Monroe County hosts South Korean investors

Han Ko of the USAKO Group discusses opportunities his group can give to the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation during a meeting last week at 11 South in Columbia. 

Five South Korean companies hoping to expand business operations in Southern Illinois visited with the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation last week. 

The five companies are part of a Go Global program through the USAKO Group, an international investment company that bridges the U.S. and Asian markets. 

“The goal (of Go Global) is to bring the U.S. and South Korean market closer by investing in a soft landing pad,” founder and CEO of USAKO Group Han Ko told meeting attendees. “We’re trying to provide a soft landing pad to any of these companies coming in, in the form of multiple investments like training and mentoring.” 

Ko and MCEDC Executive Director Edie Koch met through the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council, which also hosted the meeting. Koch said this connection led to Ko and leaders from the five businesses looking to possibly set up roots in the area speaking at last week’s MCEDC meeting. 

The five companies in attendance were Taehyong Industry, a high-tech manufacturing company specializing in heavy machinery; Imageworx Korea, a company that uses special technology to print 3-D images and those that give the illusion of movement for posters, billboards and more; DaWá, which aims to help companies reduce their carbon footprint through utilizing reusable cups that can be tracked to provide data to the company and rewards to the consumer; My Price Live, an e-commerce platform built on a referral system that combines the functions of Facebook, Shopify and Amazon; and Sahara Street, a software platform for real estate transactions that already has a solid presence in U.S., South Korea and the Middle East. 

Ko said the companies will see many benefits through establishing presences in Southern Illinois to “create a global hub in the U.S.,” including cheaper operational and high-skilled labor costs than in South Korea and relief from current supply chain problems.

Ko explained many of the companies are now facing high shipping costs, difficulty obtaining parts from the U.S. in a timely manner and even issues getting products overseas in the first place due to shipping container backups. 

“It’s a severe issue, so they thought, ‘Maybe we should just bring the manufacturing facility to the U.S.A. … and then eventually create a global hub in the U.S. market,’” Ko said, referring to Taehyong Industry, but noting this was the thought process for many others as well. “It would basically make the supply chain distribution channel a lot more efficient and viable.” 

For companies like Imageworx that have huge markets in the U.S., having a presence in Southern Illinois would drastically cut down delivery times to their customers, Ko said. 

The Go Global companies also heard from local business and infrastructure leaders about what the Monroe County area could specifically offer. 

For example, Ed Weilbacher, general manager for the Kaskaskia Regional Port District, stressed how its five locations, vast rail access and manufacturing capabilities could help bring the companies’ dreams of a U.S. hub to fruition. 

“I think we are complementary to many of the businesses you have here,” Weilbacher told the five. 

Kyle Kane, of Admiral Parkway Inc., also spoke of warehouse options and how the company could help the five develop initiatives in the county. 

American-based companies can also benefit by expanding their markets to South Korea, Ko said. Ko explained the South Korean government dedicates a lot of resources to investing in the global market, and the USAKO Group could help forge essential relationships for American businesses looking to go global. 

“The South Korean market is very unique in that their government is really conscious about globalizing their market from an early stage. They obviously have to because South Korea is now the 11th or 10th largest market but they know they rely on other countries,” Ko said. 

For more information on the USAKO Group, visit Learn more about the MCEDC at

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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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