The KABC Second Chance Korea Business Forum

Chaebol COVID Transformations 2020-2021

8.00am – 10.00am, 24 June 2021 in  Online Seminar Room

During the regular meeting last week, there was a problem with the sound for those on line.  We are therefore advancing the second chance to this coming Thursday 24th.   The second chance usually attracts fewer participants and therefore allows more questions and discussions.  One question I could not answer last week was the status of Samsung’s Unions.  On the same day as our meeting Samsung Display’s union announced a partial strike?

At a macro level Korea is recovering successfully with a spectacular rebound in GDP forecast for 2021Q2, alongside monthly record export levels of over US$50 billion for the last three months.

The subject of our June 17th KBF session was our annual evaluation of the evolution of the Chaebol, first held in 1996. The 2021 session reported that one third of the Chaebol were changing faster than ever, and second the number of Chaebol as defined by KFTC is the largest ever, at 71.  We identified the changes in strategy of SK and Hyundai Motor Group in particular. 

As in past years we have approached the chaebol in terms of first tier, second tier and so on in terms of sales (rather than FTC asset-based ranking). This process divides the chaebol into groups of peers, although the smallest in the top five, Lotte and LG are significantly smaller than Samsung, Hyundai, and SK. SK is expanding faster than Hyundai or Samsung and taking the lead in some of the cooperative New Deal and 4th Industrial Revolution initiatives. Nearly all the chaebol are announcing an ESG transition.

Samsung naturally gets special attention because of its unique status and size, being almost, but not quite, in a class of its own compared with SK, Hyundai Motors, LG and Lotte. But the second tier are much closer in size with a marked gap between the best of that tier, and the bottom of the first tier. The same is true of the third tier, also markedly smaller than the second tier, and so on down to the sixth tier.  Tier four was also taking on a unique characteristic as manufacturing chaebol sank in 2020 but financial chaebol rose, most in the fourth tier.

The FTC only measures Korean based subsidiaries, and as the chaebol stretch abroad it is necessary to include some appreciation of the size of the different chaebol overseas, imprecise as the measures must be, compared with the FTC’s Korean based data.

Our annual chaebol session has always been a popular one, and the hardcopy and softcopy of the chaebol session report eagerly sought after. Members and would be members are invited to complete the on-line form below. If you are not a member then you qualify for one free session of KBF to form your own opinion of whether the forum is the kind of exclusive dialogue-based group you would like to belong to.

We look forward to seeing you on the 24th.   The slides to be used will be made available by email to all members and non members who have registered on the 23rd.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Michell
Managing Director, KABC Ltd.


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