중앙데일리

Company’s vision takes to the sky

[The faces inside KOREA’S CONGLOMERATES:Kumho Asiana]
Kumho Asiana stakes its future on what it can give back to society

Dec 15,2008
Park Sam-koo (63) . Kumho Asiana Group Chairman & CEO . Bachelor’s in economics, Yonsei University
The faces inside Korea’s conglomerates is a weekly series about key figures in major conglomerates to help readers understand Korea’s business world.

Kumho Asiana Group began its 60th year in business in 2006, but its growth plans are far from realized. The founder’s son and current group chairman, Park Sam-koo, wants the company’s legacy to extend for at least five more centuries.

“Being loved by the public is the only way to carry on for another 500 years,” Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo said in February 2006 during the group’s 60th anniversary celebration.

With a goal like staying productive until the year 2506, Kumho Asiana has been busy recently. The seventh-largest conglomerate by assets took over Daewoo Engineering and Construction, the nation’s No. 1 builder, in 2006, and it also acquired logistics giant Korea Express earlier this year.

Park Chan-koo (60). Kumho Asiana Chairman & CEO of chemical operations . Bachelor’s in statistics, The University of Iowa
Through a couple of huge merger and acquisition deals, Kumho Asiana now has a total of 52 affiliates ranging from Asiana Airlines to Kumho Tires under its wings, and its sales are expected to reach 26.5 trillion won ($19 billion) this year from 8.1 trillion won in 2002 when Chairman Park took the reins after his elder brother Jeong-koo died.

As is the case with other conglomerates, Kumho Asiana’s beginnings were humble. It started with two 1935 Ford Deluxe Sedans. Using them as taxis, entrepreneur Park In-cheon, the group’s late founder and first chairman, established a taxi company called Gwangju Taxi in 1946 in Gwangju, South Jeolla.

Kumho Asiana maintains close ties to the region where it began. Among its 26 CEOs and affiliate presidents, 15 come from Honam, another name for the North and South Jeolla provinces.

Among the 15, five are graduates of Gwangju Jeil High School including the current Chairman Park and his younger brother Chan-koo. After successfully launching the taxi company, the group began adding affiliates from a tire maker to petrochemical companies.

As it extended its business reach, the late founder stressed the importance of giving a portion of what the company earned back to society, and this has become Kumho Asiana’s guiding principle.

Chairman Park says that the group must earn the public’s trust and respect by giving back to society. He adopted “Beautiful Company” for a Kumho Asiana tagline in 2006. In line with this philosophy, Kumho Asiana backs up the nation’s culture and arts scenes by supporting talented young musicians. For example, the group provides music scholarships, concert travel fees and high-end classical instruments. In contrast to his soft spot for the arts, Park is known as an aggressive negotiator. He personally set the terms for several large-scale M&A deals.

Kumho Asiana affiliates are categorized into four areas: manufacturing (tires and chemicals), transportation and logistics, construction and finance.

Park Chan-koo, the chairman’s younger brother, leads the manufacture of chemicals as both chairman and CEO.

The younger Park is often dubbed a chemicals expert because he has experience leading major chemical affiliates. The family tensions that sometimes interfere with business management are noticeably absent between the brothers.

Among other manufacturing affiliates, Oh Se-chul, president of Kumho Tires, is famous for his passion for research and development. He has 21 tire-related patents.

Kumho Petrochemical saw a 20 percent year-on-year increase in operating profits and a 96 percent year-on-year increase in sales in 2007, after its current president, Kee Ock, was appointed in November 2006. The company’s 2007 earnings were its highest ever.

In the transportation and logistics sectors, Vice Chairman and CEO of Airline Operations Park Chan-bup, who is unrelated to the founding family, is attributed with nurturing Asiana Airlines into a formidable rival for industry leader Korean Air Lines.

He enlisted Asiana Airlines as a member of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. Through the group, Asiana now code-shares with 20 other airlines including Air Canada and Lufthansa.

Lee Won-tae, president of express bus company Kumho Express, is a China expert. He established 11 joint ventures with Chinese express companies. As the nation’s express bus industry has been declining since the ’80s due to widespread use of cars - from an average of 17.4 million passengers per year to 17,040 in 2007 - Lee headed for China in 1995. His strategy hit the mark because Kumho Express has the largest sales among the nation’s express bus companies, driven by the stellar performances of Chinese joint ventures. Lee also serves as a vice chairman of the Korea-China Friendship Association.

Oh Nam-soo, president of Kumho Asiana’s strategic management division, knows how to deal with risk. When the U.S.-led economic turmoil began to pick up speed earlier this year, Oh said in July that he plans to sell some of the group’s nonessential affiliates to secure liquidity. The company put Kumho Life Insurance, its finance division, up for sale in November.

Among transportation and logistics affiliates, Kumho Rent-A-Car, Korea Express and Kumho Resort are regarded as the group’s rising stars. Unlike the manufacturing and construction arms, leisure-related firms are considered to have further growth potential.

Under the leadership of President Rhee Sam-sup, Kumho Rent-A-Car boasts the highest number of automobiles among rental car agencies, and it expanded its business to China in November.

Lee Kook-dong, president of Korea Express, is a logistics expert. The leading logistics company earned its biggest ever sales and operating profits last year.

Kim Bong-koo, president of Kumho Resort, is known as a bulldozer-type of leader. He is considered a natural at marketing. Since joining Kumho Tires in 1974, he has spent most of his career in Kumho Asiana’s marketing divisions.

Shin Hoon, vice chairman and CEO of construction operations, leads Kumho Asiana’s construction arm. Shin formerly served as a chief information officer so he has a background in information technology. He oversaw the buildup of Asiana Airlines’ booking system when the carrier was launched in 1991. Shin is also well-known as a socialite among industry business leaders.

Lee Yon-goo, president of Kumho Engineering and Construction, is a long-time construction man. Since joining Kumho E&C in 1977, he has been involved in large construction projects such as building the Incheon International Airport and Gyeongbu Highway.

Seo Jong-uk, president of Daewoo Engineering and Construction, got his star status for creating the hit Prugio apartment brand in February 2003.

Meanwhile, the Park family’s adult children are also working at Kumho Asiana affiliates. Se-chang, the only son of Chairman Park Sam-koo, works as a managing director at the group’s strategic management division, while Jun-kyung, the only son of Chairman Park Chan-koo, works at Kumho Tires’ accounting division as a vice director.


By Sung So-young Staff Reporter [so@joongang.co.kr]



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