The Leadership Challenge: Young Chul Hong
By Christine Arrington
The Jon M. Huntsman School trains leaders to be ethical, effective, and entrepreneurial. People in top leadership positions face many challenges, a number of which can be considered under the rubric of “balance.” How much to invest, for example, balanced against how much to harvest. Aggressively seeking short-term growth, balanced against the long-term needs of customers and employees. We spoke to six outstanding leaders, who all have degrees from Utah State—five in business and one in engineering—to find out how they have balanced their leadership challenges and pressures, while creating value.
1971 BA from Yonsei University (the oldest private university in Korea, based in Seoul), 1973 MBA from USU, CEO from 1988 to the present of Kiswire Trading, Inc., a global leader in the specialty steel industry. Click here for an extended biography.
The Scope of His Position
Young-Chul Hong’s father, Suk-Cheon Hong, founded a company in 1945 that became Kiswire Trading in 1960. After Young-Chul earned an MBA at Utah State in 1973, he returned to Korea to work with his father, rising to President and CEO in 1988. The firm had revenue of about $200 million then, and this year revenue will be about $2 billion.
In somewhat characteristic Asian fashion, the company describes itself in almost poetic terms: “As a child’s piano melody floats through your home, As cars weave through the morning traffic, As a bridge sparkles in the early morning sunlight, And as an elevator takes you up to the office, Much more than you realize, Kiswire is near, Making our world a better place.”
Critical Strategic Decisions
Young-Chul said, “The first thing I did in 1988 was ‘globalization. "I established manufacturing facilities in Malaysia in 1989, then China, and the U.S., and now I am building factories in Vietnam and India.” The company started with sales in Korea only, and today 70% of revenue comes from outside of Korea.
He made the decision in 1990 to create the only high carbon steel wire manufacturing technology R&D center in Korea. A number of significant advances have come from that, including the development in 1993 of “cable stayed bridge” wire and “suspension cable bridge” wire; then in 1997, the center developed oil-tempered wire.
Ethical Issues and Strengths
Young-Chul championed the idea that “the only way to coprosper in this highly competitive market is to form a coalition between the labor union and management.” In 1995, the entire staff, including management and the labor union, issued an amazing joint resolution of “No Strikes Ever.”