Georgia Delegation Seeks Stronger Ties with South Korea

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by Yeo-Ri Kim
KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia, KIA’s first manufacturing site in North America, is the largest South Korean investment in Georgia. [Image: KIA official website]

The Georgia delegation departed to South Korea on Delta’s first non-stop flight from Atlanta, GA to Incheon in South Korea, on June 3. This was Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s third visit to South Korea, following trade missions to Asia in 2011 and 2013. While visiting, Deal aimed to promote future investments in Georgia from South Korean companies, meeting with officials from KIA Motors and Hyundai Motor Company.

South Korea-based Hyundai-KIA Automotive Group, the world’s fifth largest automotive manufacturer, opened its first North American manufacturing facility in West Point GA, in 2009. KIA invested $1.1 billion to construct its new Georgia campus, KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG). In May, KIA’s West Point facility produced its one millionth Sorento model, and almost 2.4 million vehicles in total. According to a KMMG official, the campus has created more than 15,000 jobs in the region, with on-site and local suppliers. KMMG also has expanded its ties with the local community in Georgia by partnering with West Georgia Technical College and THINC College, supporting scholarships and career programs for students.

Georgia is also home to approximately 70 Korean facilities, which create more than 5,300 jobs for Georgians. South Korea is the state’s 8th largest trading partner –­ exports from Georgia to Korea were valued at $900 million in 2016. In addition to the economic relationship, Georgia has continued to expand its range of partnerships with South Korea; the Georgia Department of Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education for promoting teacher and student exchange programs in 2012. Two communities in Georgia have sister partnerships with South Korea: Atlanta with Daegu and Cobb County with Seongdong-Gu.

Aside from South Korea, the Georgia delegation also visited Japan and met with officials of Kubota Corporation, which recently announced an expansion of its Georgia facility. 

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.