Sara Hamilton, KABA Georgia's treasurer, just graduated from Emory University's law school in May and is working for national labor and employment firm Littler Mendelson. She said Towery and Choi, whom she met through the Asian law student association at Emory, have been mentors to her and she wants to do the same for law students.
"I hear how [older Korean-American lawyers] entered a tough profession like this without a mentor and I can't imagine doing this without June and Han," said Hamilton, who is of Korean descent and grew up in a small town in Oregon. She developed an interest in Korean culture after living in Korea after college.
Steve Park, a native of Korea who moved to the United States at 14, said he's an example of the benefit of having a mentor. Park is a seventh-year associate in corporate finance at Nelson Mullins and works with Towery. He is up for partnership this year, which he attributed to "Ms. Towery looking out for my development," by advising him on marketing himself, providing service to the right clients and other professional development issues.
Another KABA Georgia member, Alex Shin, who is a first-year corporate associate at Nelson Mullins, said he knew several Korean-American lawyers already -- and after the KABA Georgia launch is "finding out there are a lot more than I thought."
Shin, like Park, was born in Korea and came to the U.S. at 14. "My mentorship with Steve and Ms. Towrey has been huge so far in my short career," he said. "I'm still learning the ropes."
While most of the new bar association's members are lawyers and law students of Korean descent, the organizers emphasized that the group is open to anyone with an interest in Korean culture.
An increasing number of South Korean companies are doing business in the Southeast, including auto manufacturers Kia and Hyundai.
Park said the Kia plant in LaGrange, Ga., and the Hyundai plant in Alabama have created a boom for Korean business locally. He represents Korean banks from New York that are financing deals for Korean companies starting U.S. operations. Many of them are parts suppliers to Hyundai and Kia, Park said.
The U.S. subsidiary of Doosan Infracore, a construction-equipment maker that owns Bobcat, is headquartered in Atlanta and electronics maker Samsung also does business here.
Choi said the free trade agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States, which went into effect in March, could stimulate more business between South Korean and U.S. companies in manufacturing and electronics, as well as other areas that are "not quite ripe," such as biotech and health sciences.