An increasing number of third-generation owners are taking care of their business groups’ activities on their own, not just hosting various official events and meeting with VIPs, but also leading the development of new products. Some major groups’ groundwork for ownership structure reform that started last year is accelerating this trend, too.
For example, Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Chung Eui-seon, who used to keep a low profile in the presence of his father and Chairman Chung Mong-koo, has visited the Consumer Electronics Show and the Detroit Motor Show this year and met with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in the company's Ulsan factory. In addition, he is currently leading the automaker’s high-performance car development based on the successful debut of Kia Motors’ K-series models he spearheaded.
Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong has acted as the de facto owner of the group since last year with his father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, in the hospital. Recently, he met with Chinese Vice Prime Minister Wang Yang and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel without the chairman, although he accompanied his father during overseas visits in 2012 and 2013. It is said that the development of the Galaxy S6 was led by the vice chairman himself as well.
Hanwha Group Managing Director Kim Dong-kwan has come into the spotlight because of his leading role in the 1.9 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) deal between Hanwha and Samsung. He has been in charge of the group’s photovoltaic power generation business and coordinated the merger between Hanwha Solar One and Hanwha Q Cells. He and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong went to Harvard together.
A similar trend is seen in the distribution industry, too. Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Jeong Yong-jin, who is the only grandson of the late Samsung Group founder Lee Byeong-cheol and a son of Shinsegae Chairperson Lee Myeong-hee, recently decided on a 3.35 trillion won (US$3.1 billion) investment, the largest ever since the establishment of the company.
Kumho Tires Vice President Park Se-chang, the eldest son of Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo, has been appointed the representative director of Asiana Abacus, a subsidiary of Asiana Airlines. He is also said to be coordinating the company’s bidding for Kumho Industrial these days. In the meantime, Hankook Tire Worldwide President Jo Hyeon-shik and Hankook Tire President Jo Hyeon-beom, the two sons of Hankook Tire Chairman Jo Yang-rae, acquired Halla Visteon Climate Control for approximately 4 trillion won (US$3.7 billion) in December last year with the private equity fund Han & Co.