WUHAN, May 19 (Xinhua) -- After enjoying a plate of his beloved soup dumplings fresh from the steamer, Lee Jong-hyeok, head of the Cheongju City Representative Office of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in Wuhan, took a leisurely walk through the park near his apartment to reach his office.
Having worked in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, for nine months, Lee has gotten used to starting a day in this way. "Wuhan is bigger and better than I expected, and I like it more and more than I thought I would," said the 45-year-old.
In early 2021, Lee, a functionary with Cheongju's administration of culture, sports and tourism, came up with the idea of working overseas, and Wuhan became his top choice.
"In October 2000, we established sister-city relations with Wuhan," said Lee, adding that Tottori prefecture in western Japan and Bellingham of the United States are also international sister cities of Cheongju.
"Among the cooperation programs with the three cities, Wuhan is the sole city that provides a two-year work program, while the others are both six-month study programs," Lee noted. "I'd like to practice more about international business, so I submitted the application to work in Wuhan."
After half a year of interviews and waiting, Lee stood out among the candidates and arrived in Wuhan in August last year.
"To be honest, before my departure, my family was really worried that I would not get used to the life here and that I would get infected with COVID-19," said Lee, who then brought with him two large suitcases, filled with facial masks, medicines and clothes for different seasons.
"But now, I feel quite safe here in Wuhan," Lee said. "When there are no local cases, we can remove masks in the open areas outside. Recently, as some asymptomatic cases from other provinces were occasionally reported, nearly every residential community provides free nucleic acid sampling services, buildings are disinfected daily, and we need to show our health code in public places. All these measures make me feel free of worries."
Lee's office is adjacent to Xibei Lake, one of Wuhan's core business zones, where headquarters of banks, companies and foreign consulates gather. He usually spends his day visiting local business partners and contacting enterprises in ROK.
His office, filled with shelves of products made in Cheongju, mainly helps small and medium-sized Cheongju enterprises to do business in Wuhan and China.
"These are some cosmetics and bio-agricultural products that we hope to promote in China," Lee said between the goods shelves. "We're planning to showcase them in expos held in Wuhan, Guangzhou and Shanghai this year. And due to the epidemic, we are also seeking online methods to enhance our cooperation with Chinese enterprises."
In his free time, Lee often takes public transport to explore the city. "I'm impressed that the parks here are always clean and the subways are spacious. What's more, the iconic East Lake is so similar to the Daecheong Lake of my hometown, which makes me feel really familiar," he said.
According to Lee, his connection with Wuhan goes back even further. Since the establishment of the sisterhood with Wuhan, the two cities have carried out cooperation in the fields of culture, education, government management and the economy. And from 2014, Wuhan and Cheongju initiated the exchange program of civil servants.
"Three civil servants from Wuhan were dispatched to my office in Cheongju. When we first met, they gave me liquor made in Wuhan and delicate presents with the pattern of Wuhan's Yellow Crane Tower," said Lee.
"Though we could neither communicate in Chinese nor Korean, we had a good time together. And that was the first time for me to have the idea of visiting Wuhan one day," he recalled.
"And after I came here, I also found the people here friendly and nice," Lee said. "There was a time I asked a passerby for directions. Because I could not communicate in Chinese, I understood it wrong. Though we waved goodbye, the lady chased me on her bike and didn't leave until she took me to the right place. That's really impressive."
The experience also encouraged Lee to improve his Chinese. On Lee's desk in the office, he has two spoken Chinese textbooks and a notebook. The pages are full of words and poems that he wrote to remember. "Hopefully my Chinese will get better and better, so I can communicate better with people and go to more places."
Now, Lee is falling more and more in love with his life in Wuhan. "It's very convenient living here. I can order meals via apps on my phone, which can be delivered really fast. And for a nature and sports lover like me, it fits me well here in Wuhan, I also made several local friends in the gym and rock climbing club."
"I have video calls with my family every day, and I always post photos of local tourist sites for them. And they constantly tell me how they wish to be here with me," said Lee, adding that he hopes to bring his son to Wuhan and other Chinese cities one day.
In three months, Lee's tenure in Wuhan will be halfway to completion. "If the pandemic can be alleviated and I can easily travel between Wuhan and Cheongju, I will consider applying to work here for another two years. I hope to explore more about the city."