Updated March. 08, 2014 02:13
"Please, tell everyone that not all foreign journalists with blond hair are Americans."
Oleg Kiriyanov, Seoul bureau chief of Russian state-run daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, said this in fluent Korean. In fact, he is an expert on Korea just like a native Seoulite. He studied the Korean language at Russia`s prestigious Saint Petersburg State University and obtained a master`s degree in diplomacy at Seoul National University. After working for Russia`s Foreign Ministry, he worked as a Seoul correspondent for the Russian daily from 2004 to 2009. He has been working in Busan where the Russian consulate general is located since 2012 -- his second assignment to Korea. This year is the 10th year of his stay in Korea.
Compared with many foreign correspondents who are assigned to Korea without learning Korean, he is a well-prepared one for Korea. He is covering Japan in Korea, while most major foreign media outlets have their Tokyo correspondents cover South Korea as well. The paper`s headquarters recommended him to work in China but he insisted on returning to Korea.
"I chose to major in the Korean language after becoming interested in South Korea as Seoul and Moscow established formal diplomatic relationship in 1991 when I entered university," he said. "After becoming a journalist, I ended up staying in South Korea because I was attracted by its dynamic society." He says that not a single day is boring in South Korea.
He uses the "East Sea" name when he writes an article that refers to the sea between Korea and Japan, adding the "Sea of Japan" in parenthesis when necessary. He also uses "Dokdo" over "Takeshima" to refer to South Korea`s easternmost islets, which Tokyo claims as its territory. He is a perfect example why South Korea needs foreign journalists who understand the country correctly. He also writes on a variety of themes on Korea, including its traditional culture.