“It was our most productive trip so far,” Lee said.
Seongdong-Gu is one of the 25 “gu,” or districts, that make up the city of Seoul, South Korea.
Besides Lee, the Cobb travelers included Michael Hughes, Cobb’s economic development director; Sunny Park, a resident who leads the America Korea Friendship Society; Tony Britton, chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce; Emily Lembeck, superintendent of Marietta City Schools; Judy McNeill, principal of Walton High School; Elizabeth Manguno, a teacher at Walton High; and Robin Dorff, dean of the College of Humanities at Kennesaw State University, and his wife, Carolyn.
The groups split up into those focusing on business and those focusing on education and culture.
Lee and the business group conducted individual meetings with three South Korean companies that have expressed interest in adding or expanding their presence in the United States. The companies are Kisan Electronics, which makes currency counting separators; the Vitzro Group, which has a small presence in Cumming with its IUS Technologies company; and SooAm Biotech Research.
“We tried to get a better understanding of what they do, what their growth plans are, and what we have in Cobb,” Lee said. “We agreed to continue to work with them as they go forward.”
Lee said his goals for the trip were to solidify a relationship with that city’s Chamber of Commerce, initiate a relationship with their travel and tourism officials, meet individually with interested businesses, and host an investment seminar with a group of businesses, all of which they did.
“We put a sign on their Chamber’s door indicating they are an official representative of the Cobb Chamber to the businesses of Seongdong-Gu and Seoul,” Lee said.
Britton, the Cobb Chamber head, said his first trip to South Korea was “an eye-opening experience.”
“It has got to be one of the five strongest economic engines in the world, that city,” he said. “There are cranes everywhere. It’s mind-boggling. It’s just amazing the growth and activity that’s going on over there. And it’s coming from all over the world.”
Britton said about 50 companies attended the investment seminar, where he and the other delegates spoke about Cobb’s live-work-play environment.
“There was a lot of interest from them on economic conditions in the United States, but also a lot of interest on the education side; what would their children have access to as it relates to education. In each case, we were able to address those very, very well,” Britton said.
But Lee and Britton said they don’t expect any of the companies to locate in Cobb immediately.
“I’d say within five years,” Lee said.
Lembeck, Marietta’s school superintendent, said she signed a memo of understanding for a partnership with the Seongdong-Gu school district.
“The official partnership signing was done with great ceremony,” she said. “In addition, I was able to visit some very good schools and universities and really have great discussions — with an interpreter, of course.”
This was her second trip with others from Cobb to the sister city.
The South Koreans provided the lodging, buses, translators and a tour guide and hosted dinners. Corporate donations paid for gifts given to the Koreans, which included a Steve Penley painting and commemorative coins.
Lee’s campaign funds covered his airfare costs, and he said the only county money spent on the trip was $1,500 for Hughes’ airfare.
Lembeck and Britton each paid for their own airfare.
Cobb school district officials said professional development funds paid for McNeill’s airfare and that the Walton Foundation, from funds other than parent donations, paid for Manguno’s airfare.
This was the fourth trip made by a delegation from Cobb to Seongdong-Gu.