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Executive reshuffles

KakaoPay chief tapped as co-CEO in Kakao management shakeup

Board approval of Alex Ryu’s nomination is set for March of next year

By Nov 26, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)


KakaoPay chief tapped as co-CEO in Kakao management shakeup
Young-joon Ryu and Min-soo Yeo, slated as Kakao Corp. co-CEOs come March


Korea’s largest mobile messenger provider Kakao Corp. is slated for a leadership shakeup, in a bid to strengthen itself in the areas of social responsibility and innovation.

On Nov. 25, the internet giant tapped Alex Young-joon Ryu, who currently serves as the chief of the mobile payment system Kakao Pay, as its next co-CEO. The Kakao board announced the nomination after Thursday’s meeting; with final board approval scheduled for March 2022. 

RYU, COMPUTER SCIENTIST AND FINTECH INNOVATOR


Once approved, the 44-year-old will lead Kakao's 128 firms under its umbrella, alongside the current co-CEO Min-soo Yeo. Yeo has been leading Kakao since March 2018, and will lead the company for another four years. 

Ryu is a computer science major from Korea’s Konkuk University and was previously with Samsung SDS, a subsidiary of Samsung Group before joining Kakao in 2011, then just a startup.

He is responsible for launching Voice Talk, an audio call feature within the KakaoTalk messenger app, as well as the country’s first mobile payment app KakaoPay. From 2013, Ryu led the corporation’s fintech business and advanced to become head of KakaoPay four years later.

The developer-cum-manager is regarded as a pioneer in Korea’s fintech industry for expanding KakaoPay’s offerings to encompass insurance, loans, and verification services.

Ryu also led KakaoPay's successful initial public offering on the Kospi earlier this month. The fintech unit of Kakao closed up 114% on its market debut, ending the first day of trading at 193,000 won ($163.30,) with market capitalization of $21.2 billion.

The top management vacancy comes as current co-CEO Su-yong Joh’s term expires next spring. 

As for KakaoPay, its current chief strategy officer Won-Keun Allen Shin has been nominated as Ryu’s successor. Shin joined the company back in 2018. 

KakaoPay leadership and stakeholders on the day of its Nov 3, 2021 IPO 
KakaoPay leadership and stakeholders on the day of its Nov 3, 2021 IPO 

THREE KEYWORDS: CO-EXISTENCE, TECHNOLOGY, GLOBAL

Kakao’s founder Beom-soo Kim reportedly began considering a leadership reshuffle after the October National Assembly audit. The current chairman of the internet company has testified at three such audits so far this year; and faced public backlash on the business’s robust expansion.

The billionaire founder’s leadership keywords are known as co-existence, technology and global. As such, the incumbent co-CEO Yeo reiterated the company’s commitment to social impact during Thursday’s announcement. 

Ryu is expected to focus on technology and innovation. He said he will do his best “to work towards the company’s growth based on its core value of facing challenges head-on, while keeping the vision of creating a better world with technology and manpower.” 

In terms of global business, the affiliates’ authority is expected to strengthen. Kakao has been targeting growth in overseas markets with webtoons and internet novels, led by Kakao Entertainment and its Japanese subsidiary Piccoma.

The industry consensus is that the nomination of the co-CEOs reflects their performances in recent years. Yeo has led an aggressive management style to reach Kakao’s record high performance this year while Ryu more than quadrupled KakaoPay’s annual revenue year on year.

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

Jee Abbey Lee edited this article. 

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