With more than a decade in advance, Georgia now rides the crest of a Korean wave of investment intensifying amid global uncertainty WE and South Korea to solidify their longstanding alliance with deeper economic engagement.
The growing interdependence of trade and security fueled discussions at a half-day forum in Atlanta hosted by Korean societythe New York-a Brussels-based group is organizing roadshows to restore basic bilateral connections as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
As supply chain vulnerabilities have surfaced during the pandemic, discussions have heated up around “friend shoring” – the concept of sourcing sensitive items that cannot be made at home. with allies and partner countries.
The United States and Korea have gone even further, with mutual investment projects helping to accelerate once-in-a-generation industrial changes in clean energy, electric vehicles and semiconductors, said experts at the event, co-hosted with the Atlanta-based company. Southeast US-Korea Chamber of Commerce.
An alliance that began with Korea’s dependence on U.S. protection in 1954 has now grown into a “global strategic partnership” that reverberates far beyond the Korean peninsula, said Thomas Byrne, president of the Korean Society. When the group was founded in 1957, international aid financed almost all of Korea’s fixed capital investment.
“Now, more than six decades later, South Korean companies have invested a cumulative amount of $62.4 billion in the United States, nearly double the amount of our direct investment in Korea through 2020,” Mr. Byrne said. “Over the past two years, we have seen an increase in green investments in strategic industries, also helping to strengthen critical supply chains.”
Korean investments support 94,500 jobs in the United States, with the South becoming a preferred destination largely due to the auto boom of the past 15 years.
Kia engines moved to Georgia in 2009, in the wake of hyundaithe factory just down Interstate 85 at Montgomery, Ala. Both have been followed by a multitude of suppliers which have made Korea one of Georgia’s main sources of investment.
The wave has grown even larger in recent years with the arrival of SK-batterythe $2.6 billion phase one plant at Trade, Hanwha QCELLSthe huge solar panel assembly plant in Dalton and the recent announcement that Hyundai would place a dedicated $5.54 billion electric vehicle factory near Savannah.
This latest project was revealed during the presidential Joe Bidentrip to Korea in May, where he met his newly elected Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol and noted the Hyundai agreement as underscoring the partnership of nations.
US senator. Jon OssoffGeorgia Democrat, met with executives from the automaker in Seoul after Hyundai-Kia announced a widespread plan to invest in electric vehicles under the former Korean president Moon Jae-inwith Mr. Biden in May 2021 but had not yet chosen Georgia.
“There’s a reason the first delegation I led as a U.S. senator visited the Republic of Korea last year,” Ossoff said in recorded remarks played at the event. . “The US-Korea alliance is vital to US national security and to our prosperity. And we know this well in the state of Georgia, where trade and commerce with the Republic of Korea is a large and growing part of international trade.
Consul General of Korea Yoon Joo Park took this idea further, noting that 10 years after the United States and Korea ratified a free trade agreement, Georgia is a microcosm for the direction the bilateral relationship is taking.
“Now is the time for us to prepare for a new decade by jointly addressing your global challenges based on the success of the Korea-US FTA,” he said. “If you’re curious about how to prepare for the next decade, you can get the answer right here in Georgia.”
Outside of Georgia, the trend has also held true, with reports that Samsung could spend up to $200 billion on chip manufacturing at 11 factories in Texas in the coming decades.
An “all-proof” alliance
These business ties and cultural connections help strengthen an alliance at a time of geopolitical upheaval caused by RussiaNorth Korea’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s continued provocations through nuclear testing.
“I don’t think there’s any inconsistency in saying things are rock solid and yet trying to make them stronger,” the retired general said. Vincent Brooks, who commanded US and United Nations forces in Korea. “I think the alliance must continue to grow, adapt and strengthen in all of its areas, so when we talk about economic cooperation, technological cooperation, working in space, these are layers of iron which add up to a rock-solid relationship.”
Mr. Brooks shared the stage with Lee Kyung-kooDefense Attaché of the Korean Embassy in Washingtonwho recounted the sharing of meals and airlift capacity during the evacuation of Afghanistan which showed how the Korean armed forces expressed their solidarity with those of NATO and the United States. The retired US commander added that detente exercises in an effort to open up dialogue on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions during the Asset the administration was counterproductive to U.S. readiness. The war in Ukraine, which was prompted by one man’s “hubris”, shows that conflict can occur even if a calculation on the battlefield might show it to be “illogical”.
It also showed that despots will try to exploit cracks in their opponents’ alliances, like the Russian president Vladimir Poutine tried to do unsuccessfully with NATO.
“The fragility of alliances will be exploited. Countries like North Korea, Iran, China, Russia – these types of countries look for fragility and apply pressure to weak points. If they can separate the United States and South Korea from each other, they will,” Brooks said.
In fact, the opposite happened in the case of Russia, which saw NATO stand firm and consider expansion during the Russian war in Ukraine. Korean President Yoon’s invitation to a recent NATO summit in Madrid is a signal that democracies see the need to cooperate more closely to counter efforts by authoritarian regimes to reshape the international order, Brooks said.
Korea has also become a founding member of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a Biden administration initiative to refocus Asia in US trade policy. In this context, the United States and Korea are working on issues as broad as promoting a free and open Internet, creating zero-emission vehicles, rolling out measures to contain COVID-19, combating “digital authoritarianism” and, of course, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Scott Walkerdirector of the Korean office and Mongolian affairs at the US State Department, said during a high-profile speech.
The advantages of Georgia
With its strong base of Korean investment, Georgia will feature in these conversations more significantly in the years to come, representatives from Kia, Delta Airlines and SK Battery said during a business panel near the end of the program.
Home to what some believe is the third-largest concentration of Koreans and Korean-Americans in the country, the state has pockets where Korean-language restaurants, shops, churches, schools and newspapers dominate. .
“If you go to Duluth Where Suwanee, it feels like Korea. Sometimes it feels more Korean than K-town in LA or 32nd in New York,” said Steven Jahng, head of external affairs and social value for SK Battery. “I think that’s a key reason besides the infrastructure (that) the standard quality of life for an average Korean expat coming to Atlanta is far better than any quality of life you’re going to find. in most parts of the United States.”
Delta Air Lines has played a role in promoting these connections through its nonstop flights to Seoul and its ongoing joint venture with alliance partner Skyteam korean air, said Athar Khan, Responsible for Delta’s International Specialty Sales.
Yoonie Kima Korea-focused project manager at Georgia Department of Economic Development who has worked with some of the biggest state investments in history, said there are other practical reasons why Korean companies are flocking to Georgia: supply chain bottlenecks and shipping costs.
Thirteen years and 3.7 million cars made in Georgia later, Kia is building on the strong sense of partnership it found in the state, overcoming new challenges by cultivating local talent and embracing the spirit Korean “Pali Pali” – growing rapidly, said Countess StuartPresident and CEO of Kia Georgia.
“We launched two new cars as a factory in the middle of the pandemic. It required a lot of coordination, but also a lot of perseverance and determination on the part of the individuals. You won’t see us giving up. There’s no answer out there that says, ‘No.’ It’s just, ‘How are we going to get there?’
Pat Wilsoncommissioner of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, said the case of investors like Kia shows that a stronger alliance and a favorable political climate, while beneficial, are not primarily responsible for the current wave of Korean investment.
“I think the driving factor is the need for the business,” he said, noting that the state was working on the Hyundai project before the announcement of Biden’s trip, although he was the one of the fastest to go from concept to completion. “These companies are looking decades into the future.”