Last February, 2017, the Hanam City, South Korea and Little Rock, Arkansas signed an agreement to exchange symbolic sculptures. The theme of the sculptures was ‘Youth’ as a symbol for the bond between the cities and to connect citizens with public art. On December 15th, the cities celebrated the 25th anniversary of their sister city relationship in Hanam City. More than 1000 participants attended the ceremony, including a delegation from Little Rock as well as Korean National Assembly members Hyunjae Lee, Jongbok Kim.
Hanam has been a sister city of Little Rock since May, 1992 — Little Rock’s oldest. They came together when the American Taekwondo Association was founded in Little Rock by Grand Master H.U.Lee, who was interested in starting a partnership between the two cities.
There have been many exchanges, especially programs for youth. The cities have held eight youth exchange programs for 186 students in total. Little Rock has sent a number of high school delegations to Hanam City to learn about their culture and way of life, and has received several delegations as well. These students are important to maintaining the cultural, educational, and economic ties between two cities. Additionally, the Korean War Veterans Memorial in MacArthur Park received financial and cultural support from Hanam City in November 2005 — a show of friendship and an investment of approximately $570,000.
South Korea is Arkansas’ third largest export destination in Asia. In 2015, Arkansas had 1,466 jobs related to trade with Korea, while the value of exports of soap to Korea more than doubled to $1.2 million. Electric motor and generator exports to Korea also increased by 600 percent to $13.9 million. As of 2015, 80 Korean students attended the University of Arkansas and there were 1,950 Koreans and Korean Americans living in the state.
Yeseul Oh is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Wahshington Young fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. She is a student of Kyunghee university in South Korea