Eugene and Jinju have been in partnership since 1961.

Our History

Forrest Ralph Pitts, Ph.D.(1924-2014), Professor of Geography (1955-68) of the University of Oregon visited Jinju as part his research project financed by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) in early 1960’s. Finding striking similarities between Eugene and Jinju geographically and in connection of education he proposed cities Eugene and Jinju to enter the sister relationship created by PresidentEisenhower in 1956.The two cities entered into the relationship in 1961. It is the very first sister city created in Korea.

Dr. Pitts served in the US Navy during World War II. He received a BA in oriental languages and literature, an MA in Far Eastern studies, and a PhD in geography, all from the University of Michigan. For many years, he was the executive director of the International Geographical Union Commission on Quantitative Methods and editor of Korean Studies. After serving as the professor of Geography at the University of Oregon until 1968, he eventually became emeritus professor of the geography department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Pitts was best known for developing formal quantitative approaches in geography, spatial diffusion, simulation modeling, and use of computers in geographic research. His research was marked by extensive fieldwork in Okinawa, Japan, and Korea. 

The Eugene-Jinju Sister Committee, Inc. was incorporated as of January 10, 1962.

With the weak economy in Korea at that time, the activities were limited to providing some financial support as scholarships for mostly young students in Jinju. Eugene’s citizen volunteers used to send about$5 to $10 per month to four to ten high school students in Jinju. It was continued throughout the academic year of 1979-80 and the bank account was closed on January 31, 1980 due to difficulties of raising the funds. Some money was donated to rebuild or repair part of a Pavilion in Jinju Castle damaged by a fire and donated several sewing machines to a high school.

Ki-Won Rhew used to translate some letters from Korean students to the donors while he was studying in the University of Oregon in 1970’s. However, the committee became dormant until Rhew received an invitation to a meeting by Jim Dougher, Chair of the Mayor’s Sister City Commission to re-energize the sister relationship with Jinju. Rhew ended up becoming instrumental in reorganizing the sister city committee to take advantage of the occasion of the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Game.

With financial assistance of Eugene Delta Rotary Club, Rhew organized aEugene delegation to Jinju in fall 1988. Ellie Dumdi (a Lane County Commissioner), William Leman (Chancellor, Oregon System of Higher Education) and four others including Rhew were the members of the 1988 delegation. Since then the Korean sister city program has been active; all mayors of Eugene have led a delegation to Jinju and Korea; many delegations were exchanged both ways.

The following have served as presidents of the committee:

  • Ki-Won Rhew
  • Margo Ramsing(deceased)
  • Apple Oxman(deceased)
  • Chris Baird
  • Ken Ramsing, Ph.D.(deceased)
  • Carla Marks
  • Linda DeSpain
  • Candace Shorack (since 2013)

Late Dr. Ken Ramsing, former Dean of Graduate School of UO and Professor of Decision Science and Ki-Won Rhew took leadership in launching annual high school exchange in 2002. Starting January 2002, four (six twice) high school students of Jinju visited Eugene in January and up to four Eugene students made reciprocal visits in July skipping a couple of years due to lack of applicants. This student exchanges has been successful and settled down as the committee’s major annual event. Starting 2010 the exchanges are done outbound in July and inbound in August. Jinju boasts Gaecheon Arts Festival and Lantern Festival packed with more than 100 events from October 1 to October 10, the Jinju Citizens day. They also have Nongae Festival in May. Many Eugene citizens visited Jinju during the October festivals and some in May.