Sung-Joo Kim is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Sungjoo Group
Sung-Joo Kim is a successful entrepreneur and a passionate philanthropist. She is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Sungjoo Group, a leading Korean fashion group. She is also Chairperson of MCM Holding AG, a German luxury brand. In 1997, Ms. Kim was selected as a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum. In 2009, Sungjoo Group received the World Forum Ethics in Business Award, and in 2012, Ms. Kim was listed in Forbes’ Top 50 Asian Business Women, selected as one of Asia’s 25 Hottest CEOs by Fortune. In 2013, Ms. Kim became the first female entrepreneur to be appointed as a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council, and in 2014 she became the President of the Korean Red Cross. Ms. Kim’s success has been guided by her personal philosophy of faith, hope and love, and Noblesse Oblige. She works with several non-profit organizations, including World Vision, Asia House, the Global Summit of Women, and other humanitarian initiatives.
What brought you to Davos 2019?
I’ve attended the Davos Meeting every year since 1997 when I was elected as one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow (GLT). It’s a great opportunity to network with the visionaries who are shaping our world. Speaking with other business leaders gives me inspiration.
I started my company from zero and I faced many obstacles and challenges, but I didn’t give up. My company is now a truly glocalized business, with 2,000 colleagues (38 nationalities), over 600 stores in 42 countries. I acquired the MCM fashion business in 2005 and 14 years later, I run my own small retail empire. We’ve succeeded, and this makes me feel very proud. My Sungjoo Group fashion business is targeting $800m in annual sales expected in 2019.
Defining leadership moment at Davos:
This year, I was delighted to be invited to speak at The FQ Lounge: Home of Equality, sharing my insight on Advancing Diversity In a Global Context. It’s important for me to be able to share my experiences with other women leaders. I’ve encountered many challenges in my life and work, and I want to be a role model for the next female generation, especially in Asian women.
I’ve learned many lessons over the years. Be yourself. That’s your strength, and overcome any fears. Women can be emotional – your worst enemy is your emotion when it is not disciplined. We need to learn how to train our emotion. But, the biggest benefit of women leadership would be “Empathy” which is based on our motherhoodship nature.
In my work, I chose to overcome business challenges using technology and IT, because I wanted to be faster, better and smarter.
At Davos, my key message to the FQ Lounge audience was: Women should take on the digital leadership in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. You are future leaders and go for it!
Personal motivation at Davos:
As a committed Christian, I have a mission-driven approach to business. My personal philosophy is ‘succeed to serve’, and every year, I donate 10 per cent of my company’s net profits to society, to educate children and empower women from lesser background through my Sungjoo Foundation.
My mother didn’t have a professional career but throughout her life she helped widows and orphans through her Christian charity work. She had a big influence on me and taught me how powerful when your heart and vision are focused beyond self-egoism goals. That’s why I served for 3 years as the President of the Korean Red Cross in the midst of my busy business life.
When I started my business 29 years ago, it was my mission to represent women, to show that being smarter can win. As a businesswoman in the patriarchal society of South Korea, I faced many difficult challenges and a lot of discrimination. I was battling against corruption and old boys’ networks, but instead of complaining and giving up, I decided to create my own playing field by being an early adaptor of it and do business on my own terms, focusing on customer-centric management.
Women should not be like men. We have a different strength and smarter way of doing things in this digital era.Women tend to be more intuitive, have horizontal leadership. It’s time for women to take on a strong leadership in the 21st century knowledge-based economy to improve this world to be better.