On January 3rd, the state of West Virginia and South Korea’s LG Electronics announced a partnership with a “planned $700 million investment over the next five years” to help with health, renewable energy, and technology. This follows South Korean pharmaceutical company UNDBIO’s $100 million investment in April 2023 “to build an insulin manufacturing facility” in West Virginia. LG Electronics will utilize its North American Innovation Center called LG NOVA to work with West Virginian state institutions, businesses, and leaders. The LG investment impacts immediate health issues, potentially expands technological and entrepreneurial opportunities for recruiting and maintaining talent for West Virginia, and offers examples of how Asia matters for America.
LG NOVA’s investment drives straight to the big issues in West Virginia. One of LG NOVA’s main areas of emphasis is digital health, and this appears to be where the initial investment will be focused. LG NOVA leader and Senior Vice President of Innovation at LG Electronics Sokwoo Rhee specifically highlighted that “West Virginia has about 70% of its hospitals run by the state.” Moreover, LG NOVA stated it would set up offices in Morgantown and Huntington, home to West Virginia University and Marshall University, respectively. These two large state schools have health and hospital affiliations throughout West Virginia and make attractive places to implement any digital health innovations and technologies promoted by LG NOVA. Thus, this investment and emphasis on digital health would attempt to partly address the huge concerns about West Virginia’s overall aging, unhealthy population that often relies upon aging and “overwhelmed and overworked” medical professionals. Digital health is also critical for rural areas of West Virginia where access to medical facilities and expertise may be limited.
A secondary aspect of this investment that is crucial for West Virginia is innovation and entrepreneurship for those living in or willing to move to West Virginia. LG NOVA plans to start with digital health but then move on to supporting other technological efforts and jobs in the state. Thus, the is a strong possibility of additional benefits stemming from this investment.
This announcement is an important opportunity for West Virginia to deepen its relationships with Korea and Asia and to illustrate the many connections between the US and Asia. The investment addresses an immediate need to provide digital health support in West Virginia and provides promising potential for secondary benefits in entrepreneurship and innovation in the state. The announcement and partnership are a welcome start to 2024 and solid example of the importance of US-Korea and US-Asia relations.
Nicholas Hamisevicz, PhD is a Program Manager at the East-West Center in Washington. He first visited South Korea when he was a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College.