showed him my two hands and told him I went to the United States when I was 19 years old with two empty hands but I am now famous enough to be invited by his country. I told him further that he should also go to the U.S. to study. Then there was a surprise. One of the Russian ladies said to him "Prof. Kim had an excellent preparation before going to the U.S. You should therefore study very very hard as Prof. Kim did." How did she know that I had an excellent preparation?

    I frequently say that I had the world's best education before coming the United States to young Koreans in order to encourage them. However, I never say this to non-Koreans for diplomatic reasons. Then how did these Russian ladies sense my thinking? It is also remarkable that I heard similar comments from a number of Russian women during my earlier visits to Russia. Then, is there a secret communication channel between Korean boys and Russian girls? I wrote an article in 1995 on this subject, and you are invited to read my article entitled "Can Koreans talk to Koreans?" (1995.11.14), which contains the following two paragraphs.

    One hundred years ago, Korean boys (girls) were not allowed to talk to girls (boys). These days they talk too much. Then when and how did they pick up the romance culture? It was during the period 1920-40. During this 20-year period, Koreans learned how to write Hangul and learned how to write love letters. The romance culture during this period was well documented by the Korean novels written Lee Kwang Soo. These days, he is known as a pro-Japanese traitor to our young people, but I am not interested in discussing this issue here.

    I was told by my friends in literary circles that Lee Kwang Soo was heavily influenced by Tolstoy. This means that Koreans and Russians had the same romance style at least for 20 years. However, this 20-year-period could be a slice of several hundred years. Thus, my recommendation is that you should talk like Captain Bronsky when you talk to a Russian girl. She may then talk to you like Anna Karerina.