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Corporations to skip in-person New Year’s meetings amid pandemic

Samsung's New Year's kickoff meeting at Samsung Digital City in Suwon in January, 2020. (Samsung Electronics)
Samsung's New Year's kickoff meeting at Samsung Digital City in Suwon in January, 2020. (Samsung Electronics)
South Korea’s major corporate groups are opting out of hosting New Year’s kickoff meetings in person this year, as the coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of abating, according to industry sources.

Companies such as Samsung and Hyundai Motor typically host large-cale staff meetings at auditoriums on the first workday of January to mark the beginning of a new year. But the ongoing global pandemic has made the logistics of holding such an event difficult, forcing companies to go online instead.

Samsung Group affiliates are considering holding New Year’s meetings online, with a New Year’s message from top officials in the form of a video or email.

Last year, the group’s chief executive officer and some 500 staff were present during an in-person New Year’s kickoff meeting at its headquarters in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

Hyundai Motor Group, which held a New Year’s event at an auditorium to start 2020, might move things online for 2021.

“We have yet to make the final decision, though we are still looking at ways to go ahead with the New Year’s event. If the event takes place, it is likely to be through in-house broadcasting,” one official at Hyundai Motor said.

“Though we hosted an in-person event earlier this year, that seems unlikely next year,” the official added.

LG Group will also keep a low-profile and opt for a New Year’s message from Chairman Koo Kwang-mo next month, where he is expected to emphasize the importance of future technology including artificial intelligence and robotics.

LG is among the few companies that decided to move the annual event online before the coronavirus pandemic. In January, the group replaced an in-person event with a video message from the CEO addressing their employees globally.

Hanwha Group, known for its energy and construction businesses, is also set to cancel an in-person event that would have been attended by top officials. A New Year’s speech by CEO Kim Seung-yeon will replace the event instead.

South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases marked 970 on Sunday, with 362 cases reported in Seoul. Private gatherings of five people or more are banned in Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Although official business events are not subject to the ban, office dinners or other types of after-hours gatherings are prohibited.

It is customary for not just corporations, but organizations of any type to host an office-closing ceremony on the last working day of the year and a kickoff ceremony on the first working day of the New Year.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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