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SK Group chairman pushes to boost export sales

Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate in terms of sales after Samsung and Hyundai Motor Group, said he wants to see export sales to represent as much as 80% of the group’s total sales revenues this year, despite a tough global economic outlook. The group’s export sales were about KRW 54 trillion (USD 43.8 billion) last year, which represented 78% of the group’s combined revenues. The SK Group includes SK Innovation, SK Energy, SK Lubricants, SK Chemical, SK Telecom, etc.

“In a recent meeting with executives of the group, Chairman Chey ordered key companies including [chip maker] SK Hynix and [oil refiner] SK Innovation to beef up their exports,” an SK Group spokesman said.

Chey said he wants to see SK Group’s overseas sales figures to reach KRW 60 trillion (USD 48.7 billion) this year. SK Group has relied far more on the domestic market compared to Samsung and Hyundai. Since South Korea’s domestic market conditions are getting worse, Chey said he wants to focus even more so on overseas sales.

Some key businesses like oil refining and communications are already showing signs of slowing down. Even SK Telecom, South Korea’s top communications provider, posted lower revenues last year for the first time.

Chey has been encouraging his employees to focus on export markets, visiting production plants of SK Innovation in Ulsan, since he was released from prison last year through a Liberation Day special pardon in August. Chey had been sentenced to a four-year prison term for embezzlement.

“Expanding exports isn’t an option; it is an imperative since we need to grow,” said Lee Man-woo, a spokesman for SK Group.