Korean Mayors Visit Columbia

The idea of Columbia is already a foreign concept in the United States. It is even more so to foreign delegations who arrive in our planned city to find that it is not a city at all. Instead, they learn that while Columbia Association is not a government, it provides some of the same services governments do — and many services that governments do not.

When a nine-person delegation from South Korea arrived in this country and said they wanted to spend part of their visit looking at local governance, Columbia seemed to be a good stop, an interesting model at which to look. It helped that Zarrin Caldwell, a member of CA’s International and Multicultural Advisory Committee, also works for an organization that sets up educational visits for the U.S. State Department.

The group, which included seven South Korean mayors, arrived at CA headquarters at about noon on June 13 and stayed for about an hour. They were joined by Barbara Kellner, director of the Columbia Archives; Michelle Miller, CA’s director of community services; and Laura Smit, who manages CA’s international exchange and multicultural programs.

Kellner gave a presentation on the history of Columbia and Columbia Association, telling our visitors about CA’s missions and how CA works toward those missions through its various features, programs and services. CA is often asked to give this kind of presentation to foreign visitors, according to Smit, including a Chinese delegation that came to Columbia a few months ago.

The mayors asked about the relationship between CA and other local government, and wondered how many entities similar to CA there are in the United States. The answer is “Not many.”

Sun Ki Kim, the mayor of the Pyeongtaek City Government and vice president of the Korea National Association of Mayors, said South Korea is now developing cities of similar size, including ones with populations of 100,000 and 150,000.

“We can learn a lot from the Columbia Association model,” he said.

— Written by David Greisman

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