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Will Hanwha chief return to boardroom?

Employment restriction on Kim Seung-youn to be lifted next month

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn (left) and his eldest son Kim Dong-kwan (Hanwha)
Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn (left) and his eldest son Kim Dong-kwan (Hanwha)
As employment restrictions placed on Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn are set to be lifted next month, industry watchers are paying attention to his possible return to the boardroom of the group’s core companies.

In 2014, Kim was sentenced to an imprisonment of three years, suspended for five years, for the breach of trust and had to resign from the representative director’s position at seven affiliates including the holdings firm Hanwha Corp. He has also been barred from seeking the same work for five years after the completion of the sentence. That ban ends on Feb. 18.

Kim’s current title as group chairman is purely symbolic, with no legal responsibility or salary.

As for the big boss’s course of action, Hanwha officials had little to say.

“Nothing has been decided,” a Hanwha official said.

Industry watchers, however, see Kim’s return as likely.

The group needs strong leadership amid uncertainties triggered by the pandemic and it is irresponsible for Kim to make key management decisions, without assuming the legal responsibility as a registered director, they say.

If Kim decides to come back to the management front, details will be laid out at an upcoming shareholders’ meeting scheduled for March, they added.

In his New Year’s address early this month, Kim called for Hanwha Group and its affiliates to seek new growth opportunities in future mobility and aerospace, green hydrogen and digital finance solution businesses, saying that “as the pandemic prolongs, the next two to three years will be the time of uncertainties where the landscape of the industry shifts.”

At Kim’s command, Hanwha Solutions said last month that it would invest 2.8 trillion won ($2.5 billion) into solar power and green hydrogen businesses throughout the next five years. Meanwhile, Hanwha Systems is developing the flying car “Butterfly” and has recently purchased stakes in satellite and antenna companies to zero in on the booming global satellite internet market.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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