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Performance is key

June 26,2018
The board of Korea’s largest steel company Posco has chosen Choi Jeong-woo, chief executive of its umbrella chemical unit Posco Chemtech, as its new chairman and CEO from a shortlisted pool of candidates. When approved by shareholders, a new captain knowledgeable in innovative chemicals for secondary batteries will be navigating the 50-year-old steelmaker into a new future. The weight of heading the country’s largest, and the world’s fifth largest, steelmaker will be heavy. The nominee must be truly eligible and seasoned for the post.

The nomination process has been as controversial and shady as it has been in the past. The chair of Posco traditionally has intervened with political influence, though the company has long been privatized. Although the nomination process is in the form of a public competition, the finalist is usually handpicked so that someone favored by the ruling power is chosen.

Posco did not prove different this time. The advisory committee comprised of five outside board members responsible for selecting a finalist was not clear about the guidelines and methodology in reviewing and making its choice among the candidates. Its opaque manner raised suspicions about external influence. Former chairmen abused the hands-off policy of the government to influence their power remaining in the company to field and pitch their favored candidates.

After much controversy, an unlikely choice was made — the first CEO without a background in metal engineering and without a degree from Korea’s top Seoul National University. “I will work hard to make the company serve its various stake holders — the employees, clients, suppliers, shareholders and the people,” Choi said.

The oldest steel mill in Korea must cut out a path for sustainable growth for the next 50 years. Choi must cut off ties with politics for good and raise management transparency to gain traction for stronger competitiveness.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 25, Page 30