I am working with Oslo University (Norway) currently teaching a strange combination of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, which include East Asian religions and philosophies on one extreme (?) and something called “East Asia: Capital and Labour”, and mostly dealing with the relationship between corporate capital and unions in South Korea and Japan, and the rising current of labour militancy in China, on the other. I used to teach Korean language as well, having proudly produced around 6 graduates in 5 years. I have thought before that the University of Oslo must be the only place in the world where three teachers (me and two colleagues working part-time) teaching two students a language no business around might demand, would be tolerated and left in peace. Well, it was a naive illusion – Oslo University is following the same “party line” as elsewhere, and the teaching of Korean is going to be terminated next year, at least for the time being.
My academic trajectory (?) is odd enough to doubt its seriousness. I began with Kaya studies, when I was MA student and then PhD candidate – for those sane enough not to jump into the abyss of the ancient history, I can just explain that Kaya proto-states (they stood somewhere between a well-developed chiefdom and an early state) controlled a large part of the Naktong River valley and the southern coast of what is KyOngsang Province now, until being eaten up by Silla in 562 (http://www.gayasa.net/). I wrote a PhD thesis on this, mostly using Nihon shoki (720) as my source material. I guess that is the only monograph written on Kaya in Russian – and it is likely to maintain its monopoly (?) for the time being, given the sad situation in the Russian academia. Then, I started to dabble in Korean Buddhism – after having been greatly surprised at sight of a reserve corps military uniform at one temple I frequented, and having understood how much practice might differ from theory. The last “side jump” was my love (or rather hate?) affair with Korea’s (and, by extension, China’s and Japan’s) Social Darwinism, which began around 5 years ago, and still fails to end. I am still struggling to understand in which ways and to which degree Social Darwinist consciousness contributed to the making of Korea’s nationalism in the 1880s-1900s, and what was the logic behind the Social Darwinist conversion (?) of many intellectuals who might have espoused different dreams as well – reformist Confucians, Christian converts, and some younger Buddhists.