The Korea Herald


KT appoints new CEO after monthslong leadership vacuum

Kim Young-shub looks to enhance the telecom giant’s corporate value by sharpening essential ICT capabilities

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : Aug. 30, 2023 - 15:22

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KT Corp.'s new CEO Kim Young-shub talks with employees at his inauguration ceremony at the company's headquarters in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (KT Corp.) KT Corp.'s new CEO Kim Young-shub talks with employees at his inauguration ceremony at the company's headquarters in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (KT Corp.)

South Korean telecommunications giant KT Corp. on Wednesday appointed a new chief following several months without a CEO.

The company said its shareholders approved the appointment of Kim Young-shub, the former CEO of IT service provider LG CNS, as its new head at a shareholders meeting earlier in the day in Seoul. The agenda passed with the approval of more than 60 percent of the total voting shares.

Upon his appointment at the meeting, KT’s new CEO told shareholders, “We’ll do our best to build a foundation for sustainable growth and increase corporate value through our network infrastructure, technology and business capabilities, which are at Korea’s highest level.”

Earlier this month, the telecom giant’s board of directors nominated Kim as the new leader of the firm. He was one of the three candidates on the list, along with Park Yoon-young, a former president at KT, and Cha Sang-kyun, a professor at Seoul National University.

The board members highly evaluated Kim as both an ICT and management expert with his previous roles as a chief financial officer at LG CNS and LG Uplus, in addition to his seven-year term as CEO at LG CNS. He was also seen as the best person to grow KT into a global digital platform firm based on his abundant expertise in ICT, digital transformation and innovative management.

The world's dominant two proxy advisers, ISS and Glass Lewis, were also in favor of Kim's appointment.

The new CEO’s inauguration ceremony took place at the company’s headquarters in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, on the same day in the form of a town hall meeting. Some 40 executives and employees, including labor union Chairman Choi Jang-bok and Executive Vice President Seo Chang-seok, attended the ceremony. It was also broadcast live in-house.

While thanking all executives and employees for fulfilling their respective positions despite the leadership vacuum, KT’s new CEO said that the company has many assets, including talent and pride in being responsible for Korea's ICT foundation. He also highlighted four keywords -- customers, capabilities, substantiality and harmony -- for the company’s sustainable growth and innovation.

“Our business growth will follow if we leap forward to become the top expert group in ICT capabilities and utilize KT's potential well. Let’s work together for solid sustainable growth,” Kim said. “I’ll do my best to ensure that all KT talents can innovate and grow together and share the rewards since all employees mean everything to our management and growth.”

The labor union head welcomed the new chief and showed high expectations to realize the company’s growth based on Kim’s ICT expertise and digital transformation capabilities, as well as his will to improve corporate culture and nurture talent. Choi promised cooperation to restore trust as a leading ICT company and help it grow into a global digital platform company.

KT’s leadership had remained vacant since March, when former CEO Ku Hyeon-mo stepped down from the position after failing to win shareholders' approval for another three-year term. The company had faced an unprecedented leadership vacuum for months as the state-run National Pension Service, the largest shareholder in KT, voiced opposition to the company’s decision to endorse subsequent CEO nominees and directors.

KT once again faced a problem appointing a CEO nominee in March after the board members' unanimously chosen candidate Yun Kyung-lim, its former group transformation division head, gave up on taking over the top spot as he believed it would be better for a new CEO to be elected through improved governance exceeding the expectations of key stakeholders.

KT's new CEO is expected to push for major changes in business normalization, large-scale companywide restructuring and renewal to strengthen the wireless carrier's competitiveness. But with KT facing internal turmoil as investigations into its former executives continue regarding allegations of favoritism, local industry and market watchers are paying keen attention to whether Kim is able to demonstrate the political capacity to resolve the issues.

On Tuesday, prosecutors raided the headquarters and offices of the company’s subsidiaries KT Cloud and OpenCloud Lab, as well as the residence of previous candidate Yun in search of evidence related to a breach of duty case involving KT leadership, including former CEO Ku.

Meanwhile, KT’s new CEO is set to debut at the Mobile 360 APAC, the Asia-Pacific leg of the event organized by the UK-based mobile industry nonprofit GSMA on Sept. 7. It will likely mark his first official outside activity as KT’s new chief. The wireless carrier is co-hosting the upcoming event with South Korea's Science Ministry.

Kim’s official term will last until the regular general shareholders meeting in March 2026.