Trade in Harbor

Governor Brian Kemp Meets with President Yoon in Trade Mission to South Korea

Asia Korea

This June, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp embarked on a trade mission to South Korea where he met with South Korean President Yoon and Korean companies with Georgian operations such as Hyundai, LG, and SK. Both President Yoon and Governor Kemp spoke on hopes for deeper economic, cultural, and people-to-people relations for the future.

As part of a seven-day trade mission to the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp met with South Korean President Yoon on June 18th. This trade mission consisted of Governor Kemp, First Lady Kemp, and 15 Georgian delegates – including Georgia state lawmakers and economic recruiters – with the goal to reinforce strategic economic development partnerships between Georgia and South Korea.

Historically, Governor Kemp has been a welcomed figure in South Korean politics and businesses. Governor Kemp has nurtured his relationship with South Korea since his first overseas mission as Governor in 2019 and his efforts have not gone unrecognized. In 2023, Governor Kemp received the James Van Fleet Award, which is awarded annually by the Korea Society to one or more distinguished Koreans or Americans in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the promotion of US-Korea relations. It is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of US-Korea relations, signaling Governor’s Kemp’s commitment to South Korea-Georgia relations.

South Korea-Georgia Relations

The large amount of South Korean investments in Georgia reflects the strong relationship between South Korea and Georgia. In fiscal year 2023, Korean companies announced more than $10 billion in investments and the creation of 12,605 jobs across Georgia. And in 2023, the total trade between South Korea and Georgia was over $15.8, making up nearly 10% of the state’s total trade. With these numbers, it is not surprising that South Korea stands as one of the top sources of foreign direct investment and international job creation in Georgia for the last three years.

Georgia is also home to around 140 Korean companies with about $23 billion in projects invested over the last decade. Notable companies and projects include Hyundai’s automotive assembly complex project worth $7.6, the LG Group’s battery plant, and Hanwha Qcells’s solar panel plants.

Governor Kemp’s Seven-Day Trade Mission

The seven-day trade mission to South Korea is a direct result of the substantial Korean investment in Georgia. During the mission, Governor Kemp met with President Yoon to discuss South Korea-Georgia relations, and President Yoon asked for the governor’s support in creating a “business-friendly environment for Korean companies operating in Georgia in fields such as EVs and batteries, as well as for about 100,000 Korean nationals living in the state.” In the readout of the meeting, Governor Kemp stated that the “relationship between the Republic of Korea and the State of Georgia is stronger than ever, and we’ll continue to benefit from the opportunity that partnership brings.”

In addition to meeting with President Yoon, Governor Kemp and Georgian delegates also met with companies with significant operations in Georgia – including Hyundai Motor Group, LG Group, SK Group, Hanwha Qcells and CJ Foodville – to further economic ties between these businesses and the State of Georgia. Hyundai even toasted Georgia at a ‘Georgia Night’ reception that anticipated the 40th anniversary of the state’s economic development office in Seoul in 2025. In response to the hopes from the companies and President Yoon, Governor Kemp stated, “in a time of uncertainty, Georgia is the one certain thing that companies will get a constant good business environment with” during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Since 2021, Governor Kemp has campaigned for electric mobility with the Georgia Electric Mobility and Innovation Alliance (EMIA), led by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. This alliance works to support the growth of the electric mobility industry and enhance Georgia’s attractiveness foreign electric mobility industries through creating business-friendly environments and favorable public policies. EMIA members include the South Korean companies such as SK Innovation and KIA, showing the importance of South Korean interests in Georgia’s economy.

Future South Korea-Georgia Cooperation

Following the trade mission, South Korea-Georgia relations appear optimistic. Economically, Hyundai recently announced that it will start to manufacture electric vehicles in its new factory in Georgia, with production scheduled to begin before the end of the year. SK On and Hyundai are jointly building a $5 billion battery plant with hopes to start production in the second half of 2025. Governor Kemp and President Yoon welcome the economic and cultural growth that South Korea has brought to Georgia and as Governor Kemp stated, this cooperation will support the “valued friendship between both [Georgia] and [South Korea].

Jiwon Lim is a Summer 2024 Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a rising first year at Johns Hopkins SAIS pursuing an MA in International Relations with a functional focus in Security, Strategy, and Statecraft and a regional focus in Asia.