On August 10, the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the opening of its brand-new Korea Education Center (KEC) near Atlanta, Georgia. It has been 29 years since the last KEC began its operations in Houston in 1988. The Korean MOE has credited the long-standing and dedicated efforts of Korean communities in Georgia as a major force behind the decision. Given that Korean is the third most common language in Georgia, the new Atlanta KEC is expected to be a driver for further academic and cultural exchange between Georgia and Korea.
The Korean government-affiliated KEC started its first operations in Washington DC and Los Angeles in 1980. Currently, seven KECs in the United States offer various Korean language courses, materials, and cultural events to local people. Partnering with the National Institute for International Education, the KECs promote educational exchange programs — English Program in Korea (EPIK) and Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK). Through the programs, American students have engaged in teaching English in Korean rural areas as well as the Korean cultural experiences.
Educational cooperation has been a robust foundation for the bond between Georgia and Korea. Over 2,000 Korean student study in Georgia, annually; for the 2016 Fall semester, Koreans were the leading group among international students at the undergraduate level at Georgia State University. This summer vacation, students at the Georgia Institute of Technology visited Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea through the school’s Korean Language, Business, and Technology program. Through visits to Korean companies and collaborations with Korean students, the students deepened their understandings of Korean industry and culture. Georgia Tech actively cooperates to foster future innovators with the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, Korea, which ranks as the world’s number six and Asia’s number one most innovative university.
Korean and Korean-American contributions to Georgia’s economy are significant. According to the latest Census, it is estimated more than 66,000 Koreans call Georgia home; 41.9% of the state’s Korean-Americans lived in Gwinnett County. Currently, there are over 70 Korean companies in the state, creating over 5,000 jobs for Georgians. Last June, then Georgia Governor Nathan Deal led the state’s third trade mission to South Korea to reinforce its economic ties with Korea. 25 Georgian companies operate in Korea currently. Delta Airline’s recent launch of a direct flight from Atlanta to Incheon is also facilitating greater ties between Georgia and Korea.
Yeo-Ri Kim is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Master's candidate in Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas.