County may forge business partnership with S. Korea city

DULUTH - A South Korean district could soon become a sister city of Gwinnett, tying the Atlanta suburb to the home country of many of its newest residents.

Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister managed a few words of welcome in Korean to a delegation of officials from Gangnam-gu, a district of Seoul, but he may need to get even more familiar with the language if the county engages in the possible sister government status.

"Gangnam-gu is a strong business community in close proximity to a large thriving metropolis," Chairman Bannister said. "Recognizing their strengths and similarities to what we are looking to accomplish in Gwinnett is key to international business success. We are honored and excited to have developed such a strong relationship with this community."

James Song, a vice president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, said officials from the two communities - both affluent, fast-growing areas of large international hubs - have been working about a year to develop an economic development relationship.

Because about a third of the 100,000 Koreans living in metro Atlanta either live or work in Gwinnett, the relationship is a positive for investment in both communities, he said.

"This is a very great meeting to start something on," Song said at the Duluth chamber building.

After accepting a model of Korea's legendary Turtle Ship, the world's first iron-clad battleship, Bannister gave Gangnam-gu Mayor Jung-Ju Maeng a ballcap for the Gwinnett Braves, a minor league team expected to begin playing games next year and invited him back for a game.

"I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation to all of you for inviting us to the charming and beautiful Gwinnett County," Maeng said. "I am very delighted to visit Georgia where the world-renowned motion picture 'Gone with the Wind' was once staged."

Chang Yim, a Dalton businessman who lead Georgia's first delegation to Korea, bringing then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris to his native country, gave the Gwinnettians some advice about a future trip.

He said Harris kept from insulting the Korean leaders with his tee-totaling ways when Coca-Cola was watered down to look like whiskey, although the governor did produce laughs when he took off his shoes upon entering a house and found holes in his socks.

"This is a great time, Gangnam-gu and Gwinnett County married together," Yim said. "This is the great opportunity place to invest money."

Chamber of Commerce President Jim Maran said the sisterhood initiative falls into line with the local Partnership Gwinnett initiative for strengthening the international business climate of the community.

"It is of vital importance that we recognize and build relationships with those international communities that resemble our initiatives for economic development and have such a strong existing business presence in Gwinnett," he said.