The Korea Herald


Posco’s new leadership taking shape

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Feb. 22, 2024 - 15:33

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Chang In-hwa, the next candidate for Posco chairman (Posco Holdings) Chang In-hwa, the next candidate for Posco chairman (Posco Holdings)

As former Posco President Chang In-hwa is poised to take on the Korean steel giant's chairmanship, how his leadership might impact on the group's innovation drive for eco-friendly, future material business remains in question.

Posco Holdings convened its regular board meeting on Wednesday to announce the executives of major affiliates and to resolve the nomination of Posco Group's chair candidate.

Chang will officially assume the chair position of the nation's fifth-largest business group for the next three years if approved at the regular shareholders' meeting scheduled for March 21.

For the confirmed appointments, Lee Si-woo, formerly co-CEO of the group's flagship steelmaking unit Posco alongside Vice Chairman Kim Hag-dong, will now assume sole leadership following Kim's decision to step down.

Former Posco Holdings President Chon Jung-son has been selected as CEO of Posco E&C, the group’s construction arm.

Joining the company in 1987, Chon has distinguished himself in finance and strategy for over 30 years and played a key role in settling down the Posco Holdings.

Lee Kye-in, having served as the chief officer of Posco International's global business unit, has been promoted to president to lead the group's trading and energy affiliate

Lee entered Daewoo Group's steel division in 1989 and later headed Daewoo International's energy and steel business. Daewoo International was incorporated into Posco Group in 2010.

Posco Holdings Vice President Yoo Byung-ok has been chosen as the new CEO of Posco Future M, the group’s chemical subsidiary specializing in battery materials.

Yoo joined Posco in 1989 and spearheaded the group's initiatives in the eco-friendly future domain. He served as head of the management strategy department and later oversaw the industrial gas and hydrogen division.

Meanwhile, Chang was a runner-up when current Chairman Choi Jeong-woo was appointed in 2018. He has served as an adviser to Posco since his retirement as Posco's president in 2021, staying updated with the current business agenda.

If Chang officially becomes the group's chair, there are optimistic expectations about his ability to steer both the steel sector and the organization robustly and consistently. However, doubts have arisen about his capability to handle new materials and energy divisions, alongside the field of batteries, amid shareholder concerns over Posco Holdings' declining stock price.

Since 2018, Chang has served as head of Posco, overseeing new business ventures and establishing marketing strategies for overseas steel networks. During his tenure, he also advocated for future-oriented business directions, including reorganizing the battery materials business within the new business domain.

Despite his efforts to lay the groundwork for a new business structure, stock prices and financial performances have been subpar during his tenure, with the pandemic hitting the globe.

With Chang's appointment highly probable, concerns have been voiced by Posco's largest shareholder, the National Pension Service. However, experts suggest that the influence of specific shareholders will likely be minimal, given that Posco's stake exceeds 75 percent.

Despite these concerns, the CEO Recommendation Committee evaluated Chang as the "most suitable candidate" capable of boldly addressing future challenges, after a series of interviews in early February. The Committee also judged that Chang possesses clear problem awareness regarding the group’s core businesses and is expected to contribute to leading technology-centered innovation.

Chang, 68, is a graduate of Seoul National University's Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering. He entered Posco by joining the Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology in 1988, following his doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Throughout his tenure, he has held diverse positions, serving as the director of the RIST Steel Structure Research Institute, heading Posco’s new business and steel marketing solutions departments, acting as the chief technology investment officer, overseeing the technical research labs and leading the steel production division.

He played a crucial role in establishing the group's overseas steel network and spearheaded initiatives such as being recognized as a "Lighthouse Factory" by the World Economic Forum at Davos 2019, marking the first time a Korean company received acknowledgment for leading Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.