The Georgia Department of Economic Development was honored for its contributions towards strong US- South Korea ties, a testament to the seismic Korean investment into the state as well as strong cultural ties between the state and the Republic of Korea.
At The Korea Society’s 2023 Annual Dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York City this September, the prestigious Van Fleet Award, given previously to heads of state such as former US President George W. Bush and former ROK President Kim Dae Jung for their outstanding contributions to US-Korea relations, added a new prestigious awardee: the state of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development.
In an event press release, Korea Society President and CEO Thomas Byrne congratulated the department as well as its other awardee, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), saying both entities play an integral part in the flourishing of US-Korea economic ties and serve “to enhance trade and investment between the two countries, creating high-paying jobs in American communities and securing supply chains in critical technologies.”
South Korean investment in the United States has grown steadily, and particularly so in the state of Georgia. Georgia is one of the top destinations for Korean foreign direct investment, with $19.5 billion in greenfield investment in the state since 2003. Many of the largest investments are related to automotives and EV batteries. A Hyundai Motor Group-LG Energy Solutions joint venture in Bryan County will bring in a total of $7.5 billion in investment into a battery facility and a new EV factory known as the ‘Metaplant,’ as well as over 8,500 jobs in the next eight years. Hyundai is also partnering with SK on in a joint venture to develop an EV battery plant in Georgia’s Bartow County with a $4-5 billion investment and an expected 3,500 new jobs.
Smaller investments from South Korea, often from companies that manufacture the components and parts needed to manufacture EV batteries and automobiles, accompany these large ventures. Automotive supplier Daesol Ausys Georgia’s new facility for manufacturing motor and EV components, is expected to bring in a $72 million investment in Harris County. Automotive parts manufacturer NVH Korea will also establish a facility in Henry County with a projected $72 million in investment. And DAS Corp, a supplier for the Hyundai Metaplant, will invest $35 million in Candler County to establish a manufacturing facility. These investments were all announced in 2023, a testament to the rapid clip of investment deals across the state.
Other investments span the reach of cultural and educational collaboration. In September of 2023, Hyundai signed a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Tech to celebrate their collaborative partnership focused on sustainable development. CJ Foodville, a division of CJ group, announced a $47 million investment in a baked goods factory in Hall County as part of the company’s effort to support its bakery chain ‘TOUS les JOURs’ growing presence in the US.
While many of the projected investments and job numbers are set to take place a few years from now, cultural and people-to-people ties between South Korea and Georgia have already formed strong bonds. The Korean American population in Georgia has continued to grow to about 73,000 from US Census data as of 2021. In Fall 2023, 1,910 South Korean students are projected to enroll in universities in Georgia, and there are 44 programs that US students from Georgia universities can choose from to study abroad in South Korea.
President of the Southeast US Korean Chamber of Commerce and Senior Manager of Aprio Jae Kim notes these community ties in a quote provided to East-West Center Young Professional Claire Callahan: “There is already a difference in corporate culture alone from the US and Korea working together. This means creating new terms as norms- such as ‘Pali Pali’ (quick, quick) corporate culture from Koreans making it in the American workforce.” He adds: “Not only does the historically large monetary amounts coming into the US from Korea matter, but also the next level wave of exchanges in Korea and America working together, such as joint ventures, joint research and development, joint workforce development, and most importantly joint culture. This can impact both small and large businesses that are established because of recent investments.”
In his keynote speech at the Korea Society’s Annual Dinner, Governor Brian P. Kemp said the “Georgia-Korea partnership is special. Its foundations were laid nearly 40 years ago, when Georgia first established an economic office in Korea. It blossomed when Kia chose Georgia for its first US manufacturing plant in 2006. It has only grown more and more with each passing year…Over the next 10, 20, and 30 years, that relationship will continue to grow and thrive as new opportunities bring further transformation.”
The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s receipt of the Van Fleet Award is a testament to US-South Korea ties –economic, cultural, and educational – and shared prosperity to come.
Claire Callahan is a graduate student at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs pursuing a Master of Arts in Asian Studies. Claire previously worked as Communication Officer at The Korea Society in New York City and was a Fulbright grantee to South Korea.