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Far East in Korea

Leonid Blyakher about the inhabitants of the Russian Far East who moved to Asia

Far East in Korea

Leonid Blyakher

Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Culturology of the Pacific State University, Doctor of Philosophy
Due to my age, I still remember the period when leaving abroad was perceived almost as the funeral of the departing person. Rare letters, even rarer news-packages. And that's all. Silence. Today the situation is different. People go to work, go where their professional qualities and skills are more in demand. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't. But communication is not interrupted. Following, along the already trodden paths, the next "generations" of migrants go, friends come to visit. Themselves "pawned" visit the abandoned penates.

Of course, China remains the main area of ​​attraction in the region. Habitual, more habitable country. Russian (at least in the northern part) is common. Yes, and Chinese in the Far Eastern borderland is becoming more common and famous. But, oddly enough, the Russian diaspora in China is much less stable. But in Korea they are different. Of course, there are official student and teacher exchange programs, tours of creative teams, state-recognized joint business projects, tourism, etc. But informal interaction, based not so much on decisions of high authorities, but on interpersonal contracts, acquaintances, and connections, is developing much more actively.

Somehow we talked with a good friend who has been living in Seoul for many years. “This is not heaven at all,” she told me. - Different culture, different rules. We have always been and will be strangers here. Even Koreans from Russia don't all get used to it. But, you know, it's convenient to live here. Life here is somehow easier. You don't notice him. " I wanted to speculate about the life of the Far Easterners in this country, their significance for us living in Russia.

South Korea (Republic of Korea) for many years the Soviet Union was a closed and mysterious country both for the region and for the whole of the USSR. The Far Easterners knew their "own" Koreans, who were not particularly different from all other inhabitants of the Far East. They knew the North Koreans ("Korean loggers"), the attitude towards which was very ambiguous, despite official friendship.

About the inhabitants of South Korea, at best, they heard something from the seamen of foreign countries entering Pusan. Perhaps the starting point of the "opening of Korea" was the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. It turned out that this is not only the "American puppets", but the leaders in the field of electronics, household chemicals, auto business, shipbuilding and much more. As the Far East opened up in the Asia-Pacific in the 90-ies, there were also more close contacts. Not very stable, not always successful. But already in that period the first migrations from Russia to South Korea begin.

The first to appear on the territory of the southern neighbor are ethnic Koreans who have not lost their kinship ties in the country of exodus. The stream of these immigrants was not particularly large. But he was. Then the oncoming traffic begins. A very small group of entrepreneurs from the "country of morning freshness" is supplemented by a very tangible and visible stream of ... Christian preachers. They create the first religious communities in the region. In Korea, most often, the Holy Texts appeared on the completely atheistic Far East of Russia. These preachers became another channel of information about South Korea. In their sermons the missionaries willingly included musical numbers, variety performances. The contact between the Far Eastern and Korean musicians is beginning. In the same 90-s the first, far not only religious, musical projects, tours are being organized. Far Eastern musicians are beginning to master Korean orchestras and clubs, bars and resorts.

At the same time, contacts begin between universities. More precisely, at the first stage, between specific teachers and researchers. Engineers, ethnographers, historians, teachers of foreign languages ​​and many others begin to counter movement. And if the trips of their Korean colleagues rarely went beyond the scope of a project or a conference, the Far East's strategies were more complicated. Someone, having attended a conference or participated in a project, returned home. And someone preferred to stay "for a course of lectures", "for a one-year contract" or something else. Since the salaries of teachers in Russian and Korean universities at that time differed by 15-20 times (not in favor of the Russian Far East), they could be understood.

 At the same time, programmers and other figures of the IT sector were drawn to the South-East. The "shuttles" did not lag behind. Goods from South Korea, as well as goods from China, are becoming familiar on the shelves in Primorye and Khabarovsk Krai. But the goods from Korea were considered, and are considered more qualitative and prestigious.

Migration legislation in the Republic of Korea is quite tough. Naturalization is possible almost exclusively through marriage or through programs for the return of ethnic Koreans. As a rule, we are talking about a one-year contract, which, however, can be prolonged. He also was prolonged. Programmers and artists, teachers and entrepreneurs, very different specialists and not very habitable in South Korea. They are not yet competing with Indonesians and Filipinos, who have long been living in these regions. But there are already quite a few of them. They often have only a formal contract that allows them to get a working visa, fill the sphere of freelance, actively participate in economic life, open shops and cafes "for Russians".

In the fat "zero" years, economic cooperation between the countries also intensifies. These include investments in geological exploration, and the reconstruction of the Khabarovsk refinery, and some other projects. However, their volume remains rather modest. "Popular development" of South Korea remains much more intense. Groups of Far Eastern entrepreneurs focused on this country have formed and are working.  

During the years of Russian prosperity, new areas of attraction for my fellow countrymen in Korea appear. The first is medicine. It is difficult for me to judge how much the level of Korean medicine is higher than that of domestic medicine. Not a specialist. But getting medical treatment in Korea is becoming prestigious. This is an indicator of income and status. Medical tourism to South Korea is becoming almost commonplace for the Far East, although not cheap. Beach tourism remained somewhat less popular. The reason is clear. Tours to China and Thailand have filled this niche while remaining substantially cheaper. However, the popularity of Jeju (the country's main resort) is gradually growing. The only obvious advantage here was the proximity of the resting place (by Far Eastern standards, of course). Not the usual 6-8 hours of flight, but less than three. Very close.

After a recession in the economy of the region in the 2013 and subsequent years, there are several new flows. The first, begins earlier, today becoming only more intense. This is the sphere of model business. South Korea today is actively trying on the role of the capital of fashion and pop art in the APR. Models with European appearance are very popular here. A successful project in Seoul or Busan can be a start for a career in other countries.

The sharp reduction after 2012 in the load of the construction complex in the region, which continues to this day, has led to an outflow of professional builders to the “country of morning freshness”. The situation is understandable. Korea is experiencing a construction boom. Giant construction projects cover almost the entire territory of the country. In the Far East, however, the demand for these specialists, despite all the reports, is becoming more and more imaginary. The built houses are empty. Fewer and fewer new ones are being laid. So labor resources are flowing. The relative liberalization of the visa regime only facilitates the flow. They usually travel for a short time. For work. Another form of "otkhodniki" Far Easterners is informal employment (officially - tourism) for agricultural work. Here, too, the departure is temporary. Earn and return.

Today we can talk about the existence of a stable Russian diaspora in Korea. The elite here, as a rule, are those who were able to obtain Korean citizenship. They are not related to the need to extend the visa, the presence of a formal (often economically unprofitable) work contract, a place of residence. Accordingly, they have more opportunities to organize their own enterprises or projects. As few studies and own author's observations show, they prefer to involve their former compatriots in their projects. Ethnicity is secondary. It may or may not be ethnic Koreans. Language and cultural traditions are more important.

Those Far Eastern migrants who have been living in South Korea for many years now occupy quite serious positions. A wide range of acquaintances. More or less strong rootedness in the local community allows them to easily solve formal problems, act as “guides and mentors” for new migrants. Short-term migrants - “otkhodniks” act as a permanent resource that replenishes and strengthens the diaspora. This diaspora is rather loose, without a clear structure, say, the Turkish community in Germany or the Indian community in Egypt. But the potential significance of such a diaspora, as, indeed, of all Russian diasporas in the world that maintain a connection with Russia, is enormous.

In the rosy years, when the wounds of the Second World War healed, and the world began to rapidly globalize, there is an attempt to realize the dream - to create simple and understandable norms of international communication, primarily in the economic sphere. But, alas, this, far from the first attempt, as the events of recent years show, turned out to be of limited success. Conflicts are increasingly tearing apart international institutions, reducing their impact, and weakening trust between citizens of different states. And here personal ties take the place of institutions, interpersonal trust replaces and complements the declining trust in international institutions. Without such personal guides (who are trusted by the participants in the interaction), it becomes more and more difficult to do things in the world. Diasporas integrated into the local community are ideal and universal guides in this regard. Moreover, the Russian diaspora in Korea for the Far East. It would be good. Of course, so that the official structures (embassies, missions, consulates) of Russia suddenly learn to see in migrants not only people from whom you can fuck something, but also a critically important economic and political resource. But even without this, “ours there” is the most direct way to integrate Russia into the APR. Without it, all forums, conversations and negotiations will remain a "protocol of intent."  
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