Grand Rapids adds South Korea district to list of sister cities

Gangnam is one of the 25 autonomous districts comprising the city of Seoul, South Korea. Photo by iStock

Officials representing the cities of Grand Rapids and Gangnam-gu District, South Korea formally signed a Sister Cities International agreement on Sept. 26.

The signing, attended by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City Manager, Mark Washington, members of the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International (GRSCI) Gangnam Committee and Gangnam-gu District officials marked the city’s sixth relationship it has built with other cities around the world.

GRSCI Board President Leonardo Tombelli noted the many similar traits and characteristics between the two cities. Rivers are referenced in both of the city’s municipal names, and the furniture industry played a significant role in each city’s development. More recently, each city benefited greatly from economic growth and diversification including ventures in health care and the brewing and distilling industries. Gangnam-gu even started a sister event to ArtPrize called ArtPrize Gangnam.

“We facilitate opportunities for cultural and economic enhancement through our sister city relationships,” Tombelli said. “The bonds of friendship developed through these partnerships have elevated the quality of life for the Grand Rapids community and the communities of our sister municipalities.”

During the past year, city officials and members of the community were in direct contact with Gangnam-gu district officials via correspondence and virtual meetings to determine if a new sister city relationship would be mutually desired and beneficial.

Bliss said the ongoing conversations with Gangnam-gu were both positive and productive and revealed “complementary communities with similar strengths and opportunities to build and grow cultural, commercial and artistic ties.”

Kim McLaughlin, GRSCI Gangnam chairperson, helped lay the groundwork for the new relationship between Grand Rapids and Gangnam-gu.

Grand Rapids’ sister cities program began in 1986 and currently includes five sister cities including Omihachiman, Japan; Bielsko-Biała, Poland; Ga District, Ghana; Perugia, Italy and Zapopan, Mexico.

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