On Tuesday, Oakland officially became a “friendship city” with Pyeongtaek, South Korea. At a ceremony held at City Hall, the mayors of the two cities signed a memorandum of understanding cementing the relationship.
“Our cities have many things in common. We have beautiful coastline, we have beautiful people, and we have important industries,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Both cities also have ports and are close in size: Oakland has around 420,000 people, Pyeongtaek 480,000. “We have many ideas that I know that we can exchange, and that will be mutually beneficial,” the mayor said.
As part of the friendship city arrangement, the two cities are planning exchange programs focused on trade, education, tourism, sports and culture. “We will also cooperate in the areas of trade and logistics, utilizing the cities’ strong port infrastructure,” said Pyeongtaek Mayor Jae-Kwang Kong, speaking in Korean.
Becoming friendship cities is the first stage of an official relationship between two cities in different countries. As the relationship grows, and if both cities want a long-term cooperative relationship, they may become sister cities, according to Sister Cities International.
Pyeongtaek is the first South Korean city that Oakland has formed a friendship relationship with. “I hope that this will become a good beginning for the prosperous relations between the two cities,” said Jimin Kim, the acting consul general of South Korea.
Some Korean-Americans at the ceremony said they are excited about the new friendship. “With the relationship, many cultural delegations from Korea will visit here and perform traditional songs and dances,” said Joanna Kim-Selby, president of the East Bay Korean-American Senior Service Center, speaking in Korean. The 86-year-old immigrated to the United States in 1958. “We feel nostalgia when we watch Korean performances from our former home. Those exchanges can also promote Korean culture in the United States,” she said.
Leewoong Song, the secretary general of the Oakland & East Bay Korean-American Association, said that he hopes that Oakland residents will host South Korean exchange students “and help them to explore the United States at lower cost.”
The ceremony took place on October 3, which is National Foundation Day in South Korea, a celebration of the formation of the first state of Korea in 2333 B.C. The flag of South Korea was hung in front of Oakland City Hall. “This is the first time that we have raised the Korean flag to celebrate the founding day, and I promise you it not will be the last,” said Schaaf.
Around 2,400 people of Korean descent live in Oakland according to the Census Bureau. Schaaf thanked the city’s Korean community “for making our city richer by sharing your culture, your food, your products that you invent—everything you do to make this a great city.”