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LG Group taps younger leaders in pursuit of change

Including LG Electronics chief, executives in their 60s leave, passing baton to younger leaders

LG Group, the fourth-largest family-run conglomerate in South Korea, said Thursday it has changed the group’s top brass and tapped young leaders in their 30s as new executives at affiliates in a bid to respond more swiftly to market changes, in its annual organizational reshuffling.

Jo Seong-jin, vice chairman and CEO of LG Electronics, stepped down from the top position of one of Korea’s main tech firms as the group intends to choose change over stability.

LG Electronics is the flagship affiliate of LG Group.

The 63-year-old vice chairman has tendered his resignation as he requested LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, 41, to pass the leadership baton onto the next generation and seek a major change in doing business.

Jo joined LG in 1976 and is widely known as a “master of washing machines.” He was promoted to vice chairman in 2016. Jo was the first C-suite official at a major Korean conglomerate without a university degree.

Kwon Bong-seok, current head of both TV and smartphone businesses, was announced to succeed Jo as new CEO of LG’s electronics unit.

Kwon, 56, has been leading the home entertainment business since 2014. He is recognized for boosting the TV unit’s margins by nearly 10 percent by promoting sales of organic light-emitting diode TVs.

He is currently undertaking tough efforts to normalize the company’s smartphone unit as well. 

Vice Chairman & CEO Jo Seong-jin (left) and newly appointed CEO Kwon Bong-seok hug each other at the company’s headquarters in Yeouido on Thursday. (LG Electronics)
Vice Chairman & CEO Jo Seong-jin (left) and newly appointed CEO Kwon Bong-seok hug each other at the company’s headquarters in Yeouido on Thursday. (LG Electronics)

To support Kwon, executive vice presidents Park Hyoung-sei, Lee Yeon-mo and Lee Sang-gyu were named to head the TV, smartphone and Korea sales units, respectively.

As part of the organizational restructuring, LG Electronics newly created the Chief Strategy Office to be the control tower of the company’s future businesses and digital transformation.

Cho Ju-wan, president of LG North America, will lead the CSO division.

The existing Chief Technology Office under President Park Il-pyung will form a new center for future technologies along with research groups on artificial intelligence, robotics and software.

Including Jo, five out of six vice chairmen of LG Group have left or changed positions under the new leader from the Koo family since June 2018.

Last month, LG Display Vice Chairman and CEO Han Sang-beom tendered his resignation.

Last year, Chairman Koo appointed 3M Senior Vice Chairman Shin Hak-cheol as LG Chem vice chairman to replace predecessor Park Jin-soo.

Ha Hyun-hoi, former vice chairman of LG Corp., has moved to the LG Uplus vice chairman post in a position swap with Kwon Young-soo, who is the incumbent vice chairman of the holding company.

“Fewer promotions were made than last year, but some cases tell that the group is seeking a radical transformation by changing the leadership generation amid growing uncertainties in the global business environment,” a group official said.

A total of 106 officials joined the corporate ladder as new executives, according to the group. Twenty-one of them are 45 or younger.

The youngest executive is Vice President Shim Mi-jin at LG Household & Healthcare, who is 34 years old.

Along with the changes at the key electronics unit, other LG affiliates announced significant changes in the leadership of major business units.

LG Chem tapped Noh Kug-lae as executive vice president and head of its petrochemicals unit, Kim Dong-myung as executive vice president and head of the automotive battery unit and Cha Dong-seok as chief financial officer.

Mobile carrier LG Uplus said it has promoted Hwang Hyeon-sik, the executive director of the personal solution division, to the president level.

Housing material provider LG Hausys appointed Kang Gye-woong as new CEO.

By Song Su-hyun (