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Chey Tae-won named as incoming KCCI chief

SK chief vows to play leading role in post-coronavirus economy


SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won (left) shakes hands with Park Yong-maan, head of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, after being elected as chairman of the KCCI Seoul Chamber on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won (left) shakes hands with Park Yong-maan, head of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, after being elected as chairman of the KCCI Seoul Chamber on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, 60, is set to be officially sworn in as the new chief of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, after being named on Tuesday as the first among the nation’s “Big Four” conglomerate chiefs to head the Seoul branch of the business chamber.

His rise to the role came while SK Group is facing a number of challenges in the arena, including its battery and energy affiliate SK Innovation’s recent defeat in the yearslong legal battle against LG Energy Solution in the United States.

The Seoul Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the regional branch of KCCI, on Tuesday held a general meeting at the KCCI headquarters in central Seoul and confirmed Chey as its 24th chairman.

Under given practices, Chey was automatically put forward for the nationwide KCCI chairmanship -- a nomination that will be finalized at the KCCI meeting slated for March 24. He will be serving an initial term of three years and may be reappointed once.

The SCCI also added to its leadership ranks a number of high-profile business figures from the up-and-coming information technology and startup sectors. The list included Kim Beon-soo, chairman of major platform operator Kakao, and Kim Taek-jin, CEO of game developer NCSoft.

“I have had many thoughts and worries about assuming this post in these difficult times, but I shall render my humble service as KCCI chief,” Chey said in an acceptance speech.

“(But) I cannot perform this job alone. I shall work together with many people to establish a new business ecosystem, a future for the country, and an environment for the future generation,” he said, referring to the market turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last year and the uncertainties expected during recovery down the road.

His remarks were also seen as a reflection of a continued call to boost social value, sustainable growth, and a green drive. SK Group, which finds its root in the petrochemical business, has said that it would sell off its petrochemical subsidiary SK Global Chemical as part of its vision to unload carbon-intensive assets.

The new chief, however, refrained from commenting on any incumbent agendas -- including speculations that some of the conventional business chambers may be integrated for efficiency’s sake.

“I am not yet well aware of the details,” Chey said in response to a related question.

He also kept mum over SK Group’s issues, especially the ongoing settlement following SK Innovation’s defeat in the battery trade secret lawsuit against LG Energy Solution.

With Chey in power, the KCCI will be led by one of the so-called Big Four chaebol -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG. SK Group is South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate in terms of assets as of 2020.

The SK chief will be replacing incumbent Chairman Park Yong-maan, who has served the post for more than seven years. Park first took the top post in August 2013 to fill in for then-chief and CJ Group Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik and served for two consecutive terms afterwards.

While the initial list of potential successors had included LS Group Chairman Koo Ja-yeol and Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin, Chey was considered the most plausible choice -- in terms of market influence and in light of the growing calls for sustainability agendas. '

Under Chey’s leadership, SK Group has expanded its assets to more than 200 trillion won ($180 billion) from 32 trillion won in 2016. Its ranking among conglomerates climbed up from fifth to third, almost catching up with runner-up Hyundai Motor Group in 2019.

Apart from his posts in the business circle, Chey also serves as vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia, vice president of the Asian Handball Federation and president of the Korea Handball Federation.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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