Korea’s government has opened a trade office in Atlanta, an outpost officials said will smooth the way into the Southeast for Korean investors and provide data-based insights and connections for American companies seeking to do business in the country.
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, or KOTRA, held a ceremony Thursday to showcase the new space at the Salesforce Tower at 950 E. Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead, signing a partnership agreement with the state of Georgia and recruiting dignitaries for white-gloved unveiling of its new signage in Suite 999.
The move comes as Korean investors continue to pour billions of dollars into the state and hire thousands of Georgians — and as the Consulate General of Korea in Atlanta celebrates more than 50 years of operation.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, joked that emphasizing the “half-century” of partnership with the consulate was a bit galling, considering he was born in the same year the Korean consulate opened. But Georgia, he said, is serious about its commitment to South Korea.
“We have never, never wavered in our support of that market,” Mr. Wilson said, providing a brief history of Korean investment in Georgia, especially since the state opened an office in Seoul in 1985.
The first landed project was SKC in the 1990s, a plant in Covington that got its start making photographic film and advanced to a plastic films for packaging with the rise of digital photography. Last year, int added on a new facility that will make glass wafers for semiconductors. That’s evidence of how both Korea’s economy and its companies have moved nimbly up the value chain, Mr. Wilson said.
“It shows too how Korean companies continue to be on the cutting edge of research and development,” added Mr. Wilson, who met with KOTRA President and CEO Jeong-yeol Yu during a trip to Korea in March.
A tipping point in the investment relationship was the 2006 announcement that Kia Motors would open a West Point plant, a facility that started operations in 2009 and now employs 2,700 people. Further, Kia has attracted 44 suppliers employing thousands more Georgians and has paved the way for companies like SK Group, the electric-vehicle battery that has pledged $2.6 billion and 3,000 jobs at a plant in Commerce.
“I only see the beginning at this point,” said Mr. Wilson, noting that the wave of Korean investment has yet to crest.
More than 100 Korean firms calling Georgia home have found the state to be a “reliable partner,” said Soo-deuk Sohn, executive vice president of KOTRA, in his opening remarks.
Much like the Atlanta Braves won the World Series last year, he said, KOTRA hopes to be a champion for trade relations with Atlanta and the broader United States.
“I hope that it will serve as an opportunity to further solidify the relationship between our two nations,” Mr. Sohn said of the office opening.
Mr. Sohn highlight recent successes like Kia’s 30 percent annual sales growth in Georgia-made Telluride SUV and Zinus’s growth in e-commerce rankings for mattresses in part thanks to its new facility in McDonough.
Korean Consul General Yoon-joo Park was also on hand for the event, praising the nearly 9,500 job created by Korean-owned companies in the state. KOTRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and its Atlanta offices is the eighth in the U.S. and 10th in North America. Based in Seoul, KOTRA has a network of 127 trade centers in 84 countries.
“I believe KOTRA Atlanta will take the lead for the furtherance of our economic ties,” Mr. Park said.
On hand for the opening were executives from companies like SK Battery and solar panel maker Q CELLS, another landmark Korean investor in the state, along with members of the economic development community.
Georgia exported more than $860 million in goods to South Korea in 2021, making it the state’s No. 10 market. Top products were gas turbines, aircraft, medical instruments, chemical woodpulp and chemical analysis instruments. The state imported more than $8.83 billion from Korea in 2021, led by cars, making it the third largest importer nation in 2021 after China and Mexico.
Jeong-su Shin is the director general of the Atlanta office.
Learn more about KOTRA here (Korean) or here. KOTRA Atlanta’s general phone number is (404) 682-3960. For questions and requests, contact Ms. Sangmi Lee (404) 682-3953 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.