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Local Rotary clubs play host to contingent from South Korea

A group of five toured Oregon

Area Rotary Club meetings, including those in Clackamas County, have had an international flair over the past two weeks.

An exchange group from South Korea organized by Rotary International has been sweeping through the area on a whirlwind tour of the state. They stopped at the Milwaukie Rotary Club last week, giving members a brief history lesson before talking about the differences between the two countries, their gratitude toward the United States, and their feelings toward a certain American speed skater.

The visiting South Korean contingent consisted of members from a specific Rotary district there, and included a retired Hyundai vice-president and several English as Second Language (ESL) teachers. As teachers, they found the differences in the education system to be one of the most valuable assets of their trip, and something they hope to take back with them. The group visited schools throughout the region.

'In America, it's very important to have lively discussions between the teacher and student,' said Kim Jong-Kie, the retired Hyundai executive. 'In Korea, usually the teachers do all of the talking.'

Joung Jae-Hoon, who both teaches and recruits people to teach English in Korea, said it's a lesson he plans to apply in the classroom.

'In America, the teachers give more opportunities for the students to speak,' he said. 'In America, it seems like there's no standard answer. You're seeking answers through the discussion process.'

The South Korean team also marveled at the differences in housing between the countries. They said they aren't used to the sprawling single-family homes like those they've lodged in at points along the trip.

'In South Korea, more than 70 percent of people live in high-rise buildings,' Jae-Hoon said.

There was also some friendly banter with club members about United States speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who won a 2002 Olympic gold medal when a South Korean speed skater was disqualified from a race. Speed skating is wildly popular in the country.

The South Korean Group Study Exchange, which consisted of five people, came from Samjung-dong, a city in the southeastern portion of South Korea.

-Anthony Roberts