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Millennial tapped to head online giant Naver

CEO designate, born in 1981, to take the reins of the portal from next March, alongside new CFO in mid-40s

By Nov 17, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Choi Soo-yeon, Naver's CEO designate
Choi Soo-yeon, Naver's CEO designate

Naver Corp. has chosen Choi Soo-yeon, 40, to lead the top online platform in South Korea, in the 22-year-old company's most dramatic top management reshuffle ever.

Choi, a Harvard Law School graduate, has been spearheading Naver's global expansion since 2019, under its founder and Global Investment Officer Lee Hae-jin. 

She was named as Naver's next chief executive at the company's board meeting on Wednesday, where Kim Namsun, the company's M&A head and senior vice president, was selected as the new chief financial officer.

Both Choi and Kim are alumni of Harvard Law School and Seoul National University's college of engineering. They will take office after being approved at a general meeting in March of next year.

Choi, born in 1981, will take over leadership from Han Seong-sook. The incumbent CEO will be stepping down one year and four months ahead of the end of her term, taking responsibility for the death of an ex-senior developer at Naver. The former employee killed himself last May after allegedly suffering bullying and harassment in the workplace.

The CEO designate will likely inject a breath of fresh air into the portal giant, which is looking to expand into Southeast Asia, Europe and North America to become a global online commerce operator

She is also expected to bring a change to its corporate culture and improve the portal's communication with millennials and Generation Zers, who are emerging as major consumers in South Korea. In particular, millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1996, have become the largest spending group of luxury goods at department stores in South Korea.

Choi worked for the public relations and marketing teams of NHN, the predecessor of Naver, before studying law at Yonsei University and Harvard. She returned to Naver in 2019.

CFO designate Kim Namsun (left) and CEO designate Choi Soo-yeon (right)
CFO designate Kim Namsun (left) and CEO designate Choi Soo-yeon (right)

INCOMING CFO

CFO designate Kim, born in 1978, previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Macquarie. Since moving to Naver in August 2020, he has headed high-profile overseas investments, including the purchase of Toronto-based Wattpad Corp., the world’s largest web novel platform.

He also led the $220 million share swap deal with Shinsegae Group, the country's retail giant.

The two new-generation leaders will be tasked with expanding the portal's global footprint in the webtoon and web novel markets, as well as in the metaverse space, using its platform Zepeto. They will also focus on growing the shopping business, which has been leading the company's earnings.

Write to Ju-wan Kim at kjwan@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article

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