Young Hoon Mun, South Korea's minister of public administration and safety, peered out over the cascading waters of Snoqualmie Falls. "Wow," he said. It's...

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Young Hoon Mun, South Korea’s minister of public administration and safety, peered out over the cascading waters of Snoqualmie Falls.

“Wow,” he said.

It’s a trip, all right.

Mun first stopped in Snoqualmie in June as part of a delegation from the South Korean government. The city’s quality of life impressed him.

In Korea, Mun serves on The Team of Making a Good Place to Live, so he knows one when he sees it.

For the next 18 months, Mun will study development, Snoqualmie-style.

At a reception in his honor Monday at the Salish Lodge, Mun said the South Korean government wants to “balance” its rural and urban populations and equalize living standards between the two.

“If we don’t develop the rural areas, we can’t go to a high level” as a nation, Mun said.

Snoqualmie has 6,300 people. Mun’s hometown, Seoul, has more than 10 million.

But a sharper contrast between the U.S. and South Korea can be seen by comparing rural areas. South Korea’s small communities look much as they did 40 years ago, Mun said.

Villages are in decline while cities are bursting at the seams.

“Too many people,” he said of Seoul. “So crowded.”

The nation’s rapid economic expansion has spurred migration from the countryside to cities. In an attempt to stem the tide, the South Korean government in the 1970s embarked on a decade of rural village building, Mun said, an effort that resumed in 2006 under the current administration.

Despite much federal investment, people still prefer to leave small towns for better education, housing and living standards offered in South Korea’s cities, he said.

During their stay — which is sponsored by the South Korean government — Mun, his wife and son will live in an apartment in Snoqualmie Ridge, a master-plan community with 540 acres of open space crisscrossed by walking trails and featuring a golf course, a rarity in a golf-obsessed South Korea.

Mun will learn how to promote mixed-use developments that include a range of housing types, planning director Nancy Tucker said. She said most of the amenities the city enjoys stem from its comprehensive plan, written in 1994 to comply with the state’s Growth Management Act.

What Mun wants to know is how city planners got the private sector to pay for them. In South Korea, a company like Samsung or Hyundai might build a 12-story apartment building without a sliver of leisure space for the hundreds of people living there, he said.

South Korea does require developers to pay fees, but “in my opinion we have to introduce the impact fee,” he said.

He also hopes to discover how a small town like Snoqualmie managed to attract employees skilled at forging public-private partnerships.

Looking at the cluster of city staffers gathered at the Salish Lodge to welcome him, Mun said that in South Korea, civil servants in local government are mostly “generalists,” and, he added, there seems to be a lot more of them.

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347 or aroe@seattletimes.com