Was love at first sight, executive says of Chile

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Was love at first sight, executive says of Chile

After more than a decade as a successful chief executive officer for a major company, what's next?

Some executives stick around at their corporations, acting as advisers or mentors. Others enjoy some hard-earned rest and relaxation. And then there are businessmen - like Cho Hae-hyung - who look for achievement all over again in a new field.

Mr. Cho, who in the 1970s was the chief executive for Ssangyong Paper Co. Ltd., part of the Ssangyong Business Group, is now the chairman of Nara Holdings Corp., an advertising and marketing company. He also holds numerous other titles, including Honorary Consul General of Iceland and Chairman of the Korea-New Zealand Business Council.

Mr. Cho has been particularly involved with Chile. So much so, that the Republic of Chile recently honored him with the "Order of Bernardo O'Higgins in the Degree of Great Official," named after the revolutionary and ruler (1817-23) of Chile, considered by most Chileans to be the founder of their country. The award was established in 1956 as the country's highest honor for foreign nationals in the private sector. A reception was held at the Chilean ambassador's residence to celebrate the honor.

"I fell in love at first sight," was how Mr. Cho expressed his long-term relationship with the long and narrow mountainous country. When he first arrived in the capital city of Santiago in the early fall of 1979, he remembers being overwhelmed by the mint bushes and lemon trees growing on the grand boulevards. Back then, lemons were still scarce in Korea.

He also recalls visiting the city of Valparaiso, on the spectacular Pacific coastline, where he found seashores similar to that of Gangneung, with fish and oyster dealers.

He actually made that first visit after he became the first chairman of the Korea-Chile Economic Cooperation Committee. A joint-convention was held in Seoul, where Mr. Cho began to see much potential for private-sector development in the South American country. So, three months later when the second joint-convention was held in Chile, he saw the country for the first time.

The chief product of Ssangyong Paper at the time was "Long Fiber Unbleached Kraft Paper Pulp," which greatly needed the high-quality pulp found in the forests of lower-Chile. Mr. Cho and Ssangyong Paper realized they could cut down on transportation costs by bringing pulp to Korea on ships that had carried cement to neighboring Brazil.

Chile's ambassador to Korea, Fernando Schmidt, said, "Chairman Cho's contribution to the relations of the two countries is significant in that it contains a permanent value."

His key role in developing trade between the countries occurred while Chile was under the military rule of former President Augusto Pinochet. But Chile, like Korea, has come a long way since then.

"I am simply proud that Chile has become the first country to enter negotiations with Korea to form a free trade agreement," said Mr. Cho, who hopes the new year brings a major step in the long negotiating process.

by Rhee Hyun-ju

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