Korean youth call Keyes home

Until the end of this school year and for the fall semester of the next, two young men from Seoul, South Korea are calling Keyes home.

Wom Jae Som, 18 and Mu Ho Kim, 16, of Seoul hadn't met each other, lost in the sea of humanity in the more than 9 million souls that call Seoul home.

According to the CIA's online fact book, South Korea, a democratic Republic, was granted independence from Japan just after WWII.

South Korea, is separated from its northern counterpart by a DMZ that runs like a belt across the peninsula.

The first free elections in South Korea's history came in 1987, this ending 26 years of military rule.

At 18, Wom Jae, is still two years away from his nation's age of suffrage at 20. He is the oldest of three sons.

He made the decision to travel to America with the prime interest of improving his command of the English language. Having to learn from Americans living in the southwest and speaking with slang interjected hasn't been easy.

“You have to keep your thoughts, your sentences short,” explained Darius Hanes, Wom Jae's sponsor.

Wom Jae explains that the ability to speak English is important to every Korean businessman. Both young men have taken at least five years of instruction.

Wom Jae's father is an exporter, his mother works for the phone company.

Wom Jae plans to return this fall and will graduate from Keyes High in December; by January he plans to be enrolled in OPSU and majoring in Business.

For now, while not in school he helps Hanes and his wife Betty on their farm, working cattle, building fence and playing video games and riding a four-wheeler for entertainment.

Both young men are highly suspicious of their nation's neighbor to the north, North Korea.

“In South Korea, we have freedoms, it's the same as America,” Wom Jae explained.

His dream, to be able to obtain a degree, find work and possess a driver's license.

Mu Ho Kim, 16, (“Nearly 17”) has relatives living in Dallas, and was recently able to meet a great aunt of whom he calls, “grandmother”.

Asked why he has come to America to better his command of the English language, Mu Ho makes a sweep of the room with his right arm, “All Korean...need to speak English,” he said with conviction.

Mu Ho too, will return to Keyes for the fall semester; his decisions about college have yet to be made.

For now, he plays baseball, and works at Grany's Restaurant, a local eatery owned by the Alderette family, his local sponsors.

For entertainment he e-mails friends and plays video games.

Asked how their lives in Korea compare to what they are experiencing in America, both agree that life here, even in a small city of less than 1,000 population is much better.

Mu Ho has an older sister; his father works for a company and his mother is a dress salesman.

Again, according to the CIA Fact Book, South Korea has a population of just over 48 million, with a median age of 33.7 years.

The nation has a literacy rate of 97.9 percent.

Their legal system is a combination of Continental European civil Law; Anglo-American Law and Chinese Classical thought.

Twenty-six percent of the nation's individuals embrace Christianity; another 26 percent Buddism, one percent Confucianism, another one percent of another religion and 46 percent of the population have no religious affiliation.

The Korean peninsula has been the site of an uneasy truce since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The nation has had a great economic growth since the 1960s and is comparable to a small European Union nation; their economy is 18 times that of North Korea.

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