The Korea Herald


Chey likely to be sole candidate for KCCI chair

SK chief apparently persuaded by sitting KCCI chief Park Yong-maan

By Bae Hyunjung

Published : Jan. 7, 2021 - 16:22

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(SK Group) (SK Group)
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won is set to be named as the next chief of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, succeeding incumbent Chairman Park Yong-maan, industry officials said Thursday.

The KCCI has so far never been led by a figure at the helm of one of the so-called Big Four chaebol -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK or LG.

Chey’s selection is seen as a signal that the KCCI is seeking to enhance its role and stature amid the post-coronavirus market turbulence.

The KCCI will convene a meeting of its member chairs early next month and nominate Chey as the sole candidate, according to industry and KCCI officials.

“While the usual practice is to hold the annual leadership meeting in a luncheon or dinner format, details are not yet confirmed for this year’s occasion,” said an official.

“In light of the COVID-19 situation, we will be considering alternative formats for safety’s sake.”

The KCCI head, traditionally selected by nomination, is to serve an initial three-year term and may be reelected.

As incumbent chief Park is to step down in March after serving in his post for more than seven years, the leadership meeting was originally slated for late January but has been postponed due to uncertainty about who would be chosen.

For several months, speculation has surrounded the change of leadership at the influential business group. The list of potential candidates included Chey, LS Group Chairman Koo Ja-yeol and Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin.

While both SK Group and LS Group remained cautious on the matter, sitting chief Park is said to have made efforts behind the scenes to convince either Chey or Koo to accept the position.

“I cannot reveal the internal discussions related to the chairmanship but I expect to receive positive feedback in the near future,” Park told reporters in a year-end interview last month.

Though he did not mention a specific name, he made the remark in response to a question about Chey’s likely nomination.

Chey’s rise as the next KCCI chief comes as no surprise, given his age, status and character.

Under Chey’s leadership, SK Group has expanded its assets to more than 200 trillion won from 32 trillion won in 2016. Its ranking among conglomerates has also climbed from fifth to third, even catching up with No. 2 Hyundai Motor Group in 2019.

“(The KCCI chairman post) requires a leader of a large company, someone with influence and political neutrality who can embrace businesses of various sizes, especially in the face of important bill legislation,” said an industry source.

“The person should also have no fear of the stage as KCCI leaders often step out to deliver industry opinions to the government and the media, at home and abroad,” the official added.

“As the leader of top-tier conglomerate SK, Chey is expected to bridge conglomerates and SMEs in key industry agendas.”

Unlike the Korea Enterprises Federation and the Federation of Korean Industries, the KCCI is noteworthy for its high proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises, which together account for 98 percent of its membership.

To qualify for the chair post, Chey would have to join the 24-member KCCI leadership first, replacing SK Holdings CEO Jang Dong-hyun, who currently represents SK Group.

By Bae Hyun-jung (