The Korean-American lawyers said helping Korean clients negotiate cultural differences is an important part of the job.
Towery, who advises Korean companies in setting up U.S. operations, said she's seen situations where misunderstandings have caused deals to fall apart.
"Korean culture is very different from U.S. culture," said Towery. "A lot of the Korean managers in charge of mergers and acquisitions sound fluent in English but only understand 50 to 70 percent of what's being said. They go away thinking what they want to think."
When they see the deal terms on paper, she said, they might feel misled. She recalled one situation where a Korean client believed the manager of economic development for an Alabama county had lied to him.
Towery said "emotions ran high and there was a lot of finger-pointing." She said she was able to sort out the misunderstandings and the Korean business is now a major project for the county.
Park said cultural differences in body language also can create misunderstandings. "Koreans like to nod in meetings. To Americans, that means agreement. To a Korean, it's just politeness, a way of saying 'I hear you,' and not 'I agree with the terms that you just explained.'"
"There can be a lot of frustration and disconnect," Hamilton said, adding that she's seen this with the three Korean clients she is working with at Littler.
Hamilton said Korean businesspeople are surprised by U.S. employment law, because there's nothing like it in Korea. She explained that in Korea, there is not a culture of suing one's employer, adding that in a country where 99 percent of the population shares the same ethnicity, it is uncommon to sue for discrimination.
Sun Choy of Freeman Mathis & Gary is KABA Georgia's other vice president besides Choi. Helen Kim Ho, the executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, is secretary.
KABA Georgia's next meeting will be toward the end of the law school semester, said Towery. For more information, check the group's LinkedIn page or contact Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.