In October, two cities in Georgia each held Korean festivals to introduce Korean cultural activities to the local community. LaGrange was the first to hold its Korean Festival, followed a week later by one in Suwanee. Ties between Korea and Georgia have increased significantly in recent years, and these annual festivals help people in the community get to know Korea better as it becomes an increasingly important partner.
In the last few years, the number of Koreans in the state of Georgia has increased, reaching nearly 60,000 as of 2012 and likely above that benchmark now. The high number of foreign students from Korea in Atlanta is just one indicator of the increased immigration to the state. Among US cities, Atlanta attracts the fifth largest number of students from Seoul, following Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and San Francisco.
Ties between Korea and Georgia can also be seen in direct flights between Seoul and Atlanta. Daily non-stop flights between the two have been offered since August 2013 when Korean Air began operating Airbus A380 aircraft, the largest commercial aircraft, to accommodate the high volume of passengers. Some of this demand is due to travel and tourism, students, and family visits by immigrants, but also thanks to the increased presence of the Korean Companies in Georgia. Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors, as well as their suppliers, have all made major investments in Georgia in recent years.
As a result of these growing bonds, there has been an increase in Korean community organizations in Georgia, such as the Atlanta Korean Association(AKA). Groups like these are working to strengthen personal ties with the area by planning festivals, such as the two mentioned above, and other community-level activities. The relationship between Korea and Georgia is not new, however. There are two sister city relationships shared between them, some dating back a number of decades. One is between Atlanta and Daegu, which dates back to 1981, while new bonds continue to be formed such as the relationship between Cobb County and Seongdong-Gu, which began in 2007. A delegation from Seongdong-gu just recently made a trip to Cobb County to find ways to further enhance their ties. The delegation met the County’s officials, including Tim Lee, County Chairman, and discussed ways to develop their economic and educational relationship.
Based on these trends, the bonds between Georgia and Korea are expected to keep growing.
Kawoon Kim is an Asan Academy Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.