Hodshire part of two-way street, Lansing-AsanPublished 9:02pm Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Michigan contains the second-largest population of South Korean adoptees.
In 2003, 1991 Dowagiac Union High School graduate Christopher Hodshire was nominated by the mayor to serve on Lansing’s Regional Sister Cities board.
After joining the panel, Hodshire noticed Lansing had sister-city relationships with Russia, mainland China and Japan, or “all the countries that surround South Korea.”
“Unfortunately,” he says, “they did not have any relationship with the country of South Korea. With that in mind, I decided to present the idea of creating ties with the country of South Korea.
“After laying out the facts and figures of the country, the board fully supported me in seeking a city that would match for a relationship with Lansing.
“At first, we were going to go with Seoul, but later a local Korean from the community of Lansing suggested the idea of Asan city, South Korea, which turned out to be a more ideal match.
“We felt our program could serve a noteworthy cause by identifying some of these adoptees and sending them back to their native roots for educational purposes.”
After sending a delegation of people from Lansing to Asan and vice versa, an agreement was signed into action making Hodshire’s vision a reality.
Sung Gill Lee, M.D. was one of the “key players” in helping this materialize into an ongoing exchange.
Presently, Dr Lee chairs the Asan committee.
With the assistance of Lansing Regional Sister Cities and Dr. Lee, Hodshire and others are entering their fourth consecutive year of receiving 20 South Korean middle school students for their summer exchange program.
“We have exchanges taking place with college, middle and high schools,” Chris says. “This is the first group of high school kids we have sent from Lansing to South Korea, however. In the beginning, the exchange was one-sided, but with Dr. Lee’s assistance, along with Myseoung Lee of Michigan Korean Culture Camp, we were able to turn this into a reciprocal relationship.
“Dr. Lee and I made a motion for Lansing Regional Sister Cities program to fund some of the participants’ trip. We provide $500 to each participant selected, who were primarily high school students from all over Michigan,” including Mattawan.
“State Rep. Joan Bauer and her husband, Doug Langham also contributed to the trip,” he said.
Hodshire said the Asan Office of Education agreed to cover all the participants’ land package, “which they did in an impressive style.”
He was chosen chaperone, since he knows the culture well and some limited Korean language.
His trip was fully covered along with extra money for incidentals.
“My place of employment, Western Michigan University School of Social Work, which highly advocates for cultural understanding and relationships, was supportive of my travel.”
Arriving in Asan city, they were greeted by the Asan Office of Education, which managed the visit.
For the most part, “We were all given red carpet treatment. They took me and the teens all over the country. We visited a museum which taught us about the Japanese war and how it impacted both North and South Korea. We went to Seoul to see some of the hot spots and also visited a traditional village that taught the kids first-hand how to make traditional crafts, to name a few. We also toured some schools and colleges, too. The kids also had a fortunate opportunity to spend the night in a Buddhist temple, which they continue to reminisce about.”
Chris continues, “The best part of the trip for me was seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, not to mention the delicious Korean dishes. In fact, a lot of the kids were sad they had to return back to Michigan. All the participants were also given a host family, which we all bonded with well.
“Since many of these teens have not been back to the country since they were infants and knew very little of their ethnic roots, this program impacted these kids immensely. It was touching and emotional.
“Before departing we had the opportunity to personally meet Mayor Kang of Asan. Since this was a one-of-a-kind trip, the mayor thought he would provide all of us a special gift for our visit. We all received a personalized traditional Korean drum. It was heart touching to us all, including myself. I think the kids, like myself, were impressed with how Asan accommodated for us. Their hospitality was surreal. Since this was a unique visit, the mass media followed us around during our stay.
“One thing I can say, this trip will carry with these kids forever. We plan to continue this exchange with a new batch of Michigan kids next year, which Asan already agreed to accommodate. For now, we are preparing for 20 middle schools students to visit Lansing this July.”
Anyone interested serving as a Michigan host family can contact Chris at email@example.com or (517) 316-7888.