Vol.10, No.03 (August 2001)
[Fellow Essay]
2001 Fellows Spring Field Trip 

"A Journey to Breathe
the Essence of Korean Culture"

Denis Samsonov, Graduate student, Saint-Petersburg State University (ansamson@peterlink.ru)

The trip began on Thursday, May 24. It was a nice, sunny spring day.  Two comfortable buses departed from the Diplomatic Center building, where the office of Korea Foundation is located. According to the schedule, we headed toward the southeastern region of the Korean peninsula known as the Yongnam area. As you know, this region is very rich in different historical sights.
In Gyeogsang province it is possible to see the remains of many periods of Korean history and to fill the flowing of the history river.

As I have been studying the Korean language and culture since 1995, it was very interesting for me to see with my own eyes all of the relics of the ancient culture that I have heard about from professors?lectures at my University in Saint-Petersburg.

Our first stop was Dosan Seowon (which I sometimes call Cheonwon Seowon, because as you know a picture of this Confucian Academy is on the 1,000 won bill). The lecture given by the American professor awoke in my mind everything I had learned about the atmosphere of the Joseon Dynasty, its system of government and the life of its officials.


Over the three days of our journey we visited many places related to Korean culture but unfortunately because of a lack of space it is rather difficult to give a detailed description of everything we saw. However, I would like to mention one place, where I could feel the unique atmosphere of Korean history. On our second day, we toured the Yangdong Folk Village, where we visited the birthplace of the famous Confucian scholar Yi Eonjeok of the Joseon Dynasty. In my opinion, the tour of Yangdong Folk Village allowed us to experience and see up close how people actually lived in the past. The explanation about the historical meaning of this site was given by a descendant of this scholar.  In spite of the fact
that he was busy with his everyday work, he
maed the time to give us a detailed explanation
of the his family and the difficulties experienced
during the period of Japanese colonial rule in

Smile! KF Fellows visit Confusian Academy
Dosan Seowon.

Listening to the words of this man so full of patriotic sentiments who was able to realize his destiny to preserve the culture of his ancestors for the benefit of future generations, I felt a deep respect for this country. I believe that a country with such patriots as Mr. Yi will, in the end, in spite of the difficulties it may have, find its own way to happiness and prosperity.

As I have already mentioned, during our journey we had an opportunity to see many interesting places that must be visited by everyone who comes to Korea and we were given general historical information, which can easily be found in numerous books, articles or Internet sites. But besides this, we also received something else which cannot be found in any book. What I mean is that this trip gave to all of the Korean Foundation fellows the chance to visit an area outside of Seoul and to observe life in a Korean village. I think that everybody will agree with me that the true culture of a nation cannot be found in the big industrial cities, where everything conforms to world standards. The true breath of the culture can be heard in small remote districts, where farmers still use cows to cultivate the land, where the air is clean and where the mountainous landscape is not covered with smoke. A journey to the countryside is an opportunity to closely observe the ways of life of local residents, to become familiar with the smells there, to glimpse their traditional way of thinking, and in short fully experience traditional lifestyle.

Finally, I would like to underline one more important thing: the international character of the Korean Foun-dation programs. By meeting and communicating with people living in different cultural environments, whose everyday lives and ways of thinking are so vastly different from yours, you discover much to talk about. Usually, after meeting someone the first question you are asked is about the your impressions of Korea. It is interesting to talk with people from countries all over the world and appreciate how they learned to accept and adapt to the Korean environment. In such cases you get a chan-ce not only to become closer to these foreign cultures, but also to compare them with yourself and to refresh the views of your own country and your own personality. When you try to compare the way of thinking of different nations, you automatically analyze your own mind as well.

When I returned to my room after this trip I was full of impressions and feelings. At that time one interesting idea came to my mind. To speak in general, exceeding the borders of the trip, I can say that by visiting Korea I have been able to experience not only Korea itself, its language and culture, but also to acquire knowledge about many countries of the world and take advantage of this opportunity to look inside my own soul, which helped me understand myself as a small but meaningful part of the huge world.

July 24, 2001

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  Korean Music Concert Tour