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10 September 2010

Everlasting friendships of WorldSkills

Franz today

By Franz Schropp, Honorary Member, Germany

The 1978 WorldSkills Competition in Busan, South Korea

Throughout the 20 WorldSkills Competitions that I have experienced, I have made many very good friends and many of these friendships still exist today.

There is one special experience that has been with me for over 30 years, which I would like to share with you:

In 1978 the WorldSkills Competition was held in Busan, South Korea, with just 285 participants. I could not understand or read Korean, not even the numbers! So I had an interpreter by my side. A Korean student who studied the German language and culture at the University of Busan. He spoke some German, initiated me into the mysteries of the Korean culture and stood by me day and night to assist me in doing my job as an Expert. This student, who is now a successful professor of German language and culture at the University of Busan, is still in touch with me and my family. A true friendship, even after 32 years!

In Korea it was common for professors to get a so-called ‘sabbatical semester’ after 10 years. They may go to the country whose language they teach at the University for half a year. When I found out about this, it was obvious to me and my family to invite our Korean friend to stay in my house on Lake Starnberg. He gladly accepted this offer and during this time he became our "second son". We taught him everything we knew about the German and Bavarian history and culture, went hiking in the mountains, visited beer breweries, and of course visited the Munich Oktoberfest.

Franz Schropp at the 1978 Competition in Busan

Day after day we shared and exchanged experiences. During this period he visited all the libraries in Munich and collected all the documents he needed for his planned doctoral thesis. The following year he was sworn in as a doctor and professor at the University of Busan, where he is still working successfully.

When our Korean friend flew back home after his 6 month stay, he spoke excellent German. One could not distinguish him from a German any longer. At the WorldSkills Competition in 2001 in Seoul, he obviously visited me and we relived old memories.

Another highlight of this friendship was last year when my wife celebrated a special birthday. He had secretly travelled from Korea and showed up as a surprise guest at the birthday party! He also brought - to the delight of all - Korean Art as a birthday present. It was the best present ever and I am absolutely sure this will remain a true lifelong friendship.

The WorldSkills Competition in Busan in 1978 also gave me another unforgettable memory. We took the bus from the hotel to the Opening Ceremony and thousands of students had lined up at the roadside. They all waved flags of all the participating countries with great enthusiasm. It was an incredible sight. Then, during the Ceremony, they showed the 4 seasons of the year. Each season had its own appropriate Korean costume, music and dance. An experience I still look back on with great admiration.