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KT Corp's recently-appointed CEO Kim Young-seop has unveiled a new strategy designed to draw a line under this year's power vacuum.
November 30, 2023
One of his most pressing priorities is trimming the fat from senior management.
"The existing practice in which core positions in KT Group companies were used as a retirement process for KT executives will be abolished, and personnel will be assigned with top priority given to expertise and capabilities that can create synergies from the KT Group perspective," said KT.
Promotions will instead be given to young, upcoming talent based on their abilities, the Korean telco said.
To speed up decision-making – and to prove Kim's not mucking about – 20% of executives at assistant managing director level or higher will be shown the door. The number of execs above managing director level has been reduced to 80 from 98, and the number of assistant managing directors has been cut to 264 from 312. In addition, the c-suite will now work directly under the CEO.
KT was in a state of flux when Kim was hired in August. Brought in from LG's IT and consulting unit LG CNS, he was not the telco's first choice to replace Koo Hyun-moo, who stepped down at the end of March.
Earlier that month, the board had already finalised the nomination Yun Kyoung-lim, president of KT's Transformation Group. However, Yun withdrew his candidacy amid pressure from major shareholders – including the government – who alleged that the selection process was opaque and unfair.
Reports at the time said prosecutors were also investigating Yun and the outgoing Koo for alleged misappropriation of corporate funds and breach of trust – all of which was denied by KT.
The ensuing power vacuum persisted for five months until Kim was finally appointed.
Kim's new strategy – based on the values of 'customer', 'competence', 'substance', and 'harmony' – represents a new chapter for KT. Somewhat symbolically, it is one that doesn't include Yun's old division, Group Transformation, which Kim has abolished, citing "overlapping roles."
To restore KT's reputation, Kim has also hired external candidates to head up its legal, ethics (audit), and management support departments.
"We are working to resolve judicial risks that have been controversial and improve our corporate image," KT said.
KT has also launched two new divisions – Technology Innovation and KT Consulting Group.
Technology Innovation brings together KT's existing IT and R&D divisions, and is tasked with capitalising on emerging technologies, not the least of which is generative AI. Indeed, one of its first jobs is to open another AI Tech Lab to improve KT's competitiveness in this new field.
Meanwhile, KT Consulting will offer its expertise in in cloud, AI and IT to the enterprise market.
"We expect that this reorganisation and executive reshuffle will be the starting point for KT to leap forward as a digital innovation partner," Kim said, in a statement. "We will do our best together with KT Group executives and employees to be recognised by customers."
Bringing in external hires; merging some divisions while dismantling others; pointing senior execs towards the exit… Kim certainly knows how to make an entrance.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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