Connecting Cultures: The State of Georgia and Korea

Staff Report

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

During his most recent mission to Korea in early March, Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson sat down for tea with Senior Vice Chairman of SK Inc. as part of a decades-long cultural and business relationship between the State of Georgia and Korea. The packed schedule also included a tour of Kia Vision Square with Kia leadership and a meeting with the President of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).

The opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality came in April, when the State of Georgia welcomed a delegation of high-ranking officials from the Korean province of Gyeong sang Buk-Do. Representatives from the State met with the delegation to discuss additional ways they can work together to create future opportunities for businesses from Georgia and Korea. These institutional exchanges, strong personal relationships, and cultural connections signal the mutual expectation for further expanding ties and economic exchange between the State of Georgia and Korea.

The State of Georgia values building relationships around the globe and is proud of its close connection with Korea. The importance the State places on this relationship was made abundantly clear when Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp made Korea his very first economic development mission as Governor in 2019.

But Georgia’s connections with Korea go beyond business.

Diverse Communities

Students in ClassroomAccording to the 2020 U.S. Census, more than 71,000 Korean-Americans were estimated to be residing in Georgia. That number was predicted to grow to more than 93,000 in 2021.

The counties of Gwinnett, Fulton, and DeKalb have become home to vibrant and prospering Korean communities. 

Group enjoys a mealAnnual festivals like Seoul of the South restaurant tour in Gwinnett celebrate and share the Korean-American community’s culture with fellow Georgians. Programs such as the Seoul of the South Tour, organized by Explore Gwinnett, fosters the relationship between Gwinnett’s hospitality industry and the local Korean community. Sarah Park, native to Korea and current resident of Gwinnett County, leads the tour while educating guests on Korean culture in Gwinnett.

Cultural Exposure Through Arts, Education

Alliance Theatre PerformanceIn Fulton County, Korean-American culture is also reflected in local performing arts. In March 2022, the Alliance Theatre, a 2022 Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) Bridge Grant recipient, and The Children’s Theatre Company premiered BINA'S SIX APPLES, a 75-minute production about a young girl from Korea who is forced to leave her home due to war in 1950. Writer Lloyd Suh’s parents experienced the Korean War as young children, and their stories provided the inspiration for the play.

With daily direct flights from Atlanta to Seoul, ties are strengthened. The connections via Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport make travel for business, educational opportunities, leisure, or family is a breeze.

In 2019, Georgia welcomed 32,200 South Korean tourists, and Korean musical acts often include Atlanta on their U.S. tours. Kpop groups Blackpink, Ateez, and TWICE toured in Georgia in 2019, 2020, and February 2022, respectively. TWICE’s February performance at State Farm Arena sold out in hours, according to media, and attendees came from across the United States. Numerous artists are expected to tour at Georgia venues, including the State Farm Arena, the Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre, and the Fabulous Fox Theatre this summer. In addition, Atlanta-born Korean American singer Eric Nam is currently on world tour. Originally gaining popularity in a Korean show similar to “X Factor,” he was named “2016 Man Of The Year” by GQ Korea, honored “30 Under 30 Asia 2017” by Forbes, and YouTube Music's Global Trending “Artist on the Rise” in 2019.

According to Open Doors 2021 Report on International Educational Exchange, over 1,500 Korean students studied at Georgia universities and accounted for 7.2% of international students in the State of Georgia. Georgia universities also maintain a robust selection of study abroad programs to Korea to enhance their education in Korean language and culture, international business, international politics, and more. According to the University System of Georgia (USG) study abroad directory, there are more than 43 study abroad programs to Korea offered across the 29 institutions in the USG.

Economic Exchange

Trade and foreign investments help facilitate cultural connections by bringing consumers into contact with international brands and products. On March 31, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) celebrated the opening of its Atlanta office, which serves as the eighth office in the United States and the 10th in North America. KOTRA’s overseas offices host teams dedicated to facilitating trade and investment opportunities between host states, such as Georgia, and Korea. Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) affirming their support for each other’s missions and their shared goal of promoting cooperation.