SK chairman says agile responses needed in times of geopolitical strife

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won urged top executives of the group's affiliates to respond with agility to survive in a fast-changing market environment and deepening geopolitical crisis, according to the group on Thursday.

In the closing ceremony of the group's annual CEO seminar held in Paris on Wednesday (local time), Chey spoke about his awareness to executives of the group’s key affiliates and announced he would start implementing measures to counter risk factors in the macro environment.

“With rapid changes in the internal and external environment, we cannot survive unless we change quickly and clearly,” the chairman said, reiterating the risk of “sudden death” which he first raised at the group’s expanded management meeting in 2016.

Chey pointed out key issues faced by the Korean economy and the group, including the intensifying competition between the US and China; acceleration of the creation of new technologies such as artificial intelligence; increased economic uncertainty due to changes in quantitative easing; and the spread of a culture that emphasizes individual career management.

Expanding global cooperation can save both the country and the group, he said, while suggesting the establishment and implementation of a social value strategy integrated and linked to global strategy, global organization by each economic block and a solution package from energy, AI and environmental perspectives.

The SK chief also called group executives to thoroughly verify whether the investment system is working properly and ensure investment completeness, saying: “When making investment decisions, you should not make the mistake of considering only micro-environment variables without analyzing macro-environment variables.”

“CEOs should not only focus on their companies, but also be able to propose a solution package that can take advantage of the group's strengths. ... Let’s create a company that can grow sustainably by carrying out various challenging tasks, including governance innovation,” Chey said.

The annual seminar, which was held for three days from Monday, focused on the topic of “global management.” It marked the first time in 14 years for the group’s annual CEO gathering to take place overseas since its meeting in Beijing in 2009.

Paris was chosen as this year’s meeting location after a comprehensive consideration of various factors. Among them, many affiliate CEOs were planning to mobilize their support for the 2030 Busan Expo bid there, before and after the seminar, according to an SK Group official.

For this year’s seminar, about 30 CEOs, together with Chairman Chey Tae-won, Executive Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won, SK Discovery Vice Chairman Chey Chang-won and SK Supex Council Chairman Cho Dae-sik participated.

“The most important global issue our group is currently facing is the competition for hegemony among major countries,” Cho said in his opening speech.

While introducing major turning points for the US’ growth to great power, he suggested the CEOs create a successful global business in the current geopolitical situation by referring to the US’ success formula.

The SK CEOs shared the recognition that competitiveness and synergy could be increased if they built an organic cooperation system like SK China -- established in China in 2010 -- in other key global markets. They agreed to actively review the plan.

Considering the difficulties of attracting outstanding global talent with existing work methods and hiring systems, they sought to introduce a flexible work system instead. SK executives also discussed ways to build talent infrastructure by operating a pool of experts in various fields to improve employees’ future capabilities.

Meanwhile, the SK chairman is set to continuously ramp up last-ditch efforts for Busan's 2030 World Expo bid. He will stay in Paris for most of next month and meet with ambassadors from the member nations of the Bureau International des Expositions, the organizing body of the World Expo.

According to industry sources Wednesday, Chey was spotted attending a gala dinner event in Paris with his new partner Kim Hee-young, who is serving as the chair of T&C Foundation, on Saturday.

The chairman was reportedly invited to the private event as a representative of a BIE member country. It was the first time the two had appeared together in a public setting.

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