This could be the start of a productive friendship.
Brockville hosted a delegation Thursday from the Republic of Korea, in a cultural exchange that included a flag-raising ceremony and a wreath-laying in remembrance of the Korean War.
It was part of the South Korean embassy’s recent efforts to reach out to communities around Ottawa to enhance cultural, economic and interpersonal ties.
And one conclusion, so far, is that South Koreans consider Brockville a nice place to learn.
“I think education is a very promising area for future co-operation,” said Ambassador Shin Maeng-ho, noting South Koreans represent the third-largest cohort of international students in Canada.
The Korean officials noted Korean students are studying locally at Fulford Academy and St. Lawrence College.
The ambassador came accompanied by a number of officials from the embassy and Ottawa’s Korean community.
Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MP Michael Barrett and MPP Steve Clark joined Baker at the city council chambers in the morning for an exchange of gifts and informal discussion.
It’s the latest in a series of international contacts Brockville has undertaken over the past decade, including attempts to form economic and cultural ties with communities in China and Russia.
“I think the world is becoming a smaller place every day,” said Baker.
Borrowing a catchphrase from the Progressive Conservative provincial government, Baker said the exchange was meant, in part, to show that Brockville is “open for business.”
But the city is also open to hosting tourists and attracting immigrants, from Korea and around the world, as well as twinning with other international communities, added the mayor.
“We look forward to any opportunities,” he said.
The ambassador, who was making his first trip to Brockville, said he would like to see more students study here, and more Koreans visit.
“This is a very meaningful first step to know each other better,” added Shin.
After the raising of the South Korean flag behind city hall, the party proceeded to the cenotaph for a wreath-laying with local Korean War veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion.
The delegation was also to tour the Railway Tunnel and the Aquatarium, the latter also the venue for a series of presentations and remarks in the afternoon.
The visit was to conclude with an educational session on Korean culture at Fulford Academy.
Shin said his country and Canada are “ideal partners in every respect” on the world stage, sharing common core values of democracy and free trade. He again thanked Canada for supporting his government’s efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to ongoing tensions with North Korea.
While the city remains interested in attracting both international investment and immigration, Lee Dong-Ok, consul general at the Korean embassy, suggested Korean-Canadians might also be an area of interest.
There are more than 130,000 people of Korean background living in the Toronto area, said Lee.
“It’s a large community but they don’t know much about Brockville.”
Similarly, there are thousands of Korean-Canadians in the Ottawa area who have yet to be introduced to what Brockville has to offer, he added.
Lee agreed Brockville is an attractive place for Korean families to send their children to study, as they are looking for destinations they consider safe and peaceful.