By Heejae Park, Research Intern, East-West Center in Washington. He is an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. He is also a student of Kyunghee University in South Korea.
Note: this article originally appeared in the East-West Center’s Asia Matters for America/America Matters for Asia initiative on December 26, 2017.
Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO), South Korean’s biggest and the world’s fifth-largest steel manufacturer, recently revealed a new plant at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville. The expansive complex will function as a provider of fasteners, bolts, and nuts for automotive firms including Ford and Nissan.
POSCO has hired 18 manufacturing and management workers with the aim of increasing this figure to 60 over time. Workers will earn an average wage of $30.10 per hour, which is nearly double Clark County’s average wage. The eventual size of the manufacturing facility will be 136,000 square feet, 86,000 square feet of which has been completed in the most recent construction phase.
POSCO CEO Ohjoon Kwon, who traveled from the company's headquarters in Pohang, South Korea, said the new facility would not have been possible without the commitment from Indiana state and local officials. POSCO decided to build the plant in Jeffersonville because of the city’s proximity to transportation as well as business incentives which were offered by the state and local governments.
The Port of Indiana- Jeffersonville is home to 15 steel-related companies as part of what forms the “steel campus,” serving the Midwest automotive and appliance industries. In 2015 and 2016, the port handled its two highest annual volumes of steel. The port opened in 1985 and over its history has handled agricultural and industrial cargoes and provided over 1,000 acres of industrial sites for businesses.
A special celebration followed the opening ceremony, which featured a red carpet and a Korean song performance by the Jeffersonville High School wind symphony. POSCO donated $30,000 to Jeffersonville High School to support the school's music program. The celebrations also featured a video presentation on Korea's post-war growth, a ceremony to recognize four local Korean War veterans and honor them with steel from the fence of the Korean demilitarized zone, and a speech from the South Korean Consul-General in Chicago Jong-Kook Lee.
POSCO established a joint-venture with California-based U.S. Steel in 1986, forming into USS-POSCO Industries. 2016 was the 20th anniversary of USS-POSCO, which celebrated exceeding $1 billion of sales and the 100th anniversary of U.S. Steel’s manufacturing in Pittsburg, CA. Indiana’s total volume of trade with South Korea is more than $1 billion in 2016. Pharmaceuticals, motor vehicle parts, and aluminum were among Indiana’s top imports and exports to South Korea in 2016 thanks to tariff reductions and other trade barrier-removal efforts.