Garrettsville-Hiram Rotary went into its international mode recently, entertaining Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars Yeonmin Kim of the Republic of South Korea and Sayuri Minakuchi from Japan at their August 10 meeting at the Main Street Grille and Brewing Company. These well-spoken and personable individuals are both studying at Kent State University and made interesting presentations concerning certain cultural aspects of their homelands and their own educational paths.
Sayuri Minakuchi is a second-generation Ambassadorial Scholar; her mother had been designated as such during her scholastic career. Sayuri spoke of the Japanese language, both spoken and written. Japanese script is, basically, a simplified form of a system borrowed from the writing of China, employing seventeen sound elements–some English sounds are not among them. Some English/American words have appeared in modern Japanese usage without translation, especially in areas such as sports (baseball) or entertainment or food (pasta). Students in Japan begin learning English as a second language from about the fifth grade level on. Many international students–who have probably begun learning English in their respective countries at about the same time–come to the United States to study at least partly to improve their language skills, particularly in the area of idiomatic speech. As is the case in most countries of the modern, industrialized world, some aspects of traditional culture are found side-by-side with western culture and can be confusing to the outside observer.
Yeonmin Kim spoke of some social and political facets of the Republic of South Korea, where his Rotary District was #3670. He is studying for a Ph.D. in Literature, with a focus on Irish literature, as he feels that there are certain similarities between South Korea and Ireland (Eire), particularly as regards the partition of the countries and their similar historical paths. Political sensitivities and economics and hopes for unification play into the situations in both places. The young father and former South Korean Marine also touched upon some topics that Americans actually did have a concept of, namely, tae kwan do and kimchi–a form of martial arts, and a signature Korean-style relish of sorts, that can do about as much damage as the fighting
Once again Rotary displays its bona fides as a bridge between nations.
Addendum : the discussion continues for local Rotary groups–“sink or swim”…what stroke? If you’d like to get into the conversation, visit your local club, they’ll love to have you and your suggestions.