Leipzig hopes to expand Korean partnerships
When Lee Charm, a German-born naturalized Korean citizen, was named president of the Korea Tourism Organization in July 2009, the media hyped him as the first foreigner to take such a high-ranking government position here.
But few Koreans knew that another German served as the country’s finance chief more than a century ago while retaining his German nationality.
Paul Georg von Moellendorff, a former German ambassador and noted linguist, served as an adviser for King Gojong - the last king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) - between 1882 and 1885.
After returning to Germany, Moellendorff donated Korean cultural items he had collected or was awarded by King Gojong to his hometown of Leipzig, and the city has been considered a center of Korean culture in Europe ever since.
“There is a very close relationship between the city of Leipzig and Korea going back to the last years of the Joseon Dynasty,” German Ambassador to Korea Hans-Ulrich Seidt told reporters last Friday.
To turn the amiable past with Korea into a future-oriented partnership, the German city’s first-ever delegation arrived in Korea on Sunday.
During its five-day visit, the envoys - including Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung - will meet business and academic leaders from Gwangju and Incheon.
Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil welcomed the Leipzig delegation at a reception ceremony Sunday at the German ambassador’s residence in Seongbuk District, northern Seoul.
Incheon and Leipzig “have a similar industrial environment, which means we find it easy to cooperate with each other,” Song told the Korea JoongAng Daily.
“If the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement is put into effect, I think the automotive industry will be the most favored by it and that is an industry Incheon is working to foster strategically,” Song added.
Leipzig’s envoys said they are also seeking a partnership with Incheon on air transportation.
Leipzig has expanded its cargo airport in a bid to catch up to neighboring city Frankfurt as a European logistics center. The city hopes that more cooperation on logistics with Incheon, which is home to one of the world’s best airports, will help the German city reach its goal, a Leipzig envoy said.
“Leipzig is looking for a partner in the world and we have identified Incheon as a very interesting city as far as the logistics is concerned,” said Gabriele Goldfuss, Leipzig’s international affairs director.
Goldfuss said Leipzig is also working to strengthen cultural cooperation with the southwestern Korean city of Gwangju. She added that Leipzig has begun working with Chonnam National University.
“We first contacted Japan, but we realized working with Korea seems to be more promising, so we are now concentrating on Korea for the next two or three years,” she said.
The renowned Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra also came together to help promote the Korean initiatives.
The 267-year-old orchestra, the world’s oldest civic orchestra, visited Korea for the first time in 17 years. It held a concert yesterday at the Seoul Arts Center and will have another tonight at the same venue.
“We are very grateful to the Korean friends that make this concert possible,” Seidt said.
By Moon Gwang-lip [email@example.com]