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An Analysis of 4,429 Korean CEOs from 1976-2005

Posted December. 24, 2007 06:27,   


Who are Korea’s high-level managers and CEOs?

A research team, represented by Seoul National University economics professor Lee Keun, released a book titled “Korean Companies’ Evolution since the Nation’s Independence” published by the Seoul National University Press. The book contains statistics about Korean companies and an analysis of Korean managers from 1976 to 2005.

The research team basically referred to the “Dictionary of Korea’s People” released by Yonhap News Agency in 2006 and supplemented the research by consulting old versions released in 1997 and 1987. Based on the materials, the team analyzed birthplaces, alma maters, and majors of 6,964 directors or higher-level managers. And it conducted an additional analysis of 4,429 CEOs (out of the 6,964 high-level managers) whose positions are higher than president.

In terms of birthplace, Seoul and the southeastern part of the nation have produced a majority of Korea’s high-level managers, since Seoul ranked first with 28.69 percent, followed by South Gyeongsang Province (11.65 percent), North Gyeongsang Province (11.56 percent), Busan (6.44 percent), and South Chungcheong Province (6.28 percent). Considering their average birth year being 1948, Seoul has produced four times more managers when compared to its population. The share of high-level managers from the southeastern part of Korea, including Busan and Daegu, reached 34.56 percent. Regarding CEOs, Seoul topped the chart with 28.69 percent, followed by North Gyeongsang Province (12.08 percent), South Gyeongsang Province (11.95 percent), and South Chungcheong Province (6.22 percent).

When analyzing high schools from where high-level managers graduated, Kyunggi High School, whose graduates accounted for 7.53 percent, ranked first, followed by Kyungbok High School (4.40 percent), Seoul High School (4.13 percent), Kyungnam High School (3.17 percent), and Kyeongbuk High School (2.92 percent). The rankings of high schools producing CEOs was not significantly different.

Concerning universities from where high-level managers graduated, Seoul National University, with 26.39 percent, ranked first, followed by Korea University (10.84 percent), Yonsei University (9.71 percent), Hanyang University (7.08 percent), Sungkyunkwan University (5.64 percent), and foreign universities (3.53 percent). The rankings of universities producing CEOs was not different, but Seoul National University and foreign universities claimed somewhat bigger shares.

In terms of majors of high-level managers, business ranked first while accounting for 16.51 percent. It was followed by economics (9.65 percent), law (7.58 percent), mechanical engineering (4.84 percent) and chemical engineering (4.50 percent). When analyzing majors of CEOs, 16.13 percent of CEOs majored in business, 10.46 percent in economics, 9.16 percent in law, 4.93 percent in commerce, and 4.20 percent in chemical engineering.

The research also found that it took an average of 15.14 years to become a managing director and 21.64 years to become a CEO. In other words, it takes 6.5 years to go from a high-level manager to a CEO.