— Did the thought of working in Russia come to you suddenly?
— It was unexpected. Coming across a map of the world, I began studying it – and suddenly thought: but Russia is the biggest country in the world. Surely there must be great potential and great opportunities there.
— So you decided to go immediately?
— No, not at once. At first I began to take an interest in Russian history and literature, I read all of Dostoyevsky... After a while I realized it was time to go and see with my own eyes. I chose St. Petersburg. Incidentally, when I went to buy the airline ticket, it turned out that no-one in the travel agency had any idea where that city was.
— That was a rather strange agency, wasn’t it?
— Not at all. Believe me: they still know very little about Russia in South Korea. I could not find a single Korean website saying anything about Russia. Not even a tourist site.
While I was living in St. Petersburg, I even sent a letter to the RF Ministry of Culture: you advertise tourist trips to South Korea for Russians but why does no-one call on Koreans to come and visit Russia?
— When you yourself are in your homeland, do you invite friends to come to Russia?
— Of course! And as a student at St. Petersburg University, I was an active blogger. I told my fellow-countrymen about my life in Russia, what I was seeing, who I was meeting. I tried to acquaint Korean Internet users with your country.
— Are you still blogging?
— Alas, I don’t have time for it now. But I haven’t given up on another idea I had then – to create a Korean site and publish fresh and objective information about Russian life. I hope to go ahead with this project.
— In such an information vacuum, what did your relatives think of your idea of working in Russia?
— It was a shock for them. My mother wept.
Ingo Jung was born in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, 39 years ago.
In his homeland, he graduated from university in the specialty of engineer-technician. He served his time in the Korean army. He worked as a programmer and then in a company concerned with biotechnologies.
In 2003 he came to Russia, where he studied Russian and international relations at St. Petersburg State University.
In 2006 he moved to Moscow and worked in the Samsung office here. Since 2008 he has been working in SK Lubricants RUS LLC where he deals with deliveries of ZIC lubricants. He is the marketing manager responsible for the development of business in Russia, the CIS countries and Eastern Europe.
He is married and has a son who is now two and a half years old.
— Why was she so upset?
— She was afraid for me. She was worried: Oh God, my son has become a communist!
You have to understand that she is of the older generation, brought up in the years of the “Cold War”. At that time the Soviet Union was considered virtually our main enemy. Korea had complicated history in the twentieth century: the Korean War, the division of the country into South and North. The image of the enemy was firmly planted in the heads of our fathers and grandfathers.
— Why did you move to Moscow after studying in St. Petersburg?
— In St. Petersburg I first studied Russian, then international relations. I liked the city very much. I wouldn’t have minded staying there. I started looking for work in a good firm and realized that virtually all the Korean companies were based in Moscow. Eventually they took me on in the Samsung office, so I had to move.
— Do you regret it?
— I have been in the Russian capital since 2006. I have long considered myself a Muscovite. But I do travel to St. Petersburg about once every six months, to visit friends.
— Do you have many friends there?
— Yes, as in many other places. Young lads from all the regions of Russia studied with me at university, so we got to know each other. I try to visit them all.
— Where have you been so far?
— To Volgograd, Kizhi, Baykal, Kalmykia; I’ve even been as far as Kamchatka and Sakhalin. I travelled from Moscow to Vladivostok by train.
— When you arrived in Moscow, did you sense any difference as compared to St. Petersburg? What surprised you?
— The scale! Compared with Seoul, Moscow is a simply vast city! Really wide streets. We have nothing like them. And in St. Petersburg everything is quite close, you can often get where you want to go on foot. You won’t get far on foot in Moscow, though I love walking. And people here move around probably thirty per cent faster. They’re in a great hurry. The rhythm is different.
The first thing that surprised me was how far it was from Sheremetyevo to the Third Transport Ring, without stops, without being held up by a single traffic light.
— And apart from external impressions? Are the approaches to life and business different in Russia and Korea?
— We are accustomed to different standards. For example, education. You might say that our education standards are American. We do not study the theory so much as the practical application. That is, the question “Why is it so?” is not at the top of the agenda, the main thing is how the theory is used in practice, discovery, development of what others have already thought up. A purely pragmatic approach.
In Russia, education is more profound. In St. Petersburg, everything began with the theoretical substantiation. At first this seemed boring and unnecessary, but I now realize that this approach is the correct one, it provides a broader view of things.
— You consider yourself a Muscovite. But not everything pleases even a Muscovite, I think, for all his love of his own city. Can you imagine for a minute that you are in charge of this city?
— Yes, very easily! When my friends ask me about my plans for the future, I sometimes jokingly reply “I don’t know, maybe I’ll stand for Mayor of Moscow!”
— Then this is the very time to announce your “election programme”! What would you change in the city, if it were your hand on the tiller?
— I’ll try... Moscow has long winters and a rainy autumn. Sometimes, in bad weather, it looks too grey and gloomy. I would paint the buildings in brighter colours. Everything would lookdifferent. It would be great!
What else? I live not far from our office, from Moscow city centre. And of course I have great difficulty in parking. I think they ought to build more housing blocks with underground garages. And not just single-storey ones, but at least two or three storeys. In Seoul no-one is surprised that a building has six or seven storeys for cars under it. It’s expensive, of course, but it justifies itself.
But I would also like to give my potential “rival”, the present mayor, his due. In recent years, Moscow has changed greatly for the better. My wife and I both think so. There are many new parks and squares, where you can walk and breathe fresh air. They have improved Gorki Park and the Neskuchny Garden, where we often go on days off. It was quite right to create pedestrian zones in various places.
— You mentioned the long winter. How do you personally get through it?
— I’m used to it by now. Yes, there isn’t much sun, not enough Vitamin D, you have to take it as an extra.
— Koreans are well known to be workaholics. But even they can’t work 24 hours a day. What do you do in your spare time in Moscow?
— I go skating and snowboarding. They have artificial slopes in Moscow, I go there.
But most of all I like strolling round the city. My favourite occupation is to walk with my wife and child, or as a whole family. Not far from our home are the Moskva River bank, and Krasnaya Presnya Park, very green. There are many events there, programmes for children, skating in winter. So our family has picked up the purely Russian habit of going out for a walk.
— Why “purely Russian”?
— Because for a Korean, “walking round the streets” is a totally literary concept. We have not had this habit for a long time. What does “going for a walk” mean? Don’t you have anything to do? Or are you short of money? If you’re going somewhere, you have to go with a specific purpose: to drink coffee, sit in a bar, dine, go shopping... But I could easily say to a Russian colleague: “We’ve been sitting down a long time, Let’s go for a walk, we can discuss everything at the same time”. I remember when my mother first came, my wife said “Let’s take your grandson for a walk”. Mother wondered: what, isn’t there anything else to do in Moscow, is there nothing here?
— So your mother has reconciled herself to your choice of Russia?
— Once I was established in Moscow, I invited her for a visit. I made thorough preparations, I worked out a complete programme: where to take her, what to show her.She looked at it all goggle-eyed, and after about three days, she was totally delighted. Eventually she asked: “Can I stay?”
— Long walks stimulate the appetite. I don’t know much about Korean restaurants in Moscow. Chinese ones are more familiar. But after going to China, I realized that it’s hard to find real Chinese cuisine here. How is it with Korean cuisine?
— Well, the sushi you find in Moscow wherever you go is certainly not Japanese. Korean cuisine is another matter. There are 15 Korean restaurants in Moscow. And the food they offer is really Korean.
— Do you go to them to eat?
— Only when we invite partners to lunch. My wife prepares Korean dishes for me at home. If we go out anywhere, I usually prefer European, Russian or Ukrainian cuisine. My wife has recently taken a great fancy to Georgian.
— You speak excellent Russian. Is the Russian language difficult for a Korean?
— When I was studying English, it seemed extremely complicated to me. But then I took up Russian, and realized that English is quite easy.
— Do you get homesick?
— I visit Korea about twice a year, on business. Recently my company asked me “How would you like to stay on another year in Moscow, and then we’ll transfer you to head office back home?”
— And what did you reply?
— I told my wife, and she protested. “Why leave? I’d be happy to live here another five to seven years”. We got to know each other in Korea, got married, and she came to Moscow three years ago. When she first came, she spoke differently about it. “Let’s just stay another couple of years, then we’ll go home.” Now she likes it here. And I’m not thinking about leaving yet, we’ll live here a bit longer.
— As a veteran Muscovite, what would be your advice to a foreign colleague thinking of coming here to work or open a business?
— First of all, to forget the many stereotype views about Russia which he probably has. To keep an open mind and take everything as a clean sheet, as it were. And in doing so, to try to understand the different cultural and life standards, which may not be those to which he is accustomed. You must always try to understand a different point of view. This is a great help in life.