CJ’s Lee tries to modernize culture at the conglomerate

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CJ’s Lee tries to modernize culture at the conglomerate

Retail and entertainment giant CJ Group is improving its corporate culture to help employees achieve better work-life balance and cultivate autonomy and creativity. The group is offering paid two-week leaves for parents when their children enter elementary school and up to six months of overseas training for people promoted to managers.

The announcement came six days after Chairman and CEO Lee Jay-hyun officially returned to work after serving time in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion. He was released last August on a special presidential pardon by former President Park Geun-hye for his serious health problems, which include kidney disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and high blood pressure.

Making his first public appearance at a company event in four years on May 17, Lee promised to invest 36 trillion won ($32 billion) on logistics, bio and cultural content by 2020 as the group set goals for its three key businesses. They should be No. 1 in their industries by 2030, Lee said.

Lee, who became chairman in 2002, has been outspoken about the need for people to grow as they work together. Korean companies are attempting to pay more attention to work-life balance and say they recognize it as a way to improve productivity.

“Through these corporate culture reforms, we will promote individual worker’s growth and a flexible organizational culture that respects autonomy and creativity,” said Cho Myeon-je, vice president of human resources at CJ.

Under the plans unveiled Tuesday, CJ will let its employees - both fathers and mothers - take a month off before or after their children get into elementary schools, a period when parents are particularly busy. The first two weeks will be paid leave and the following two weeks will be without pay. Should any children-related emergencies occur, parents can leave work two hours early.

In a related move, CJ has extended paternity leave from the current five days - including three paid days - to two weeks with pay.

Starting this year, employees promoted to managers - which numbers 800 this year - will spend up to six months being trained in CJ subsidiaries abroad. Workers who have served five years or longer may apply for a sabbatical of six months at the maximum to learn languages or have work-related experiences.

Employees will be permitted to take four weeks of so-called “creativity holidays” every five years and receive between 500,000 won and 5 million won as holiday allowances depending on working periods.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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