South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to visit Georgia this weekend to survey progress on the SK Innovation electric-vehicle battery plant, according to Korean sources.
The visit will come after Mr. Moon’s summit with President Joe Biden in Washington Friday, where the leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues from North Korean denuclearization and Chinese aggression to economic cooperation.
That last priority has been amplified in recent months here in Georgia, where the largest-ever foreign investment was threatened with closure due to a legal feud between Korean battery giants LG Energy Solution and SK. The dispute was settled in April when SK agreed to pay $1.8 billion to LG, prompting a sigh of relief from officials in Georgia, where at least 2,600 jobs and $2.6 billion were on the line.
The clarity provided by the settlement, plus the announcement last month of Mr. Moon’s imminent visit, have touched off a flurry of Korean investment announcements. Hyundai Motor Group said it would invest $7.4 billion into mobility initiatives including upgrading facilities to prepare for electrification. The company stopped short of committing to put the funds into the Hyundai and Kia plants in Alabama and Georgia, respectively.
SK and Ford Thursday announced a $5.3 billion battery joint venture called BlueOvalSK, the partners indicating that they could build two new U.S. battery plants. SK supplies batteries to the electric Ford F-150 Lightning, which Mr. Biden drove earlier this week before its official Wednesday unveiling. Korean news sources reported that SK Innovation’s chairman left Korea on a flight bound for the U.S. Wednesday.
In a statement, Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said the state welcomes the news of the collaboration, which he said could connect Georgia’s future-facing EV sector with its traditional auto manufacturing heritage.
“This announcement provides a great opportunity to potentially renew a long-held partnership with Ford, which manufactured cars in Georgia from 1947-2006, while rapidly expanding SK’s footprint in the state. With every new commitment by an automotive OEM that their goals are shifting to a future in e-mobility, they are also driving the transition for suppliers as well as the jobs that must accompany them. Georgia is open for business and ready to work together to seize this moment,” Mr. Wilson said.
Georgia also announced a $10 million investment Thursday by Korean automotive firm Duckyang, which supplies SK Battery with modules and energy-storage systems and also sells cockpit modules to Kia, Hyundai, Renault and other companies globally.
Another Georgia connection during the Moon visit will be the Friday’s awarding of a Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. of Columbus, Ga., for acts of valor during the Korean War in 1950. Mr. Moon is set to attend the ceremony at the White House Friday.
Learn more about Col. Puckett’s actions here.
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