The Korea Herald


Georgia lawmakers urge Korean battery firms to settle

By Kim Byung-wook

Published : March 24, 2021 - 16:30

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Former US Attorney General Sally Yates (CNN) Former US Attorney General Sally Yates (CNN)

In a notable shift of tone, senators in the US state of Georgia have called on LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation to resolve their battery patent disputes on their own.

According to media reports Wednesday, the Georgia Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday US time, which calls on two battery makers to negotiate a settlement so that SK could continue building two battery factories in the state.

A draft of the resolution had reportedly been directed toward President Joe Biden, urging him to veto the US International Trade Commission’s final ruling that slapped a 10-year business ban on SK for stealing trade secrets from LG. However, the resolution was revised after intervention from Democrats in the Senate.

On Feb. 10, the USITC delivered a victory to LG in its high-profile battle with cross-town rival SK. The court banned SK Innovation from the importation, production and sale of lithium-ion batteries in the US for 10 years. Though the ban has a grace period up to 4 years, it would practically derail the operation of SK Innovation’s Georgia battery factories even if they are completed.

In principle, Biden has the right to overturn the USTIC’s decision. The deadline for a veto is April 11.

Though softening their tone in the revised resolution, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle continued to stress that the loss of SK Innovation’s plant would cost Georgia billions of dollars in public and private investments and countless jobs.

“Georgia has significant economic investment in this. This is a real opportunity for Georgia to lead in another great manufacturing way,” Senate President Butch Miller said.

Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan echoed the Republican’s voice and said, “I think this is the time to push both of these companies when there is uncertainty among both before it come to the president. Hopefully, these folks can come together and make sure these people stay employed.”

Meanwhile, SK Innovation is making relentless efforts to persuade US government officials to overturn the USITC ruling.

According to multiple reports, Kim Jong-hoon, chairman of SK Innovation’s board of directors, recently visited Washington and met with Georgia state Senators to pitch the necessity of President Biden’s veto to salvage the $2.6-billion Georgia plant. Kim reportedly stressed that if the 10-year import ban isn’t lifted, Georgia will lose billions of dollars of investments.

“SK Innovation is not making a threat. But if the USITC’s final ruling is upheld, we will have to find somewhere else to build our plant,” Kim told local media.

On Wednesday, former US Attorney General Sally Yates said that Biden should reject the USITC’s final ruling for the sake of the Georgia plant. Yates, who went into private practice after getting fired by President Donald Trump, is currently working with SK Innovation.

By Kim Byung-wook (