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Entrepreneurs stress future business, customer-centered, innovation in 2020

Although Korean conglomerates faced a rough time in 2019 amid growing geopolitical uncertainties and trade tensions topped by Japan’s export controls, the US-China trade war, rising protectionism and a global economic slowdown, most of the top business chiefs here hope for better prospects this year.

Leaders from large corporate groups -- including Samsung, LG, Hyundai Motor, Posco, KT, CJ, Hanwha and Shinsegae -- have stressed the need to prepare for future business, customer-centered management and innovation-oriented strategies.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and heir apparent Lee Jae-yong said, “Past performance is no guarantee of future success. History is not waiting, but making,” while visiting the firm’s chip research center at its Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, chip complex on Thursday.

He urged employees to “boldly destroy wrong practices and accidents and open up new futures.”

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and CEO Kim Ki-nam said this should be the first year to create a 100-year-old company to hand over to future generations.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (from left), LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, Hyundai Motor Executive Vice Chairman Chung Euisun
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (from left), LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, Hyundai Motor Executive Vice Chairman Chung Euisun


He predicted the global economic situation would become more difficult this year due to low growth, expansion of political uncertainties and the possibility of a further slowdown in investments, exports and private consumption.

“We should secure future growth engines by combining creativity and innovation, and inherit and develop the traditions and assets of our predecessors under a management philosophy that contributes to the society with the best products and services.”

LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo told his employees in a video message that everything must start at the customer’s pain point in order to prioritize their demands and take action.

“The pain points are what our customers want us to resolve. We need the wisdom to use digital technology to read their minds accurately and quickly,” he said.

Hyundai Motor Executive Vice Chairman and heir apparent Chung Euisun said that 2020 will be a year for leadership in future mobility such as electric, hydrogen and self-driving cars.

“With the development of technologies and networks, the imaginary future is becoming a reality and this change is accelerating in the automotive industry,” he said.

Hyundai Motor Group plans to invest more than 100 trillion won ($86 billion) over the next five years for future growth.

“To strengthen our leadership in the electric vehicle market, the company plans to produce 44 EV models by 2025,” he said.

Posco Chairman Choi Jeong-woo said 2020 would be a crucial crossroad that determines whether the steelmaker will be able to maintain its status as a prestigious leader through change and innovation.

“The global and local economic situation in 2020 is expected to continue to be difficult,” he said.

“However, with the development of new mobility, artificial intelligence and eco-friendly business, the areas of secondary battery materials, smart factory, and eco-friendly energy that we are focusing on will be highlighted as new growth engines.”

Choi emphasized three aspects of management this year: safety and advanced labor-management culture, focus on core business and implementation of corporate citizenship philosophy.

KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu said the mobile carrier must lead the world where users can enjoy artificial intelligence anywhere by creating innovative and differentiated values as a 5G network-based AI company.

“We should make sure that KT represents Korea, is loved by customers and becomes the globally No. 1 company.”

CJ Group Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik said the food and entertainment giant should prioritize “innovation growth” with stable profitability rather than “quantitative growth,” amid deteriorating global economic conditions.

He asked executives to secure profitability at the level of global top-tier companies to improve the financial structure and secure global competitiveness for flagship businesses and large items.

“We should focus on the super-gap capability by strengthening research and development related to core projects, developing new technologies and securing talent,” he said.

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn urged his employees to accelerate the companywide digital transformation to secure competitiveness in the “fourth industrial revolution.”

“Digital technology is already transforming management. This is the first year of the group’s digital transformation, and we need to promote it for each company so it leads to actual change and growth opportunities.”

Retail giant Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin stressed client-oriented management this year.

He urged his employees to focus on three competencies: profitable business structure, focus on customers and new business development for future growth.

In order to cope with the rapidly changing distribution environment, he said that “the voice of customers should be the priority. It should be a year that customers’ voices are heard louder and clearer.”

SK Chairman Chey Tae-won broke away from the traditional New Year’s speech and held a gathering with stakeholders, the public, customers and employees to listen to their voices, the group said.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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