The Korean consul general in Atlanta, He-beom Kim, selected the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce in Duluth as the venue to celebrate legislation making it easier for foreign business leaders to obtain and keep driver’s licenses in Georgia.
The dinner was held Sept. 10 on the chamber’s top floor at the 1818 Club, which is named for the year during which the county’s charter was issued.
In view of the importance Mr. Kim placed on the reciprocal drivers license agreement, a venue celebrating a historic occasion seemed appropriate.
“The driver’s license reciprocity agreement took effect on July 1 and its impact on our community is immediate,” he said in prepared remarks. “During the past two months of July and August alone, about 400 Korean applicants in Georgia have benefited from the program.”
With many local legislators, mayors from the county’s municipalities and other officials present, Mr. Kim said he had expressly chosen to hold the event in Gwinnett County instead of somewhere else that might have been more representative of the statewide importance of the legislative action.
Most likely it was for this reason that Gov. Nathan Deal chose the Kia Motors plant in West Point when he signed the bill into law May 1.
“…we should think as big as we can,” Mr. Kim said in response to a rhetorical question, ‘Why Gwinnett.’ “But when it comes to action, we should act locally. It sounds like a cliché but I am really convinced that this is the way to go for the Korean community to further succeed.”
He also said that the majority of Koreans and Korean-Americans living in Georgia “have embraced Gwinnett as their place to live, work and plan their future.”
He praised Gwinnett for its cultural diversity and tolerance, saying that they are responsible for enhancing the county’s economic competitiveness.
While Mr. Kim remained ever the diplomat, complimenting the leaders of Atlanta, the state and its other municipalities for working togther, it was state Rep. B.J. Pak who poked fun at Atlanta in his remarks, calling it a nearby suburban community.
The chamber’s president and CEO, Dan Kaufman, picked up Mr. Kim’s diversity theme, saying it is “a source of our strength.”
“The demography of 2040 will show that the entire United States will look like Gwinnett. We want to demonstrate how to do it right,” he added.
Richard Kim, vice president at the Korean polyester firm SKC Inc.’s Covington facility, said that the drivers license agreement should be followed by further steps to encourage economic cooperation between Georgia and Korea.
He cited the lack of a qualified professional workforce in the state and encouraged passage of immigration legislation on their behalf.
Georgia’s Quick Start program, however, trained SKC employees in record time, he said, and 70 percent have stayed on during the 17 years in which the plant has been operating.
He also praised local efforts to improve Georgia’s workforce, especially citing those of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp underscored the importance of the global economy to the state’s economy and said that his office has now made it possible for foreign companies to register online, eliminating unnecessary paperwork and time delays.
Among the guests were Byung Ho Chun, director of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.
Also included were Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette, Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist, Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris, and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Johnson.
Also attending were the following members of the Gwinnett legislation delegation: State Sen. Renee Unterman, State Sen. Curt Thompson and State Rep. Tom Kirby.
In addition, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash and Commissioner Jace Brooks attended as did Commissioner Rob Mikell of the Georgia Department of Driver Services; Kathe Falls, director of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Travis Kim, chairman of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta and June Towery, chair of the Korea Southeast U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Click here for Global Atlanta reporting on the license agreement.
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