GS Chairman Huh Chang-soo, left, and Hyosung Chairman Cho Hyun-joon/Courtesy of GS Group, Hyosung Group

‘Common sense management’ by chairmen Huh Chang-soo, Cho Hyun-joon

There is a time-honored stereotype for Korean tycoons – they control their groups from behind instead of going through proper procedures such as board of directors’ meetings.

Indeed, many Korean business leaders did not take part in board of directors’ meetings this year at all, according to a recent survey by CEO Score, a domestic think-tank.

But not all of them are “bad apples.” Some took part in all of the meetings including GS Chairman Huh Chang-soo, Hyosung Chairman Cho Hyun-joon, and Doosan Chairman Park Jeong-won.

Tycoons are typically chairmen of the board of directors. Hence, they have to preside over the meetings. But many of them do not even attend the meetings,” CEO Score President Park Ju-gun said.

Yet, some have set a good example by participating in all of their meetings this year. They are the heads of GS, Hyosung, and Doosan. Over the past four years, the three have almost always chaired the board of directors’ meetings.”

He added that other tycoons should learn something from the three, who try to practice “common sense management.”

Educational background matters

It is common sense for group chiefs to take part in board of directors’ meetings, which are the foremost decision-making entity of companies.” Prof. Lee Phil-sang at Seoul National University said. “But in Korea, that has not been the case.

Watchers also note that the educational background of businessmen is significant because they could learn Western management styles while studying abroad. In fact, all three of the chairmen studied in the United States.

GS Chairman Huh has also led the Federation of Korean Industries, an organization composed of major corporations, since 2011. Huh, who got his bachelor’s degree at St. Louis University, is one of the most respected businessmen in the country.

Hyosung Chairman Cho took charge of the conglomerate, which operates in fields as varied as chemicals, machinery, IT, trade and construction, in 2017. Under his stewardship, Hyosung has briskly tapped into global markets.

Cho, who studied at Yale University, is dubbed as one of the most prominent young entrepreneurs in Asia’s No. 4 economy.

Doosan Chairman Park has put forth efforts to invigorate the group, which once struggled because its subsidiaries became unprofitable. He specialized in business administration at Boston University.

Prof. Lee Phil-sang at Seoul University pointed out that as the above-mentioned business leaders set the pace with a no-nonsense approach, other group owners should follow suit.

It is common sense for group chiefs to take part in board of directors’ meetings, which are the foremost decision-making entity of companies. But in Korea, that has not been the case,” he said.

This should be changed. I hope more and more Korean businessmen go through the proper procedures in managing their companies.”


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