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October 23, 2013

Seoul, San Francisco Mayors Pledge to Strengthen Ties

by Daniel Schearf

In South Korea, the mayor of Seoul has met with his counterpart from San Francisco to strengthen sister city relations, and discuss encouraging Internet-based business. 

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon affirmed nearly four decades of sister-city relations with pledges to strengthen economic, cultural and education exchanges.
 
Mayor Park praised San Francisco's reputation for innovative business and said he hoped its Korean-American community could act as a bridge across the Pacific.

“Signing this MOU between the San Francisco and Seoul city it may be a good opportunity for Korean and Seoul young venture-ists [venture capitalists] to have, you know, more markets and chances to go into the global market,” he said.

“I understand already that you have over 745,000 followers on Twitter," replied San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. "I could take you to the Twitter headquarters. Perhaps I could have that many followers.”
 
Speaking before Korean officials and businessmen, Mayor Lee said he hoped American technology companies could work with Koreans to create new markets and jobs.

“Well, we have a very strong presence of good start-ups like Airbnb and Uber in San Francisco and I know that they have a presence here in Seoul and they're making connections along with companies like Linked-In and some of the other companies that are part of the delegation," he said.

For online nightly rental agent AIRBNB's Alan Chang, “The biggest opportunity now is our growth, especially in Seoul, it's one of the most dynamic cities. And, you know, Mayor Park is a very progressive leader and he wants to make Seoul a 'sharing' city. And, that's what Airbnb is about. We're about bringing people together online and then connecting off-line. And, that's a huge opportunity for us.”

Professional social network Linkdin's Mike Kim also sees opportunities.

“So, our entire mission is to connect working professionals around the world, to give them a great economic opportunity. And, how can we do that without expanding to Asia? And so, what we want to do is to be able to connect Asian business members and American business members, Brazilian and European business members all around the globe. And, we can't do that without coming to Asia,” he said.

The San Francisco mayor was scheduled to visit Korean technology companies at Seoul's Digital Media City but the trip was cut short due to a labor strike back home.