Institute for Korean Studies helps Kokomo welcome South Korean families, business
Apr 6, 2023
The Institute for Korean Studies at Indiana University Bloomington is using its global ties and faculty expertise to play the role of cultural broker as Kokomo, Indiana, prepares to welcome Korean families to its community.
StarPlus Energy, a joint venture between Stellantis N.V. and Samsung SDI, is investing $2.5 billion in an electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Kokomo, which is expected to bring at least 1,400 jobs to the area. While Stellantis already has a presence in Kokomo, Samsung SDI is based in South Korea — one of at least 12 South Korean-owned businesses in Indiana.
To help properly welcome Samsung SDI and Korean families to the community, the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance reached out to IU Bloomington, which has one of the oldest Korean studies programs in the nation, for help.
“We need to not only understand the business norms to ensure we have successful communication, but we also wanted to know what we needed to do from a community standpoint,” said Lori Dukes, president and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.
Seung-kyung Kim, director of the Institute for Korean Studies in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, recently traveled to Kokomo for the community’s inaugural Korean Cultural Integration event at IU Kokomo. She gave a presentation to nearly 200 community members about Korean corporate culture and customs.
“In the U.S., we never ask ‘How old are you?’” Kim said. “In Korea, that’s one of the first questions that gets asked. You don’t call people by their first names in Korea, except among close friends. There are many nitty-gritty things that we are not aware of when it comes to each other’s cultures. If I can at least convey the basics of what they should be aware of, that can help.”
Kim will return to Kokomo to provide more cultural education as Korean families start moving to the community, including talking to them about American culture.
She said the ongoing partnership will further the Institute for Korean Studies’ mission by increasing knowledge of Korea, while demonstrating the important role IU plays in the state’s economic development.
“This shows the importance of a liberal arts education,” Kim said. “Learning about culture is the beginning step of understanding each other, and that goes a long way to build relationships, open the door to investment and improve our state.”