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Naver appoints new CEO for global expansion

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By Baek Byung-yeul

Naver's new CEO Choi Soo-yeon, right, and new CFO Kim Nam-sun / Courtesy of Naver
Naver's new CEO Choi Soo-yeon, right, and new CFO Kim Nam-sun / Courtesy of Naver
A few weeks after Naver founder Lee Hae-jin committed himself to overhaul the rigid organizational culture at the country's internet behemoth, the company has named two young in-house executives to be its new leaders.

Naver announced Wednesday that Choi Soo-yeon will be its new chief executive, and Kim Nam-sun will take the post of chief financial officer.

The announcement came after company executives underwent a serious grilling by lawmakers over its huge influence in Korea.

During this year's National Assembly audit, lawmakers dubbed both Naver and Kakao as "symbols of greed," echoing rising public sentiment that the former is rapidly widening the country's socio-economic divide by encroaching into areas traditionally the main areas of small businesses such as the taxi business.

Behind Naver's surprise decision to let the younger executives run the firm is the fact that it is seeking to expand its international businesses and needs C-suite employees who are fluent in English and have a good understanding of Western culture.

New CEO Choi has a master's degree from Harvard University with a specialization in law, and has passed the New York bar. She previously worked for the company's global business team. Kim, the new finance chief worked at Morgan Stanley and Macquerie, before joining Naver in 2020 where he been overseeing the company's investment-related strategies.

They will be officially appointed to their new positions if they win an approval at the general shareholders meeting, scheduled for March, 2022. Naver said its board decided to appoint Choi as the new CEO because of her wide understanding of the company's global business strategy.

The recently-named duo are primarily assigned to explore the best possible areas for overseas expansion, focused on Naver's search engine, online comics and shopping, and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

The outgoing CEO Han Seong-sook offered her resignation after Naver began fine-tuning its organization structure in the wake of the death of an employee. She will be reassigned to handle Naver's businesses in Europe, according to industry officials.

Meanwhile, South Korea's top antitrust regulator is seeking to defuse growing fears of a tech crackdown as it takes steps to rein in the influence of domestic online platforms. It said it will only impose "minimum but necessary" regulations, and intervene solely where it is imperative to do so.

Officials said Naver's CEO change is its response to government "request" to institute measures to lessen its influence in non-related market sectors.


Baek Byung-yeul baekby@koreatimes.co.kr


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