Alumni Interview: Iljin Group CEO Sang Il Lee (Commerce, ’57)
KUBS Alumni Interview — Sang Il Lee (Commerce, ’57), Chairman of Iljin Group
“One with professionalism and positive attitude can succeed”
Q: Iljin Group is leading the field of wheel bearing with its innovative technologies. Tell us about the company’s vision and your business philosophy as Iljin Group reaches out to the world beyond Korea.
The three core values for Iljin Group’s corporate culture are “creative spirit,” “teamwork,” and “make it happen.” With that being said, our company supports all employees, so they can collaborate to achieve goals based on their insights. A company can stay in business with its results and profits. In order to bear fruits in management, the company shall ensure its competiveness in the market by producing excellent goods in various aspects, such as technology, quality, price, etc.
Iljin Group is leading the world’s wheel bearing market with the global market share of 30%. Our major clients are world-class automobile companies, including Hyundai Motor Company, Kia Motors, BMW, Ford, Renault, VW, PSA, FIAT, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, GM, TESLA (manufactures electric vehicles), etc.
Since the initial stage of Iljin Group, I had a goal and confidence to produce goods with global competiveness, rather solely focusing on the domestic market. I believed that providing excellent products at the lowest cost would lead our company on the path to success in the global market. Because wheel bearing is an essential part of an automobile, it is important to guarantee its best quality with securing the stability. I must say it was not easy to penetrate the market due its high price and quality; however, under the company’s management philosophy “make it happen,” I did not give up. With a sense of duty, I constantly invested in research in order to be recognized as the most important quality.
Iljin Group currently has research facilities in the United States and Germany. Professional technicians in Korea and overseas cooperate together to enhance the cost competiveness by increasing the automation rate using robots, sensors, and computers. The Quality Assurance Team is responsible for product manufacturing and delivery, while satisfying customer needs.
Q: Many students are trying to start their own business nowadays. You have made a meaningful donation for the KUBS Support for Business Start-Ups.
KUBS, my alma mater, has been recognized as the best in Korea according to various performance indexes in Korea and abroad. And now KUBS is making progress to be recognized by the world beyond Korea. I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of my alma mater.
Until the development of KUBS with its 110-year history, there have been numerous deans of KUBS, professors, including former KU President Yoon-dae Euh, who have played a major role. With these professors, KUBS produced talented individuals leading Korea. Also, because of our alumni’s love for KUBS juniors, students have access to study in the superior educational facilities.
A number of world’s distinguished universities strive to improve their start-up education. As I, too, was able to advance into the global market by starting my own business, I believe that start-up education is necessary in order to change the economic paradigm of Korea. I decided to donate the funds to develop my alma mater in a successful direction and to support our students become entrepreneurs who demonstrate their abilities to lead Korean economy. I hope KUBS Start-Up Center, which will be completed in September, will foster entrepreneurs with integrated thinking. I am confident that students will have more chances of success by challenging themselves, rather than being afraid of failure.
Q. What are some virtues that students desiring to start their own business shall improve during their studies? Please give words of advice to KUBS students.
I would like to emphasize two virtues: “professionalism” and “positive attitude.” First of all, it is imperative to build your own professionalism. Developing professionalism with insights will help students become global leaders fitting the trend. Once students have made a decision on their business item, they should aim high to become the best in the world. In addition, they should think on their feet to be one step ahead in the market.
Positive attitude is also extremely important. One who only has knowledge cannot become a great leader. Nothing can be accomplished alone. You should endeavor to earn the respect and recognition from your co-workers while working together. One with positive attitude can win the hearts of clients. If you always behave modest and humble, you can become a wise entrepreneur. I will always support our KUBS students on their journey of becoming a great entrepreneur with a warm heart who thinks carefully but act boldly.