(News Focus) LG's new CEO shatters ceiling of Korea's management world
By Kim Deok-hyun
SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- The new chief executive officer of LG Electronics Inc., Vice Chairman Jo Seong-jin, is a high school graduate with no bachelor's degree, but he is dubbed as a "Dr. Washing Machine."
The 60-year-old Jo's promotion to the top job of LG Group's flagship company defied the insulated management world of Korea Inc., which is dominated by executives who graduated from the country's elite universities that were seen as the key to their future careers.
Jo Seong-jin speaks at a news conference in Seoul. (Yonhap file photo)
It is the first time that a high school graduate has become a vice chairman among top executives at the country's 10 biggest business conglomerates.
After graduating from a technical high school in Seoul, Jo joined LG Electronics in 1976 and rose up the corporate ladder over the past four decades.
He took the role of a vice president in 2007 and was promoted to president of LG's home and appliance business division in 2013.
As the head of LG's household appliance division, Jo was credited with helping the company post healthy profits by launching ultra premium brands, including the "LG Signature."
LG's innovative Twin Wash pairs a front-loader with a mini-washer. (Courtesy of LG Electronics)
One of the turning points for Jo came in 1998, when he developed a direct drive motor for washing machines, which is far more efficient than a conventional belt drive motor.
The development of the direct drive motor offered LG a "point of inflection" to become the world's No. 1 maker of washing machines, Jo said previously.
He also supervised LG's development of innovative Twin Wash washers, which has a large washer above and a pedestal washer below to make possible multi-task washing.
In 2014, Jo was mired in a legal dispute with Samsung Electronics Co. after Samsung sued him for allegedly sabotaging one of its washing machines at an industry fair in Germany.
In October this year, the Supreme Court of Korea ruled that Jo was not guilty.
Jo Seong-jin speaks to reporters before appearing at a Seoul court in 2015. (Yonhap file photo)
As the CEO of LG, Jo is facing an uphill task of making the company's smartphone business profitable at a time when the global market for smartphones is saturated.
LG is also competing with Samsung in the field of automotive electronics industry. Samsung recently inked a US$8 billion deal to buy U.S. automotive electronics firm Harman International Industries Inc.
Jo had once attributed his rise at LG to a harmony between his dream and the interests of the company.
"If you have confidence in your organization and manage to harmonize your dream and interests of the organization, you will live a successful life, beyond achieving success at your organization," Jo said.