Kemp meets with South Korean president during overseas trip

Gov. Brian Kemp met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a trade mission to South Korea on Tuesday, June 18. File.

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Gov. Brian Kemp met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a trade mission to South Korea on Tuesday, June 18. File.

Gov. Brian Kemp met with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday during the governor’s 10-day trade mission to the Asian country, where they discussed the Asian nation’s growing investment in Georgia.

Yoon asked Kemp specifically to continue to back Korea’s electric vehicle and EV battery manufacturing businesses in the state. Hyundai is nearing completion of a $7.6 billion EV assembly plant near Savannah and Kia is building EVs at its factory in West Point. Korean firms LG, Hanwha and SK Battery have also made huge investments in Georgia in recent years.

The request comes as EVs and clean energy initiatives have become a flashpoint in the race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Biden signed laws with incentives to manufacturers and buyers of electric vehicles while Trump has vowed to roll back such legislation if elected. Kemp and other Republicans opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it spurred wasteful spending and an uneven playing field.

The governor said in an earlier interview that the future of federal green energy incentives has hardly come up in this round of conversations with Korean bigwigs, pointing to investments the Korean firms made in Georgia long before the 2022 law took effect.

“Our standing with them has been strong a long time.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Kemp said the discussion with Yoon was productive.

“The relationship between the Republic of Korea and the State of Georgia is stronger than ever, and we’ll continue to benefit from the opportunity that partnership brings,” he said.

Kemp said in the interview that the 10-day trade mission, which wraps up this week, is aimed as much at delivering “thank you’s” to companies with massive projects in Georgia as it was ginning up new business.

South Korea has been the state’s top foreign investment partner in the last three years, and Kemp said “keeping ourselves in front of these executives” to maintain those relationships is a priority.

“In 2019, I was trying to learn the names of the executives of these companies,” the governor said of his first trip to South Korea. “Now it’s like catching up with old friends.”

But the governor also said he’s met with “hot prospects” that could enter the Georgia market, while also delving into foreign policy issues, such as a stop at the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula.

Insider’s note: This item was expanded from the P.G. AM newsletter.