SK brings late chairman back in hologram form

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SK brings late chairman back in hologram form


Left: SK Chairman Chey Tae-won speaks on the 20th anniversary of his father’s passing at the Grand Walkerhill Hotel in Gwangjang-dong, eastern Seoul, on Friday. Right: During the event, a hologram of late SK Group Chairman Chey Jong-hyun appeared. [SK GROUP]

The late SK Group Chairman Chey Jong-hyun, father of current Chairman Chey Tae-won, was brought back to life in hologram form at a ceremony held Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of his death at the Grand Walkerhill Seoul in eastern Seoul.

Initially, an avatar of the late Chey appeared in a video conference with Yeom Jae-ho, president of Korea University. The two discussed how SK has developed over recent years.

When the video ended, the audience was shocked to see the late Chey walk out of a gap in the screen in hologram form.

The moment when the late chairman appeared to walk out of the forest that he famously planted more than 20 years ago was so dramatic and realistic that family members like current SK Chairman Chey Tae-won were visibly overwhelmed with emotion.

SK said it used SK Telecom’s artificial intelligence, voice synthesis and hologram technology to recreate the late chairman’s image and voice. The mobile carrier used speeches recorded on cassette tapes to synthesize his voice for the event on Friday.

“I thank all the SK family for working so hard to make Sunkyung into SK Group, a leading global player,” Chey said as he walked out of the forest.

He then called out the names of each of his sons and daughters and bid personal farewell to his friends. He said hello to his granddaughter who recently got married and commented on “how beautiful [she must] have been.”

The late Chey took his leave after greeting his family and friends and the current chairman took the stage.

“There were difficult times when I wished my father would have been there for me to give good advice,” he said. “We decided to create the video and audio thinking how nice it would be to have him back.”

He said he decided to create a foundation that would support young scholars in the memory of his father, who established the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies.

The late Chey is remembered as a pioneer of corporate social responsibility. One of the first steps he took after being inaugurated as the chairman of the group in 1973 was establishing a foundation to support young talent in Korea.

In the 1970s, Korea was still a developing country and the average per capita GDP was less than $500. The late Chey built the foundation in the belief that Korea needed to nurture world-class academics to become a strong country, according to SK.

Over the last 44 years, the foundation has granted scholarships to roughly 3,700 students and supported doctoral studies abroad for 747 people including Marvin Chun, the first Asian dean of Yale College. For study abroad programs, the foundation fully supports school tuition as well as allowances for living abroad.

SK Group used to be a textile company, but the late chairman contributed largely to expanding the group’s business portfolio to oil refining, chemicals and telecommunications through bold merger and acquisition plans.

In 1994, Chey acquired Korea Mobile Telecommunications at 335,000 won ($300) per share while the company was appreciated at roughly 80,000 won per share. Despite the high acquisition price, the chairman said it was cheap considering the future benefits it would bring to the group. It is now the largest mobile carrier in the country, SK Telecom.

He also spearheaded the oil refining business in a country with no natural resources.

During the video talks with Yeom, the avatar of the late Chey said, “I’m very satisfied, and the company has grown beyond expectations.”

About 500 people including former and current SK executives and figures from business, political and academic circles who were close with the late chairman attended the event.

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