KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu and Gapyeong in South Korea are set to be sister cities, enhancing tourism, trade and cultural exchange between both parties.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise the twinning status is expected to be inked next year.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew announced that the move was part of plans to promote tourism and bilateral trade.
Gapyeong county, under Gyeonggi province, is about an hour's drive from Seoul and has a population of over 62,000.
Liew, who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said she would discuss the proposed MoU with City Hall Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman and her ministry's permanent secretary Datuk William Baya.
"The Mayor of Gapyeong County, Kim Sung-ki, paid a courtesy call on me on Thursday (Dec 5) afternoon, where we agreed on having an MoU mutually beneficial to both parties.
"Our aim is to increase tourist flow from South Korea to Sabah and vice versa, and to promote cultural exchange. We may also look into possible cooperation in the field of education," she said in a statement.
Liew said her senior marketing manager would work on the terms of the MoU, which is likely to be inked in Gapyeong next year when they reciprocate Mayor Kim's maiden visit to Sabah.
Currently, South Korean tourist arrivals to Sabah are the second highest in number after China. There are more than 40 direct flights per week from South Korea to Sabah via five airlines.
Liew, who is also Tawau MP, is in favour of getting South Korean tourists, among others, to go beyond Kota Kinabalu as well by visiting tourist destinations in Sandakan and Tawau located on the state's east coast.
"We have the world-famous Sipadan Island on the east coast of Sabah while Nami Island (near Gapyeong), known for being the filming location of Korean dramas, is a famous tourist attraction," she said, noting the general similarities here and Gapyeong in terms of beautiful landscapes, scenic islands, tourist resorts and nature tourism.