▲ Ryashentsev discusses the history of life in Seongeup Folk Village with a group of visitor on one of his many tours on Jeju Island. Photo by Kim Ri Na
Victor Ryashentsev, director of the travel agencies DiscoverKorea and Jejueco, explained the history of Jung-Bang waterfall to an English couple in front of the huge cliffs of Jeongbang.
“Jeju Island is the place where Shi Huangti, who was an emperor during the Qin dynasty of China, believed the elixir of life was located. And Jeongbang waterfall is one of the famous places in Jeju, where Shi Huangti’s envoys visited at that time.”
All the guests of his tour were foreigners from various countries such as England, Australia and India.
“Most of our tour guests are foreigners from all around the worlds,” Ryashentsev said.
At first glance, he may look like an “alien” in Jeju. But he’s provided tour guide services in three languages, English, Russian and Korean, in Jeju for eight years. Even though he was born in Vladivostok, Russia and graduated from school there, he decided to discover his own ways to make his life work in Jeju.
“I majored in Korean studies for my bachelor’s degree and took postgraduate courses in Korean economics at Far-Eastern State University in Russia. So I was very familiar with Korea and Korean culture,” he said.
After his postgraduate coursework he went to Seoul and taught Russian at Yon-sei Foreign Language Institute. Every weekend he came to Jeju to enjoy scuba diving and seaside trekking with his wife, Natasha Nazarenko. In 2001, the couple decided to settle on Jeju Island and started the travel agency, Jejueco.
“Jeju is the best place to live in Korea. Jeju is a peaceful island, which is not very polluted, and I know that Jeju has the richest tourist resources of any other region in the country,” he said “But lots of visitors only expect good food or something good to see when they go to tourist attractions in Jeju. But in most cases, they usually just see crowds of people there.”
▲ Jeju tour guide, Russian Victor Ryashentsev, is filmed by Aririang TV as he leads a tour on Jeju, which he considers his home now. Photo by Kim Ri Na
Ryashentsev currently manages Jejueco as well as DiscoverKorea, which is a nationwide travel agency. While Jejueco is operated in Jeju, DiscoverKorea has a managing department in Seoul. The company provides tours in Seoul focusing on cultural and eco-tourism in several languages, including English, German, French and Russian. Several times a month, Ryashentsev provides a tour guide service by himself in other regions for foreigners visiting Korea.
Since Jeju Island Eco Tour by Jejueco was selected as a certified tour package by the Korean government in 2004, Jejueco has been popular among visitors in Jeju and well-known among Russian tour agencies and English-speaking tourists. The tour service of Jejueco currently includes UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites, Jeju’s traditional sites and ecology tours.
“We operate the Web site (www.jejueco.com) to provide tour service more effectively and to get reservations directly from the visitors. And it’s also quite helpful to contact with the travel agencies from abroad,” he said.
Since Ryashentsev began his travel agency, he’s become very interested in Jeju’s unique sites, especially its oreums. It seems that tour guiding is not just a job, but more like a hobby for him. What most foreign residents only get to do on weekends, he does for a living.
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