On arriving in Seoul last week I telephoned Simon Hang Bock Rhee, a Korean Scout leader that I met two years ago at a Korean scout jamboree. At that time he was the International Commissioner of the Korea Scout Association and held other posts in regional scout organizations. He offered to pick me up at my hotel and we would go to dinner together.
Over a wonderful Korean dinner he informed me that he has been elected Vice President of the World Scout Committee that has its headquarters in Switzerland. We spent much of the dinner talking about scouting in various countries. When I told him of my activities with scout organizations in Central America almost sixty years ago he said "You must talk to His Excellency Fernando Borbon, Ambassador of Costa Rica to Korea. He was active in scouting in Costa Rica." At that he took out his cell phone, punched in a few numbers and said "Your Excellency, is it convenient to talk a few moments with you?" Getting an affirmative answer he passed the phone over to me and Ambassador Borbon and I chatted about scouting in Costa Rica and also Guatemala where he lived for a while as a youth. He knew the names of some of the scout leaders in those two countries that I mentioned but, given our age difference, he had not met them personally. After all, it was almost 60 years ago that I was traipsing around those countries visiting the scout organizations. He suggested we get together for breakfast or lunch and talk scouting. Unfortunately, given my tight schedule, I did not have the opportunity to do so. I very much enjoyed the interaction with Ambassador Borbon as it was conducted in Spanish and dealt with scouting in those countries which still has a lot of meaning for me.
Among other topics Simon Rhee and I discussed declining enrollment in Scouting in developed countries but an increasing enrollment in developing nations, especially in Africa.
Since I did not get to visit a Boy Scout troop meeting in Japan where I spent the prior week I gave Mr. Rhee the scout badges that were sent to me by Mr. David Crow of Monmouth Council, BSA and some that I purchased at the local scout office and asked that he give them to scouts when he attends gatherings of scouts from Korea and elsewhere. He informed me that in several weeks there will be a gathering in Seoul of scouts from all over the country with the specific purpose of exchanging badges. He will give the badges away at that gathering. I also gave Mr. Rhee a sizable collection of Boy Scout stamps from many countries that I spotted for sale on eBay and asked him to use them as gifts to scout leaders as he travels the world on his scouting duties. It is always useful to have small packages of gifts in one's pocket when traveling. Mr. Rhee's personal collections are limited to scout badges and scout stamps that have the number "75" on them. Accordingly, he especially appreciated the Monmouth Council's 75th anniversary badge. That one, he said, will go into his personal collection. Simon Rhee insisted on picking up the bill for the meal and had it paid before I could grab it. Definitely my turn the next time.
Yours in Scouting, George F. Drake