[Newsmaker] Can former chip guru save KT?

By Park Hyung-ki
  • Published : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:59
  • Updated : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:59
Hwang Chang-gyu

Time has come for Hwang Chang-gyu to prove his ability to overcome a crisis as he officially takes the helm at KT, Korea’s second largest mobile carrier, Monday.

Faced with a lackluster earnings outlook and negative public image due to a corruption scandal concerning Hwang’s predecessor Lee Suk-chae, not to mention an overgrown bureaucracy, Hwang will be expected to roll up his sleeves as soon as he takes office to start fixing the mess with a solid business plan for the future.

KT is currently facing a major threat to its rank as the second biggest mobile carrier in the country as its gap with the No. 1 player SK Telecom further grows. At the same time, LG Uplus, the third-largest carrier is quickly catching up with its savvy in ultra-high speed Internet connection.

The former Samsung executive was previously widely known for his hypothesis on the density of semiconductors that helped companies establish long-term R&D guidelines.

Hwang had predicted that the density doubles approximately every year, a claim that eventually overtook the predominant Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, which said the processing power doubles every two years. Hwang’s law was phased out at Samsung after about a decade.

Now, Hwang is pressed to pull more magic tricks out of his hat to revive KT and boost morale at the telecoms firm.

“All eyes are on Hwang to see whether he can adapt his capability and expertise in chips with fresh innovation into the telecommunication sector,” said an industry source, noting that semiconductors have been the “seed that bloomed” in communication and electronics sectors.

A management reshuffle ― which has already started ― and business restructuring will be inevitable at KT under the stewardship of Hwang, in his first year as chairman and CEO, as expectations are increasing for a leaner and efficient mobile operator in times of rapid technological change.

What all this comes down to is whether Hwang could maintain his focus by being independent especially from political pressure, and run KT as a true private company for consumers not politicians, sources said.

By Park Hyong-ki (