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[Newsmaker] Naver's new CEO all-in on going global

Under youngest female executive, South Korea's IT behemoth seeks generational shift in management

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : March 14, 2022 - 15:19

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Naver CEO Choi Soo-yeon (Naver) Naver CEO Choi Soo-yeon (Naver)
Naver will become an incubator that creates innovative technology penetrating the global market and seek to go beyond providing services that are popular today, the company’s new CEO said Monday.

“Not only all businesses owned by Naver began with the thought of going global from the start, but all of the objectives also point to going global,” Naver CEO Choi Soo-yeon said at a meeting with shareholders and board of directors where she was appointed as the new chief.

The IT giant will focus all of its management efforts on becoming a global top-tier internet company, it added.

The appointment of the 41-year-old female executive marks a major shift in its management, the company said. Choi is the youngest CEO to lead Naver, South Korea’s fourth-largest company by market capitalization. Having Choi as CEO signifies that the management will be led by the younger generation who grew up with the internet, and no longer by those who pursued evolution of the platform businesses.

“With the generous support from shareholders over the past 20 years, Naver has grown into a very unique company in the history of the internet with cutting-edge technological leadership and a diverse business portfolio such as search engine, commerce, content, fintech, cloud, AI and robots,” said Choi.

“On top of establishing a system that can speed up the growth of global businesses in various sectors, we will continue to create new businesses by experimenting through convergence between businesses and repay (shareholders) with properly evaluated market values.”

Since hitting the all-time high of 465,000 won ($375) per share in July, Naver’s stock price has plummeted and once dropped to 297,000 won in January. There were signs of a small recovery, but it has not tapped 340,000 won in the last 50 days.

The new CEO said she would help restore Naver’s corporate culture based on trust and autonomy. The company came under fire in May when an employee was found dead and had left a message that alleged workplace bullying. The incident triggered a wave of criticism, dragging down the company’s reputation and corporate image as an innovative company offering workers equal and fair opportunities.

According to Naver, the new CEO has met hundreds of employees since her nomination in November to get to know each team better and strengthen communication.

Born in 1981, Choi joined Naver in 2005 as a Seoul National University graduate with a degree in civil engineering.

She worked in communication and marketing for four years before going to law school at Yonsei University. She later attended Harvard Law School. As a lawyer, Choi specialized in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and corporate governance. Since rejoining Naver in 2019, she has played a core role in expanding the firm’s global businesses and implementing company-wide strategies.