Mayor Kim Yoon Ju of Gunpo, South Korea was shocked when he saw a defense cargo ship — used in service during the Korean War — docked in Clarksville. Thousands of miles from home, he found shared history between South Korea and the US town. The ship, USS LST-325, was docked at McGregor Park during Clarksville’s the 30th annual river festival, Riverfest.
Mayor Kim Yoon Ju visited Clarksville, Tennessee along with a ten-member delegation from Gunpo, a city in South Korea’s southwestern region. The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate friendship as a sister city partner. During the visit, the delegation toured local factories, visited landmarks, and participated in Riverfest. The delegation also visited the recently expanded LG Electronics and Hankook Tire facilities, both of which are operated by South Korean conglomerates.
Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan welcomed the delegation on the second day of their visit. Coincidently, she had recently testified in support of LG at a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing. The LG investment is “good for Clarksville, good for Tennessee and it is good for America” as Mayor McMillan stated at the ITC hearing in Washington, DC. South Korean manufacturing firm LG Electronics recently began constructing a US $250 million appliance plant in Clarksville in a project estimated to create more than 600 jobs for the local economy.
The Gunpo delegation’s visit to Clarksville fosters the sister city agreement first established between Gunpo and Clarksville in 1999. It was initiated with the goals of increasing cultural understanding and enhancing cooperation for both regions. The partnership was recently broadened when the two large South Korean companies invested in local Clarksville manufacturing facilities.
The sister city concept of diplomacy was first announced by the Eisenhower administration in the aftermath of World War II to highlight the importance of people-to-people relationships in building trust and understanding between nations. The cities of Gunpo, South Korea and Clarksville, Tennessee have demonstrated the true meaning of sister city partnership and the visit brings bright prospects for the people of both cities.
Heejae Park is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul