Busan is the second largest city in the Republic of Korea with 3.5 million population. The city is actively developing international relations with 36 cities in 27 countries.
Busan Foundation for International Cooperation (BFIC), established on November 25th, 2005, is actively involved in the projects to lead the globalization of Busan. Mr. Alok Kumar Roy, Secretary General of BFIC, told about the main purpose and the projects of the Organization.
Main objective of BFIC
-BFIC takes care of an urban diplomacy of the city. It started with our neighboring sister cities like Shanghai, Fukuoka in Japan, but now we carry out city-level diplomacy through sister or friendship cooperation agreements in 36 cities.
If you ask me what is the main focus today when it comes to the relation with our sister cities, probably it is ODA training program that we are being conducting. We have training programs in many areas, such as city planning, public transportations, fishery, agriculture, health care and finance. As for media-related field, we had another training just two weeks ago. This time we had participants from Equador, who came for Road Safety training. One of the main project that we have done so far was in cooperation with Metro System in Cairo, Egypt, it was KOICA’s program. We have conducted it for 3 years with Busan Metro System.
There were three teams in three years with different responsibilities. I believe that program was effective. They came to know how Busan has developed in last 30 years. 30 years is just one generation.
Projects and Programs
So what Busan has learned, what South Korea has learned? The answer is how to make the best use from the limited resources that you have. Today if you look around in Busan, you will be surprised how modern it is with all facilities and infrastructure. But it was not like this 30 years ago. I have been living there for 30 years. You will see that the development needs priorities but more than that it needs very proper management of man power and resources. I think that Busan is in the position to share the experience, so the sharing experience is important. Whoever needs it we are ready to extend our support and assistance. This is related to ODA training projects and programs, but in addition to it we do many things. For example, we send children to participate in projects in different countries in order to promote mutual understanding of cultures and friendship among sister cities. Children have opportunity to travel to three cities Shanghai Fukuoka and Busan. There are also exchange programs for international students as well.
We sent volunteer team to Myanmar and Mongolia, where we conducted also health trainings or health facilities. It was a camp for a week in each case and we helped elementary students with basic hygiene and basic learning experiences. In Mongolia, there were some old schools with leaking roofs and with no toilets. There were projects with Surabaya as well. As the cooperation lasted for 5 years, we moved to another city. These are all cities we have conducted the projects with before. Until last year we send young university students to internship programs. We are happy that Cebu Government accepted them and did a good thing for Busan students. In Mongolia, some of students studied pollution issues under our training program. It was experience not only for Koreans but also for Chinese students who studied in South Korea. In the process we did tree plantation in China. Our organization exhibited Busan brand in the cities of China and organized some startup workshops as well. BFIC provides cultural and sport exchanges, like table-tennis and badminton competition for older citizens.
Supporting Foreign Communities
Another aspect of our existence in Busan is to support the foreigners living in the city. We provide translation services in 13 languages including assistance when visiting public offices. For example, if somebody needs to go to the hospital, we provide a translator 24/7. Then we also provide free Korean language training program for everyone who wants to learn it. We provide consultancy services in 8 areas including legal, immigration, job, payment problems. There are many foreign workers in South Korea now and sometimes they have problems with payments.
Involving Students in Projects
Our Organization has good relations with student communities here. We provide students the chance to know Busan better, BFIC arranges internship program and home visit so that they could develop network with Busan locals. The students also help us in branding Busan in their own countries. These days SNS is a good media so our students do good job helping us in promoting BFIC. Our Organization has BIFC Channel where we tell about the projects and programs. For example, BIFC did some advertisement about ASEAN meeting and announced about the plans to host EXPO-2030. BFIC provides internships and career developing programs for international students and gives the change to work in the organization as part-time.
The idea is very simple. Our mission is ‘Engage minds, build bridges, connect geography’. Another program we are pursuing for last four years is Eurasia Expedition. We go to Russia, China, it actually depends on the year. This year 56 people went to Vladivostok, then to China, Mongolia, Moscow and Berlin. The theme of the expedition was dedicated to 100th anniversary of the March 1st Movement. Earlier the expedition used to go to St. Petersburg, but this time they went to Poland and Germany from Moscow as this year was marked by 30th anniversary of the fall of German, which is close to Korean reality very well. We hoped to go to Busan through North Korea but this idea didn’t work out this time. The idea is to make Busan a hub for whole Europe and Asia. So the new northern and southern policy aim at that, we look forward to the day when Busan will be a starting point of the path to peace.
Developing International Cooperation
We deal with various organizations for environmental issues, this time we invited Chris Jordan for the workshop here. BFIC also has projects where you can use garbage plastic in more artistic way. The Organization provide programs for Korean students, if they want to participate in international internship programs like the UN and other, so we provide special lectures for them. UNDP is also involved in many projects with us.
There are 60 thousand foreigners in Busan. First and foremost, BFIC provides necessary services for settlement. Second is dealing with the community. Third, we constituted a committee so that we can give a feedback to the city government in making policy related to the foreigners and multicultural families.
Photo by Park JungKeun