A vital mix of speed and challenge

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A vital mix of speed and challenge

 New Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung on Oct. 14 delivers a video speech to all employees of the global car manufacturer after taking the helm of the group last week. [HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP]

The author is the deputy head of the industry teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.

In the inauguration message that Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung sent to the employees and executives on Oct. 14, he mentions an unexpected name. Recalling the efforts of the employees and executives that made Hyundai Motor Group today, he mentioned his grandfather and Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, his father Chung Mong-koo and late chairman Kim Cheol-ho.

Kim is the founder of Kia Motors. Starting with Gyeongseong Engineering he established in 1944, Kim began making automobiles. The name of the company was changed to Kia later. In a sense, it is the oldest Korean automaker, founded before Hyundai, in 1967, and SsangYong, in 1955.

Struggling from financial difficulties during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Kia was acquired by Hyundai Motor. It had assembled and produced cars for foreign makers like Matsuda, Peugeot and Fiat. When it could not produce sedans due to government’s automobile industry restructuring in the Fifth Republic, Kia developed Bongo, now a synonym for vans in Korea.

As Hyundai and Kia merged and became Hyundai Motor, there used to be a subtle competition among employees from the two companies. Those from Hyundai Motor, especially from Hyundai Mobis, where honorary Chairman Chung Mong-koo managed, used to be more influential. They joked about a class system based on their backgrounds.

As Hyundai Motor Group became the leader in the industry, some people miss Kia’s pioneering corporate culture. Kia constantly challenged new fields — despite some setbacks — introducing Korea’s first convertible roadster Elan and world’s first urban SUV. After the merger, the culture is more stability-oriented.

The proclamation in the Euisun Chung era is not to forget Kia’s root. The company could be the fifth largest carmaker in the world today, thanks to Hyundai’s speedy pursuit and Kia’s unyielding spirit.

Experts say communication should be the key under Chung’s leadership. Rather than the top-down decision-making process, the company needs to have members communicate internally and externally to share technologies rather than trying to do everything within the boundaries of incorporation.
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