CORVALLIS - This summer, 4-H families in 11 Oregon counties are hosting 100 Japanese and Korean teenagers and their chaperones during the annual 4-H Japanese-Korean exchange program. The visiting youth will be in Oregon from July 21 through Aug. 18.

At the same time, five Oregon 4-H members and one adult are staying with Japanese and Korean families and learning about life in another culture.

The 4-H Japanese-Korean Exchange Program is the largest 4-H home stay educational program in the United States, involving more than 2,000 young people across the country, according to Duane Johnson, Oregon State University Extension 4-H youth specialist.

"The exchange program provides an opportunity for young people to learn about, appreciate and understand their own culture as well as another culture," Johnson said.

The 4-H exchange participants are expected to become part of the host family, to share everyday life with them, meet relatives and friends from the community, and gain insights that are not available to ordinary tourists, Johnson explained. "The participa nts learn to deal with differences in values and behavior as well as improve their ability to understand and speak another language."

The 4-H exchange program broadens the perspective of all the participants, according to Ritz Oikawa, 4-H exchange program assistant. "It's just one month, but during that time people develop an entirely new view of the world. They really learn what living in a global society means," Oikawa said.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Oregon 4-H Japanese-Korean exchange program. Since 1973, an estimated 3,500 Japanese and Korean youths have spent four weeks in Oregon. And 400 Oregon 4-H members have lived with Japanese or Korean families. Jap anese participation has always been greater than the number of Oregon 4-H members who go to Japan.

"Japanese society generally places a higher priority on learning other languages and travel than we do," Johnson said. The cost of the program is also a consideration. The Japanese begin years ahead to save the $5,000 cost of sending a teenager here. Oreg on families typically begin saving a year ahead to cover the $2,400 cost of a month in Japan, according to Johnson.

Counties hosting Japanese and Korean exchange students this summer are Baker, Benton, Crook, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Lincoln, Polk and Union. During the 25-year history of the program, all 36 Oregon counties have participated, hosting Japanese and Korean youth and sending their own county 4-H members abroad.

Oregon 4-H youth from Coquille, Corvallis, Sixes and White City will be on exchange in Japan and Korea from July 14-Aug. 12. News media who wish to interview the youths can contact Duane Johnson, 541-737-1311, for more information.

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Duane Johnson, 541-737-1311