Mayor Yoo-Chin Nam (center) of Gumi City in South Korea talks with Council Member Richard Bloom (left) about green business at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — Delegates from Gumi, South Korea visited Santa Monica Tuesday as part of a seven-day sustainability tour of some of California’s greenest cities. The delegates hoped to observe and learn green policies and programs while sharing some environmental ideas of their own.

The industrial city of Gumi — 95 percent of all Samsung phones are made there — is home to 400,000 residents. In 2009, Mayor Yoo Chin Nam launched the Gumi “Eco City Project,” which dedicated the city to becoming a green leader and Korea’s first carbon neutral city.

The stop in Santa Monica marked the end of the week-long tour that took delegates all over California, including San Jose, Palm Desert and Anaheim.

Upon their arrival in Santa Monica, the 10 delegates were greeted at City Hall, where gifts and city pins were exchanged, pictures were snapped and the partnership between Gumi and Santa Monica in their mission to be leaders and innovators of green cities was recognized.

After a presentation on Santa Monica’s sustainability measures, the group took to the streets to view the city’s environmentally-friendly sites, including the Civic Center Parking Structure and its solar panels. Officials from the two cities discussed techniques for not only creating green programs, but also for garnering government and community support.

Mayor Nam said that in some cases, Gumi’s policies are better, but in others, different cities’ policies prevail. For instance, Gumi recently planted 10 million trees, which far outshadows the 1,000 planted in Los Angeles recently.

Of the programs he saw, Mayor Nam said he would most like to replicate Palm Desert’s sustainability plan and the environmental education he saw taking place through programs like TreePeople and Anaheim elementary school students learning how electricity works. These types of programs reinforce how important reducing energy and encouraging environmentally friendly living are.

“It is astonishing that 15 years ago, at that time I thought the environmental problem was not serious,” Mayor Nam said. Now Gumi is a leader in sustainable cities. Mayor Nam said that whether government wants to make energy efficiency a priority is not a matter for debate. At this point, he said, it is imperative.

“The city of Gumi is one of the most industrial cities,” Mayor Nam said of the home to around 2,000 companies. “[We] produce a lot of carbon gas so we should reduce and we should repair.”

The delegates consisted of public officials from offices such as green policies and investment and trade, in addition to an environmental engineering professor at the Kumo Institute of Technology.

After the tour, the group plans to sit down and prioritize a list of environmental programs they have seen in different cities that the delegates will attempt to gradually reproduce in Gumi.

“[What is] very important is how to deal with these problems,” Mayor Nam said. “It is not important to do everything at once.”

Mayor Nam said that many Korean think that the environment is a very serious problem. In fact, working toward low carbon rates became part of the national agenda in 2008.

An important positive outcome of the trip, Mayor Nam said, is the newly-opened lines of communication. Now there can be an open exchange of ideas on the environment and green policy any time.

Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion president and leader of the trip, was equally pleased by the chance to exchange information and ideas. He said officials in the cities the delegates visited were all eager to share their stories with the Gumi leaders. The mood was genial, Flanigan said, but the California officials were doing more than just being friendly — they were fulfilling a responsibility.

“We have a global situation at hand,” Flanigan said. “All the leading cities have a duty to educate those just getting on board. … I think Santa Monica can be very proud.”

Mayor Chin similarly noted the importance of the meeting as it transpired.

“Everything I visited and I saw gave me some ideas,” Mayor Nam said. “Today is a history-making event.”

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