But Chung was released and returned to work July 15, and indications are that the factory is moving forward.
Kia engineers have been pouring into the area for the past few weeks. A source at Hyundai's U.S. plant in Montgomery, Ala., says several dozen Kia personnel are on site there, studying the operation in order to duplicate it 85 miles away in West Point, Ga.
At the 2,200-acre West Point site, contractors last week began tearing down trees and houses to prepare the ground. A spokesman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development says Kia officials have resumed discussions for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
That is something that was planned but canceled. With a criminal investigation hanging over his head earlier this year, Chung instead announced the U.S. factory plans at a small and quiet meeting in Seoul.
"They want to do it fairly quickly to allay any fears out there that things aren't moving forward," Georgia spokesman Bert Brantley said.
Project officials, including Kia's key U.S. representative, Ahn Byung Mo, also are preparing to move into office space near the site in LaGrange, Ga.
In light of the summer's complications, meeting the project's original early 2009 launch date remains a key concern. To do so, construction needs to begin by the end of this year.
Brantley says the state, which is providing incentives and site work worth $400 million, will give Kia the first stage of a construction-ready building site as early as September, and finish the rest of the site in spring.
Still undecided are which products the Kia plant will produce, how many vehicles it will build and what suppliers will be used.
You may e-mail Lindsay Chappell at [email protected]