Citing the success of He Beom Kim, Korea’s consul general, in lobbying on behalf of reciprocal driver’s licenses, Chris Clark, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, encouraged the Atlanta-based consular corps to become equally involved in local issues they consider important.
“It took seven years and couldn’t get passed until Mr. Kim became involved,” Mr. Clark said during a “Distinguished Speakers Series” of Georgia State University’s Korean-American Business Center of the consul’s efforts to get the legislation approved.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed with fanfare at the Kia Motors plant in West Point last year the legislation enabling the state to enter into reciprocal agreements with foreign countries to recognize valid driver’s licenses .
The past practice of not recognizing overseas licenses was a serious concern of Kia and other foreign companies operating in Georgia. The new law makes it easier for business officials from overseas to obtain and keep driver’s licenses in the state.
The event also featured C. S. Cho, chairman of Hopewell International and a member of the family that owns the Hanjin Group, one of South Korea’s larger conglomerates.
Mr. Kim attended the event at Georgia State’s Buckhead campus April 2.
Perhaps encouraged by Mr. Clark’s comments about the role he played in persuading the Georgia General Assembly to pass the legislation granting reciprocal driver’s licenses, he brought up the visa issue in the question and answer period following the presentation.
Korean companies, he said, have problems getting the U.S Congress to support the availability of visas for skilled workers from Korea in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Meanwhile, he added, the General Assembly has passed a joint resolution to increase the availability of these visas for Korean professionals.
Mr. Clark responded that joint resolutions are primarily ceremonial and have little political clout. He recommended Mr. Kim lobby the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and indicated that he would help the consul general do so.
He also pointed to the chamber’s success in beating back proposals in the General Assembly to amend Georgia’s constitution and declare English the state’s official language.
Accompanying legislation also sought to mandate that the state’s driver’s license exams be given only in English.
Mr. Clark was less upbeat about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on companies on small- and medium-sized companies. He said that the federal law already was responsible for shutting down several hospitals in the state due to the attrition of Medicaid reimbursements.
He added that he thought the small- to medium-sized companies would have to bear increased medical costs of their employees.
Aside from tracking legislation, the consulates should follow closely the procurement contracts offered by the state and local governments. On occasion, a foreign company might be in a position to receive the winning bid, but may not even compete because of a lack of awareness.
Mr. Cho recounted his arrival in the United States in the early 1950s to pursue a civil engineering degree from Oklahoma State University. He then completed a master’s of science degree in structural engineering from Kansas State University.
Since 1992, he has been chairman of Hopewell International and Gateway Industries & Associates in Atlanta. He has received numerous honors, such as the Medal of the Crown from Belgium, the Republic of Korea Presidential Achievement Award and has been inducted in the College of Engineering Hall of Fame and Hall of Fame at Oklahoma State University.