Portland, Oregon’s Rosy Friendship with Ulsan, South Korea

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by Yeo-Ri Kim
Portland Mayor Wheeler and Ulsan Mayor Kim celebrated their cities’ long-term relationship at Portland City Hall. [Image: Ulsan Mayor Kim’s Facebook account]

The Portland-Ulsan Sister City Association’s float, decorated with flowers and Korean musical instruments, received the Royal Rosarian Award for best craftsmanship and workmanship at the 2017 Grand Floral Parade on June 10. The Ulsan delegation participated in the parade to celebrate 30 years of friendship and share Korean culture with Portland.

To commemorate 30 years of sister city partnership with Ulsan, Portland — known as the Rose City — invited a delegation from Ulsan to the annual Portland Rose Festival. On June 8, Mayor Gi-Hyeon Kim visited Portland with over 60 delegates. During the visit, the Ulsan Metropolitan Chorus performed “30th Anniversary Friendship Concert” at the Newmark Theater in Portland. In May, a Portland delegation attended the grand opening of the Portland Rose Garden at the Ulsan Grand Park during the Ulsan Rose Festival to celebrate the long-lasting relationship between Portland and Ulsan.

Since 1987, Ulsan Metropolitan City — one of the industrial powerhouses of South Korea and home to the Hyundai Group — has continued to strengthen its relationship with Portland through academic and cultural exchange programs. Portland State University and the University of Ulsan signed a sister university partnership in 1998. Since 2007, students from Hyundai Chung-Un high school have made annual visits to Portland as part of the summer Global Leadership Seminar.

Portland’s relationship with Ulsan is historically significant to the State of Oregon and South Korea, as Hyundai Motors exported South Korea’s first mass-produced car — the Pony model — to the United States through the port of Portland 40 years ago. In 2016, South Korea was the sixth largest market for Oregon exports. Oregon’s main exports to South Korea include machinery, agricultural products, computer and electronic products, and chemicals. In 2012, Oregon became the first state to ship fresh blueberries to South Korea, with fresh berry exports increasing by 276% over 2011 to 2014. Oregon also has state trade representatives in South Korea to support existing Oregonian companies accessing the Korean market.

Yeo-Ri Kim is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Master's candidate in Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas.