▲ Jeju City Mayor Kim Sang Oh (third from left) with Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares (4th left) and members of both Sister City committees at the unveiling Feb. 2 in Jeju City. Photo by Angela Kim
Snoopy has found his Jeju home.
On the tail of Singugan, Jeju's traditional moving season, and auspiciously in time for both Ipchun — the agrarian first day of spring — and Daeborum, the first full moon of the lunar year, each with its own festival, the Snoopy statue gifted to Jeju by its sister city of Santa Rosa has taken up residence on Santa Rosa Way.
Mayor Ernesto Olivares of Santa Rosa, California, and the new mayor of Jeju City, Kim Sang Oh, led a ceremony of dedication on Feb. 2, in the midst of a blizzard reportedly the coldest day in 55 years. Accompanying the American mayor were 30 of his city's citizens, including Deputy Mayor John Sawyer, restauranteur and Jeju benefactor Don Taylor who personally brought the Snoopy statue to Jeju last July, longtime event organizer Peter Suk, and the DC Gravity modern dance company under the direction of Rebekah Green and studio owner Vicki Suemnicht, among many others.
▲ Photo by Angela Kim
"It's very gratifying, after 18 months of effort and many barriers along the way, to successfully place this Santa Rosa Snoopy in Jeju," Taylor expressed. "The 'doghouse' on which Snoopy sits far exceeds what I'd hoped."
The statue's pedestal, in the shape of Snoopy's classic doghouse but in the style of a Jeju traditional home and constructed from the island's volcanic stone, is the creation of local artist Jang Eun Bong. It was sponsored by Santa Rosa and commissioned by Jeju City Hall by mutual agreement.
Snoopy was chosen for Santa Rosa's first gift to Jeju because of its iconic place in American popular culture and its creator Charles Schultz' longtime residence in the city. Approved by the Schultz family, it is the first official Snoopy likeness to be displayed anywhere in Korea.
Santa Rosa and Jeju City have maintained a sister city relationship for 15 years, during which time Jeju has sent gifts as well. The cities have also participated in art projects and arranged for student visits and other cross-cultural exchanges.
▲ Guests from Santa Rosa at the new "Santa Rosa Way" in Jeju City. Photo by Anne Hilty
"The greatest benefit of this program is the exposure of youth to a culture far outside of their own," Olivares enthused. "I speak to high school students frequently," he continued, "and I always tell them, 'explore the world, and learn — just remember to come home, but get out and travel that great big world out there."
This is the mayor's first visit to Jeju, which he referred to as "a great experience," in particular citing Korean hospitality as "amazing."
Sawyer, visiting Jeju for the fourth time, identified cultural exchange as the primary benefit of the sister city program, with travel and friendships in other countries as "the most important educator in one's life." In addition to his position as deputy mayor, he is also the current president of the Santa Rosa Sister City Committee, on which he has served for eight years.
Kim, while allowing that as a new mayor he was not yet familiar with this program, nevertheless emphasized his commitment to its ongoing success.
A primary feature of cultural exchange between these two cities has been the annual participation of young Santa Rosa performers in Jeju's Jeongwol Daeboreum Festival each winter for the past 10 years, alternating between various dance companies of The Dance Center and high school choirs. Many of the young female dancers in this year's performance were traveling internationally for the first time.
▲ DC Gravity dance company of The Dance Center (Santa Rosa), with Snoopy. Photo by Anne Hilty
"The Fire Festival is an unbelievable site," said Suemnicht, here for her sixth visit including that of 2003 when she brought the first Santa Rosa performers here, "but I get the most enjoyment out of bringing kids from little Santa Rosa to Jeju and watching them experience another culture; they learn so much, and a lot of them have never been out of the country before... The world needs more cross-cultural relationships like this."
Sawyer agreed. "Setting the hillside on fire is a patently unique experience which could never happen in the US," he said. "It's not only the uniqueness visually, but also the spirit of the people participating — a kind of energy, and a great deal of emotion — very moving, stays with one forever. But it's also about seeing old friends, making new relationships...This is what the sister city program is all about."
Jeju Sister City Committee member Im Aeduk, professor and the director of AeSuhWon facility for single mothers in Chongsu, has been one of the program's strongest supporters along with her longtime friend Taylor. "We have sent many students from Jeju to Santa Rosa," she explained, "and it is a very good experience for them to learn about and make friends in another culture."
Im and two other committee members, Kang Chang Syup and Koh Bong Kyu, were made honorary citizens of Santa Rosa in this year's ceremony — the first time that the city has awarded such to individuals outside of its own country — and Mayor Olivares invited them, as well as Mayor Kim, to his city's Rose Bowl event. Jeju had previously awarded honorary citizenship to Taylor.
It would seem that the relationship between Jeju City and Santa Rosa is here to stay.
Snoopy is located in Ora-dong of Gu-Jeju, in a park atop a small hill within the governmental complex which includes the public health center, Jeju Development Institute, and tax and pension offices.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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