Korea’s consul general to the Southeast, Ambassador Seong-Jin Kim, bid farewell to his Georgia colleagues at a “Modern Korean Gala Dinner” on Oct. 5 in honor of “Chuseok,” Korea’s Thanksgiving Day.
The celebration drew more than 150 well-wishers to the Westin Perimeter Hotel in Sandy Springs where they enjoyed traditional dishes prepared by executive chef Jason Oh, who is recognized by the first Seoul Michelin Guide as one of Korea’s premier chefs and owns restaurants in Seoul, Korea, and Las Vegas, Nev.
In his formal comments, Mr. Kim thanked the Duluth-based Korean Food Global Association S.E., USA for organizing the evening event and announced that the dinner was also a kick-off for a two-day festival to be held at the Korean Community Center in Norcross.
Mr. Oh presented a six-course meal that included appetizers Amuse Bouche, Seoul Garden, and Chestnut Soup. He also showcased Korean short-ribs “Galbijim”, royal cuisine “Bibimbap”, and traditional dessert made from cinnamon with dried persimmon “Sujunggwa.” And the menu didn’t ignore traditional Korean drinks such as Soju, Makgeolli, Kooksoondang and Icing.
John D. Son, president of the Korean Food Global Association, in his formal remarks thanked the Korean government for its support of spreading the popularity of Korean food and popular culture.
Chuseok is a major harvest festival celebrated over a three-day holiday in South Korea around the time of the autumn equinox.
During an interview with Global Atlanta prior to the dinner, Mr. Kim reviewed his three-year term as consul general for six Southeastern states, including Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and Florida; the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, an unincorporated U.S. territory.
He cited the establishment in recent years of the North American headquarters in Atlanta of the Posco America Corp., South Korea’s steel-making company headquartered in Pohang, South Korea, and Kumho Tire USA Inc., which has a distribution center in McDonough and a factory in Macon.
He indicated that he and his government were “disturbed” by the Trump administration’s desire to redo the Free Trade Agreement reached between the U.S. and Korea.
The agreement is based on three pillars, he added: trade, service trade and investment. While the negotiations up to now have focused primarily on trade, the impact of Korean investment into the U.S. and the opening of U.S. services to the Korean market apparently are being disregarded by the administration, he said.
To underscore his point, he added that he would be attending before returning home the opening of a new Hankook Tire plant in Clarksville near Nashville, Tenn., representing an $800 million investment. Also in Tennessee, a new LG Electronics Inc. home appliance manufacturing facility is to open creating at least 600 full-time jobs.
In addition, he mentioned recent investments such as the Samsung Group’s announcement that it would be opening a new research development and home appliance manufacturing facility in Newberry, S.C. The $389 million facility is to produce industry-leading appliances and generate more than 950 new jobs.
He recalled that while he was posted at the Korean embassy in Washington before coming to Atlanta “everybody was pushing for the Korea Free Trade Agreement.” “Now they want to redo everything,” he added. “It does disturb me.”
Mr. Kim was upbeat about his efforts to encourage Korean-Americans to become more involved with South Korea, its culture and the Korean language. He was particularly pleased with the opening of the Korean Education Center in Duluth by his government’s Ministry of Education.
The center is the 42nd offshore branch of the ministry and is aimed at helping Korean-Americans, and others, choose the Korean language as their second or third language. The center also provides support for the children of overseas and ethnic Koreans to learn the Korean language.
“Of the 100,000 Koreans we think are living in Georgia,” he said, “at least 60 percent are U.S. citizens. We are reaching out to Korean-Americans, especially the second and third generations, and they are very supportive.”
Sarah Park, who will be teaching Korean at the center and is serving as the outreach coordinator for the Korean-American Coalition, praised Mr. Kim for his efforts to connect all aspects of the communities and creating bridges between the generations and between those established in business and young professionals
“He created a new platform for building relationships and really knew what was going on in the communities and spoke the truth,” she told Global Atlanta. “It was almost as if he had a third person point of view and didn’t always say what the government wanted to hear.”
As for Mr. Kim himself, he said that after 36 years of service, most of which he spent outside of Korea, he would retire and travel in his country to become reacquainted with it.
“When I have gone to Seoul, I would stay in a hotel, go to meetings, and then immediately come back home in the U.S.,” he said. “Seoul is unbelievably different than when I grew up. Now it has 15 million people, when I was young there was only the old town and probably only a few million. There was no subway.”
Besides visiting his home country, he said that he also looked forward to traveling in China to learn more about that country and the changes that it has undergone.
Of course, retirement would offer him the opportunity to play golf, he added, enabling him to play more often than once a month, which was the quotient that he allowed himself in the U.S.