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In New Year’s speeches, CEOs stress innovation

Executives also try to shake up delivery, add bells and whistles
Jan 03,2018
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Leaders of the country’s top companies emphasized looming uncertainties and the need to innovate to keep up with rapid change during their New Year’s speeches to employees on Tuesday, the first business day of 2018.

“Uncertainties in the global economy - in tandem with the spread of nationalism, protectionism and geopolitical risks - are expected to grow further this year,” Kim Ki-nam, president of Samsung Electronics’ device solutions division, said at the tech
giant’s headquarters in Suwon, Gyeonggi, “and drastic paradigm
changes led by artificial intelligence, autopilot and big data demand fresh challenges.”

Kim encouraged employees not to remain complacent in light of the company’s record performance last year and challenged them to continue transforming themselves. He offered three goals for 2018: making Samsung a tech company that creates the future; building a sustainable organizational culture; and forming a company loved by customers and society.

As practical solutions to meet the goals, he proposed a culture of “creative and innovative technological development” and “flexible organization” to develop new technologies reflective of the so-called fourth industrial revolution and cultivate mannerisms that match its status as a leading company. He also stressed contributing to society through “mutual growth” at home and abroad.

In early November, Kim replaced Kwon Oh-hyun at the helm of the device solutions division responsible for producing semiconductors, the component that drove much of Samsung’s record profit last year.

About 500 executives and employees attended the ceremony in absence of their leader, Lee Jae-yong, who has remained in police custody since February on corruption charges.

A court sentenced him to five years in prison in August, but he is currently appealing the sentence.

The Samsung heir did not attend the New Year’s event last year either.

At SK, Chairman Chey Tae-won said in his New Year’s address that the country’s third-largest conglomerate should proceed with pursuing both social and economic value to “innovate” its business model.

“SK posted profit growth of 200 times in the past 20 years but still stays with old businesses,” he said. “To continue growing in this age of sudden death, whereby survival in the future is uncertain, deep change is essential.”

The chairman also addressed the need to innovate the way SK employees work by breaking from the convention of staying with the same organization for an extended period of time. Instead, he said, employees need to cooperate and share workload in spaces devoted to specific projects.

LG Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon urged employees to speed up innovation to bring the company’s manufacturing capabilities to a world-class level.

“When demand from customers has been heightened and other competitors have introduced new methods to maximize productivity, we will instantly lose competitiveness when we remain complacent about our current capacity and neglect strengthening manufacturing capacity,” he said.

Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who underwent a trial for bribery and corruption but was acquitted, released a New Year’s message in writing.

“Let’s turn Lotte into an entity that is respected by society by becoming transparent and socially responsible,” he wrote, vowing to contribute to the national economy by creating more jobs and investing further.

This year, some conglomerate leaders attempted to shake up their New Year’s delivery by moving away from the staid speech format.

Chey of SK wore no tie and adopted a Ted Talk format to make his presentation at the company’s ceremony at the Walkerhill Hotel in northern Seoul.

LG Electronics had two employees emcee its event at the LG Twin Towers in western Seoul, and 40 members of the company’s “junior board” went on stage to present a 4.8-meter (15.7-fppt) placard that proclaimed 2018 as a stepping-stone year for LG.

KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu and executives greeted employees at the gate of the company’s headquarters in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, and gave each of them hand cream sets as New Year’s gifts.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]