(Evolution of KOEA)
Inception - Although Houston had been the center for offshore engineering, less than ten Korean engineers had worked in this field in the 70’s and 80’s. As offshore industry started developing deep water fields with floating structures often built by Korean shipyards, more Korean naval architects moved to Houston. It was noted that the number of Korean engineers in the offshore field had grown to about forty in early 2000’s. In an effort to build a network among Korean offshore professionals, Hoboo Ha contacted David (Kijun) Kim and John Weon to have an introductory get-together in the fall of 2002 and they became the founding members of KOEA.
A dinner meeting was arranged with about sixteen people who exchanged ideas of activities that could help the Korean engineers community. It was suggested to hold a seminar and a steering committee was formed to organize the seminar where David Kim was elected to chair the committee. The first seminar on FPSO was held on 8 May, 2003 during the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) with thirty nine participants at Asiana Garden restaurant. Visitors from Korea who attended OTC were invited together with engineers in Houston. The key note speaker was the late Professor Cheung Hoon Kim of Texas A&M, and speakers were John Weon and Hoboo Ha. A similar arrangement was made for 2004 seminar during OTC which was chaired by Hoboo Ha. The organization did not have a name yet and the seminar participants paid their own meals to supplement the partial funding by KSEA Southwest State Chapter.
Evolution - John Weon was elected as the new chairperson for 2005 and new committee members were appointed. The 2005 committee thought that fundamental changes were needed for further growth of the organization. The committee made an ambitious decision to have a formal, publicly held technical forum during the OTC to introduce KOEA to all Korean offshore engineers in Houston area and in Korea. The committee first picked the date and venue of the forum, which was Thursday, 5 May, 2005 at Holiday Inn Select West. But the committee quickly encountered many difficulties since it was the first attempt to organize a large forum which required a substantial amount of expenses.
The committee started three initiatives that eventually transformed the embryonic gathering into a professional organization: (1) development of the by-laws naming the organization as Korean Offshore Engineers Association, (2) fund raising to support organizational activities, and (3) development of an online web site and logo. The committee members put tremendous efforts to accomplish their assigned tasks for the forum: contacting the potential sponsors and preparing fundraising letters; development of the forum program - theme, speakers and schedule, designing brochure and banner; contracting the hotel conference room; advertisement, etc. in addition to drawing up by-laws and designing a web site and logo. On 5 May, 2005, the KOEA history was finally made. Funds had been raised to more than $5,000 from the 11 sponsors. The forum was well planned, organized and executed. This historic event was applauded for by 75 attendees. As part of the efforts in promoting the presence and the role of KOEA, news media companies had been contacted for interviews. A press release and an interview article were published by Korean news media companies. Please see KOEA web site for the articles. An annual picnic for all KOEA members and families also started from 2005.
Growth - KOEA established itself as a formal legal entity in 2006. The KOEA applied to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax exempt status as a non-for-profit organization with the formal name of Korean-American Offshore Engineers Association (KOEA) based on its by-laws and the past activities. IRS approved the application and recognized KOEA as an exempt organization under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The federal tax exempt status was essential for KOEA in successful fund raising effort, and paved a pathway to a solid growth in the following years. The State of Texas also required a non-for-profit organization to register in accordance with the Texas Business Organization Code. The Secretary of the State of Texas approved KOEA application and recognized it as a Nonprofit Corporation. The Young Professional Forum was held first time in 2007 with forty participants to provide young engineers with guidance to the first steps of their professional careers. A tax reporting account was set up with the IRS to report the finance and federal tax liabilities in order to maintain the non-for-profit organization status. A Texas State franchise tax account was also established to make KOEA eligible for non-profit organization activities and the State sales tax exemption in Texas. The young KOEA was on solid footing by the end of 2007 when the Technical Forum and Young Professional Forum were firmly established, legal entity was recognized and the administrative framework with tax authorities was in place. The first five chairpersons of KOEA deeply appreciate the extraordinary efforts of young committee members who dedicated their time and effort to make KOEA a helping organization for all Korean engineers engaged in oil, gas and offshore field. The names of committee members and more detailed information on the early activities will be posted on KOEA web site.