South Korea has been a major economic partner and investor with the State of Georgia for over the past decade. South Korea maintains an active Consulate office serving its Korean diaspora and the business community within Georgia and the regional Southern states. In an exclusive interview with Georgia Asian Times, Consul General Kim Young-jun shares his insights on South Korea's containment effort with COV-19 and the overall economic relations with the state of Georgia.

South Korea's COV-19 containment effort

South Korea has recorded a total of 12,600 COV-19 cases along with 282 deaths, according to latest official government figures as of late June 2020. The numbers reflected a low 2.2% fatality compared to 5.0% world fatality average.

These statistic were recorded since the first case was reported in January 2020. The country suffered the highest number of infections at end of February 2020 with over 900 reported cases.

“The official numbers dropped significantly to zero in April 2020 and today's average reported cases ranges between 30-50 cases,” said the Consul General.

Over ninety percent of reported cases have recovered from the infections to date. About a third of reported cases lately were identified from foreign origin.

“South Korea have gained valuable experiences from controlling past pandemic such as SARS and MERS outbreaks in 2003 and 2015. These insights have helped us better prepared in our containment strategy with the deadly disease,” adds Consul General Kim.

The Consul General credits the “3-Ts” strategies in South Korea's relatively successful COV-19 effort: test, trace, and treatment. He adds that South Korea health officials conducted over 20,000 test per day to control the spread of the virus.

Early detections along with attentive treatments resulted with low fatalities among victims.

Tracing by tracking the consumers credit card usages, CCTV footages, and mobile phones along with GPS data tracking helps in South Korea's quick response in controlling the spread of the disease. The Consul General is quick to referenced South Korea legal framework that allows the government to overcome sensitive privacy issues.

“The tracing system identifies individuals but not reveal the personal information. It only reveal the location and movement history,” emphasized Consul General Kim.

Another important facts shared by the Consul General was that the South Korean borders were never shut down to international travels even during the peak of the pandemic.

“In essence, our society remains open during the pandemic. Our public transportation, businesses, restaurants, stores were never ordered to close,” said the Consul General.

“There are some restricted regulations to control close proximities in night clubs and bars with shortened business hours. However in general, the Korean public was careful and maintained vigilant to avoid infection.”

South Korean public schools were opened on-line in March and classroom were open in phase since mid-May 2020.

“Our health officials maintains full transparency with daily updates during the COV-19 along with governmental information on the virus. The briefing also included international information on COV-19 pandemic and government policies in handling the crisis,” said Consul General Kim.

“South Korean public generally adheres to governmental advisory and with full civil engagement cooperation helps in containing the spread of the disease.”

The South Korean public acknowledges the incumbent administration COV-19 positive effort by re-electing the government in the April's national election. It was also the highest turnout in the South Korea's election history.

South Korea and Georgia's economic partnership

South Korea has consistently being the top three foreign investors in Georgia's economy in the past decade. It started by the first investment in 2000 by SKC (SK Chemical)in Covington. It was followed by a major KIA Automotive plant investment in 2009 at West Georgia. Since then, over 100 Korean companies have established their operations in Georgia to support the various industry.

“Georgia remains an attractive place for South Korean companies to do business. A large Korean diaspora in metro Atlanta along with a direct-flight connection between Incheon and Atlanta helps sells Georgia to South Korean companies. In fact, the Georgia Economic Development maintains one of its largest international office in Seoul,” said Consul General Kim.

At the time of this interview, SK Innovation, electric battery manufacturer for electric vehicles, announced that they will invest in a second plant with $940 million and creating 600 new jobs in Commerce, Georgia.

South Korea currently ranked fifth in 2019 total trade volume ($8.3 Billion) with Georgia behind China, Germany, Canada, and Mexico. South Korea imported large quantities of Georgia's agriculture products such as peanuts, pecans, and poultry.

“I believe you will see a more diversified investments by South Korean companies into Georgia ranging from clean energy, Artificial Intelligences (AI), autonomous driving, 5G technologies, and smart cities systems.”

In addition to these technology related investments, gaming, films, and entertainment industry will make leeway into Georgia due to popular cultures.

“With worldwide popularity of K-pop groups like BTS, BlackPink, and Oscar's winning film ‘Parasite', South Korea is gaining momentum in the cultural content industry,” adds the Consul General proudly.

“Governor Kemp had made his inaugural overseas trip to South Korea last June where he spent about a week. Due to the pandemic, this year's scheduled visit by Governor Kemp is uncertain,” explains the Consul General.

Consul General Kim foresee a bright future partnership between South Korea and Georgia. He anticipates investment trends and business trade to continue even during the pandemic. – Li Wong