SK dispatches staff to build bridges in third world

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SK dispatches staff to build bridges in third world

SK Networks, a trading arm of SK Group, will send 300 of its employees to a total of 42 third-world countries in which it does not have any overseas operations to sculpt them into global specialists, the company said. Destinations include Laos, Ecuador and Kenya.

The new plan was unveiled by the nation’s largest trading company in the form of a five-year plan, with the first two batches of 52 employees heading overseas this year, it added.

SK Networks officials said the training program was officially launched after SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won stressed the need to foster global specialists so the SK Group affiliate can play a bigger role in overseas markets in years to come.

Under the program, each employee will undergo three months of preliminary training in Korea where they will learn about the language, culture, legal system and other facets of the country to which they are bound.

They then get to live as an expat for six months, during which time they are expected to build friendships, working networks, linguistic skills and a general understanding of the local business climate.

“Our global business portfolio has been rapidly expanding into natural resources development, car parts and consumer products,” said one SK Networks employee. “We decided to introduce this intensive overseas training program because we strongly believe that nurturing specialists who are well versed in the affairs of other countries will help determine our future success.”

SK Networks currently operates in 20 countries outside Korea. Yesterday’s announcement is seen by market observers as part of a broader move to expand into less-developed countries in search of fresh business opportunities.

The company posted 300 billion won ($259 million) in operating income last year and record high sales of 27.1 trillion won, up 25 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, from 2010, according to industry estimates.

In 2010, SK Networks invested $700 million in MMX Mineracao & Metalicos SA, a Brazilian mining company controlled by billionaire Eike Batista. Industry observers say this allowed the company to secure more than 9 million tons of iron ore a year from the investment, equivalent to 16 percent of Korea’s annual consumption.

In the same year, it signed a contract with Canada’s Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines (CLM) allowing it to buy up to 10 million tons of iron ore over the next 10 years.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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