AURORA | Aurora’s Municipal Center was dotted with black and white table cloth Monday for around 80 guests celebrating a delegation of officials visiting from Aurora’s newest sister city in Seongnam, South Korea.
The dinner was part of an array of activities Aurora city officials have planned for the Korean delegates through Wednesday, March 30. On Tuesday, city officials are hosting a day-long private-sector business conference open to metro-area business owners at Woolley’s Classic Suit Hotel in Aurora to learn more about working with Korean businesses in Seongnam.
Seongnam Mayor Jae-myung Lee said before the dinner through an interpreter that the partnership was very different than one Aurora formed with the bustling suburb of Seoul decades ago, before that program was shuttered.
“When we first established the relationship between the two cities, it wasn’t our choice. It was the central government’s choice,” he said. “Now we’re starting to think more about the importance of sister cities and the need for the international exchange between the cities.”
Lee said it was a visit from Hogan last year that changed his mind about reviving the sister-city partnership.
“Before the visit we didn’t think we had something in common,” he said. “Now we see the medical campus and the aerospace industry. Now we’re seeing there’s so much more to share between the two cities.”
Seongnam City, often referred to as the “Silicon Valley” of South Korea, has a highly developed information technology, clean energy and high-tech manufacturing sector.
During their trip, the delegation toured a number of Aurora and Denver landmarks, including Buckley Air Force Base, the Anschutz Medical Campus and Fitzsimons Innovation Campus, and select Aurora and Denver neighborhoods and development sites.
“We’re a small city compared to them,” said Hogan, noting Seongnam’s population of nearly 1 million. Aurora in comparison has nearly 350,000 residents. “But we have an opportunity to represent Colorado and represent the United States for that matter, in a relationship with a very large community in Korea. We’re just trying to pick up where we left off.”
Koreans represent the highest national segment of Aurora’s Asian population at nearly 3,500 people, according to the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census. The ACS reported that Aurora’s second-highest Asian demographic hails from Vietnam, followed by the Philippines and China, sequentially.
Aurora has another Sister Cities partnership with Adama, Ethiopia. Last year, delegates from Adama, which included the city’s mayor, visited Aurora and took part in Global Fest at the Aurora Municipal Center, a celebration of Aurora’s sizable and growing international community.
— Aurora Sentinel Staff Writer Quincy Snowdon contributed to this story.