Chaebol heads look to bounce back with bold plans for 2021
Rocked by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the tough business environment it created throughout 2020, major Korean conglomerates have vowed to seek out new growth engines this year and deal squarely with fundamental issues affecting operations, such as safety.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong renewed the group's focus on the so-called non-memory sector, encompassing processing chips and foundry, for 2021, by visiting a chip factory complex in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Monday.
“Let’s make another success story in the system semiconductor sector in cooperation with partnered companies, academia and research institutions to create a healthy ecosystem,” Lee said during the tour.
The system semiconductor segment includes the production of central processing units, mobile processors and image sensors and the manufacturing of those chips by contract from external clients.
Samsung holds a relatively weak position in the sector compared to that in memory chips, a factor that pushed it to invest 133 trillion won ($123 billion) in 2030.
In an official New Year’s message delivered by Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam on Monday, the electronics maker cited safety as another area of focus.
Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung in a New Year's email Monday said the company should make a shift to a new growth engine this year, pledging to generate a tangible outcome in various business fields including eco-friendly vehicles and future technology.
"In a post-coronavirus era where different social values and lifestyles have expanded, only companies that have been preparing for such a change will survive and grow," Chung said. "Transitioning to a new growth engine will be only possible when we are all together."
New growth engines include eco-friendly vehicles based on the recently launched E-GMP, a modular platform dedicated to electric vehicles (EVs), and hydrogen energy, based on its hydrogen-dedicated brand HTWO launched last year. HTWO encompasses vehicles that run on hydrogen and the hydrogen fuel cell system.
SK Chairman Chey Tae-won called for a new entrepreneurship that is geared toward solving high-level problems such as pandemics and climate change, in his message released Monday.
“Great disasters like climate change and pandemics penetrate and destroy the most vulnerable part of society,” Chey said. “We are living in a time where a new entrepreneurship is required to resolve such problems.”
In line with Chey’s comment, CJ Group Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik also stressed the need to shift the paradigm in all of its businesses, which range from food to entertainment, while admitting that this year’s business environment will be tough.
“From the pandemic, our group has confirmed that we haven’t yet gained a structural competitiveness strong enough to overcome external shock,” said Sohn in a New Year’s address on Monday.
Securing the best talent, achieving a paradigm shift driven by innovation through the strengthening of future growth and moving forward as a global leading company are important goals for CJ this year, according to Sohn.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin highlighted the importance of “strong execution” in a New Year’s speech on Monday.
“We have prided ourselves that we have built a strong competitiveness in various businesses, but we have looked back on whether our core capacities have played their roles to the fullest in these unprecedented situations,” Shin said in a statement.
“Preparedness as well as a proactive and voluntary attitude to leading economic recovery are required [for Lotte] to immediately respond when economic vitality is regained,” he added.
Rival retailer Shinsegae Group stressed the importance of bringing change to employees’ mindset from “not losing a battle” to making 2021 “a year of winning.”
Chung Yong-jin, Vice Chairman of Shinsegae Group addressed three key issues: Prioritization of customers; active communication and cooperation among divisions and affiliated companies; and creating an organizational culture that accepts diversity.
He said the transfer to an online-driven retail shopping environment has been pulled forward by at least three years, and therefore a workforce that can lead the digital transformation is desperately needed.
Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn pushed for the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates into its overall business decision at a time of uncertainty.
“ESG standards have long been a business principle among global firms,” he said. “We will also have to strengthen ESG practices in compliance and constantly take sustainability into account for the business decisions we make.”
Global expansion was pointed as a major management goal. Future mobility, aerospace, green and hydrogen energy and digital finance were fields Kim ordered efforts to be made in to grab early opportunities.
GS Group head Huh Tae-soo said 2021 should be a year of developing new businesses by adopting digital technology and eco-friendly practices.
“While existing core businesses within the group will continue to drive for digital transition, GS will increase external cooperation to find ways to use our existing assets in the most effective way to take [the company] from ‘Big to Bigger,’” the chairman said.
There should be a wide outlook in search for potential business fields, he added, like eco-friendly or mobility industries. As for these relatively young fields, Huh said the conglomerate will move into them through “open innovation” by partnering with start-ups and venture capitals.
BY PARK EUN-JEE, JIN EUN-SOO, SONG KYOUNG-SON AND JIN MIN-JI [email@example.com]