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SK carries out complete reshuffle of top brass

Chey Tae-won seeks generational shift; family members put to the fore

Dec. 7, 2023 - 15:24 By Jo He-rim
SK Supex Council's new chairman and Vice Chairman Chey Chang-won (SK Group)

SK Group, the country’s second-largest conglomerate, has carried out a complete reshuffle of its top leadership, with a new, younger generation of top executives taking the helm at key affiliates to tackle the ever-changing business environment.

In its year-end executive reshuffle on Thursday, the chiefs of four major affiliates -- SK Supex Council Chairman Cho Dae-sik, SK Innovation Vice Chairman Kim Jun, SK Corp. Vice Chairman Jang Dong-hyun and SK hynix Inc. Vice Chairman Park Jung-ho -- handed over their CEO posts and moved on to advisory positions.

“The large-scale generational shift comes naturally. We expect the change will serve as a turning point for the companies to overcome the difficult business environment affected by the geopolitical crisis and the sluggish economy in and outside of the country, and for the companies to sustain growth to become market leaders in their respective fields,” an SK official said.

SK Discovery Vice Chairman Chey Chang-won, a younger cousin of SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, was appointed as the chair of the Supex Council, the conglomerate’s top decision-making body, for a two-year term.

The 59-year-old served as the chief executive officer for SK Chemical in 2007 and then moved to SK Discovery in 2017 to lead the conglomerate’s chemical and biopharmaceutical businesses.

“The SK affiliate CEOs agreed that Chey is the right person to lead growth according to the company’s management principle of ‘separate, but together,’ aimed at creating harmony between the management of each affiliate and the group,” the group said in a press release.

For the new leaders of SK Corp. and SK Innovation, SK Siltron CEO Jang Yong-ho, 59, and SK Enmove Park Sang-kyu, 59, have been appointed, respectively.

SK Materials CEO Lee Young-wook and SK Energy P&M CIC CEO Oh Jong-hoon have been chosen to each lead SK Siltron and SK Energy, while former SK hynix CEO Lee Seok-hee returned to head SK On.

Kim Yang-taek, executive vice president of SK Inc.'s Advanced Materials Investment Center, and Kim Won-ki, SK Enmove's green growth division chief, were also promoted as the new CEOs for SK Materials and SK Enmove, respectively.

As for SK hynix, current President and CEO Kwak Noh-jung became the sole chief of the world's second-largest memory chipmaker with co-CEO Park’s resignation from the managerial post.

“Each affiliate has prepared a reshuffle to open up opportunities for new executives who have been trained through a group-wide, next-generation CEO development program,” SK Group said.

"The vice chairman-level CEOs will continue to leverage their years of experience within the group and serve as facilitators for junior executives," it continued.

Cho of SK's Supex Council will maintain his position as vice chair and move to SK Inc., while Jang of SK Inc. will double as a vice chair of SK Inc. and of SK Ecoplant. Kim of SK Innovation will also maintain his vice chair post at the energy company.

Park of SK hynix will also keep his vice chair title at SK Inc. and in the semiconductor affiliate to manage partnerships with global tech firms in the artificial intelligence sector.

In the latest reshuffle, SK Group named 82 new executives, the smallest number in the past three years. The conglomerate appointed 145 new executives for this year, 165 in 2022 and 107 in 2021.

The average age of the executives newly appointed in the latest reshuffle is 48.5.

The number of female executives at SK Group has increased steadily over the past years, to reach 54 next year. The conglomerate appointed eight new female executives this year.

Chey Yoon-chung, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won's oldest daughter, has been promoted as an executive to lead business development at SK Biopharmaceuticals. (SK Group)

While appointing his cousin as the No. 2 executive in the SK Group, Chey Tae-won has also promoted his oldest daughter, Chey Yoon-chung, as an executive to lead business development at SK Biopharmaceuticals.

Chey Yoon-chung, 34, became the youngest executive promoted in Thursday's reshuffle.

Chey entered SK Biopharmaceuticals as a manager in the strategy division in 2017. She took a leave of absence in 2019 to acquire a master’s degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford University. She returned in 2021 and was promoted to director of Strategic Investment at SK Biopharmaceuticals.

Her younger sister Min-jeong, 32, entered SK hynix as a manager in 2019 and has been on a leave of absence since early last year. She served in the Navy as a first lieutenant, becoming the first woman from a chaebol family to serve in the military.

The youngest and only son of Chairman In-keun, now 28, is currently working at PassKey, SK E&S's corporate entity in charge of the business in North America. He graduated from Brown University.