Remembering Chairman Koo

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Remembering Chairman Koo

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

When I became a reporter 25 years ago, my father gave me three pieces of advice. First, he told me to always be 15 minutes earlier than everyone else. Second, he told me to buy meals for other people.

They were obvious tips and pretty useless, not exactly profound advice. At the time, I wondered why he made such a big deal out of such simple things. It took me a while to realize that it was not a matter of time and money, but it was related to attitude when dealing with jobs and people.

I learned even later that realization and execution were differing things.

It hasn’t been easy, but I like to think I try to follow these two pieces of advice. But I did not agree with his third tip, even after I understood what it meant. My father told me that I should allow myself to lose. Instead, I have been trying very hard not to suffer any losses, even in the most trivial things.

I remember my father’s advice when I think about late LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo’s 20-minute rule. Koo, who died on May 20, left countless stories. He liked to meet people and treat them to nice meals, and no matter where and whom he met, he always arrived 20 minutes early and waited.

Just like the “Pence Rule,” which was controversial in the aftermath of the Me Too movement, many rules are made as a preventative measure not to suffer losses. Koo’s 20 minute-rule is the opposite. He would lose his time to show respect and consideration for others.

Other episodes also show how Koo lived a life that incurred losses to himself. When the sales department claimed that expedience was a necessary evil, he said he’d rather have the company be second if being first involved dishonest means. To new executives, he said that there was no power dynamics, and the growth of partner companies would mean growth for LG.

It is easy to advocate fair management and coexistence, but it is hard to find businessmen who really put them into practice. There are justifications like maximizing profits, but fundamentally, they bend the principles out of worry that they may one day make a loss. Not just businessmen, but many people use expedient means and attempt to justify themselves.
It is regrettable that Koo, who set an example of a respectable adult, left us so soon.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 23, Page 31
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