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Area politicians help Korean mayors through leadership training program

May 23, 2001

Lansing Mayor David Hollister spoke with 20 Korean mayors Monday on economic strategies and how important an image is to a city.

It was all part of the event titled “Transforming Civic Society and Government in the 21st Century,” a leadership training program promoting decentralization of the Korean government.

To drive home his point about image, the mayor showed the visitors the original flag of Lansing and the new one that was designed when he took office.

“(With the new flag) we tried to create a sense of excitement, activity, vitality, movement, change; that is what we try to represent with this new symbol,” he said.

Hollister said the mayors were interested in why General Motors Corp. would build two new plants in Lansing, the relationship between local and state government and the role of MSU and how it helps the capital city’s image.

Hollister said he has met with foreign officials before and said it can be interesting and enlightening.

“You learn something from them as much as they learn something from you,” he said.

The program may also help bring closer relations with South Korea.

“Over time (the program might) set up international exchange programs, economic exchange, commerce, university exchanges and cultural exchanges,” Hollister said.

The mayors were able to speak to presenters through translators.

Kim Kee Hyoung, mayor of Uijeongbu City, said he was quite inspired with Hollister’s approach on image.

“To turn the city around, from the sun-setting city to the city where the sun is rising, and that was quite impressive to me,” he said.

The mayors were also treated to a presentation by East Lansing City Manager Ted Staton and author Peter Plastrik. The presentation discussed five strategies on the reinventing of government and how it was applied to East Lansing in 1995. The strategies range from asking what government is trying to accomplish to the developing attitudes and expectations of people who work in the government.

“Just learning by the five strategies is more than I have anticipated, that I could definitely take back to Korea,” said Jang Se-Hwan, lieutenant governor for political affairs for the Chollabuk-do Provincial Government.

Song Dal-Yong, mayor of Paju City, said the United States is a good role model for the Korean government’s decentralization.

“To just listen to the experts who have been implementing the decentralized government system, and then learning some of the strategies, is very beneficial,” he said.

While the visitors have plenty of ground to cover, the mayors will be staying for only seven days. Jeffrey Riedinger, associate dean for International Studies and Programs and director for the Center for Advanced Study of International Development, said the problem is a costly project.

“We are mindful of the tension in the amount they need to accomplish and the time for reflection,” he said.

The mayors spent Tuesday morning in the MSU-Detroit College of Law Building, learning about the history and problems encountered while trying to run a small government in America from Lynn Jondahl, of the Michigan Political Leadership Program.

They will return to campus again Friday for a meeting with MSU President M. Peter McPherson.

State News staff writer Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.

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