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[Herald Interview] Houston mayor seeks bigger economic ties with Seoul

The resumption of U.S. energy exports after nearly four decades and the rise of shale gas as a next-generation energy source will reinforce South Korea-Houston ties in the future, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.

“About 50 percent of our major economy is fueled by the oil and gas sector. The unconventional extraction of shale gas in the country has invigorated the atmosphere and has become a game changer. We are learning about Korean companies’ interest in the sector,” said the leader of the largest city in Texas during an interview with The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

Along with the energy sector, Parker named industries such as medicine ― Houston is home to one of the world’s largest medical complexes ― education and leisure as other areas that could help expand the bilateral business ties between Seoul and Houston.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker (center) speaks to The Korea Herald on Tuesday in Seoul.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker (center) speaks to The Korea Herald on Tuesday in Seoul.

“Houston, as a sophisticated global city, is a food, arts and culture destination. One out of 5 Houstonians are foreign-born and there are about 30,000 Korean-Americans making the city evermore dynamic,” Parker said. 

“And with Korean Air’s opening of the direct flight route connecting Houston and Seoul, there will be more to come,” she added.

In May, the nation’s biggest commercial carrier launched a direct route between Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport and Korea’s Incheon International Airport.

Parker, who has been at the helm of the Houstonian government for the past five years, brought representatives of the most famous corporations representing Houston, including Royal Dutch Shell, for her four-day trip to Seoul.

The delegation met with a number of high-ranking officials from the finance and trade ministries and representatives of business organizations. It also sat down with executives of Samsung and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

Park and Parker signed a sister-city pact that is expected to bring further cooperation and friendship.

Houston is South Korea’s seventh-largest U.S. gateway for international trade with $3.5 billion worth of exports in 2013. South Korea ranks as Houston’s 10th-largest international trade partner with $2.8 billion in the same year.

Several large South Korean corporations including Samsung, LG, SK Networks and SK hynix operate in the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

By Bae Ji-sook (