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New Shinsegae CEO Takes Over Dept. Store Chain

Posted December. 03, 2009 07:25,   


A black BMW carrying new Shinsegae CEO Chung Yong-jin, 41, the son of the department store chain’s owner, arrived at company headquarters in downtown Seoul at 8:30 a.m. yesterday.

On his first day, Chung visited business sites such as E-Mart. A 14-year business veteran, he began his management career as director of the strategic planning department in December 1995. He was eventually promoted to executive director of the company, vice president and vice chairman.

Though Chung shuns wearing formal attire, he retains a good sense of style. He spoke to The Dong-A Ilbo yesterday at the lobby of the company’s headquarters, where a gold statue stands of Lee Byung-chull, the founder of the Samsung Group and Chung’s maternal grandfather.

Chung said he feels a heavy responsibility in taking over Shinsegae, and mentioned the word “responsibility” several times in the interview.

Several months earlier, he had told Dong-A at his office, where he had his grandfather’s portrait hanging on the wall, “I’m learning about management now.”

Before yesterday’s interview with Chung, Dong-A spoke to his predecessor Koo Hak-su. Koo, vice chairman of Shinsegae, is now a business adviser to Chung.

“After finishing a management training program that was by no means short, Chung expressed his willingness to lead the company,” Koo said. “The trend of grandchildren of large corporation chiefs, some of whom are Chung’s good friends, going to the forefront of management helped him make his decision.”

The will of Chung’s mother, Shinsegae Chairwoman Lee Myung-hee, 66, was also reportedly a major factor in her son assuming the top position. She is known to have said, “I’d like to see Chung become company president and do a good job before I grow old and feeble.”

In the same vein, Chung’s sister Yoo-kyeong, 37, was promoted to vice president. She once served as executive director of the hotel Westin Chosun Seoul.

“I will review the overall business of Shinsegae, including new projects, with the mindset of starting from scratch,” Chung said. Though he looked reserved, his confidence was felt from his facial expression and voice.

Chung became vice chairman in 2006, and has often been more of a listener than a speaker even at executive meetings. “The key to success in the retail business is reading consumer trends,” he said.

The new CEO is credited with imbuing a sense of youth and luxury into Shinsegae.

Shinsegae employees have high hopes for Chung, who will probably run the company over the long term, while showing respect for Koo, who had expanded Shinsegae over the past decade as CEO.

Koo said, “The most important thing in business management is to raise return on equity by enhancing efficiency,” adding, “Certain children and grandchildren of large corporation owners enter the business because of personal interests such as imported cars, leisure and restaurants, but Chung has received rigorous management training and won’t do such things.”

kimsunmi@donga.com jmpark@donga.com