GR interviews the Korean Re chief executive on lessons learnt, his dream job and why he has nothing he wants to insure

Korean Re

1. Describe your first day in the industry.

When I joined Korean Re in 1986, I was assigned to the marine department. On my first day I was just seated nervously, and everybody except me seemed busy. Catching a sight of me doing nothing and looking at a loss, my manager gave me a contract file and told me to calculate a renewal price of the contract. In hindsight, it was a simple task but at that time I was overwhelmed. There was no adequate training available in those days for young employees who newly joined the company, leaving them to their own devices. So I had to ask some of my seniors to advise me how to do the work, but most of them looked busy and having no time to help me out. Some did try to help me out with words of explanation, which obviously ended up making no sense to me. I spent several days racking my brain and finally managed to complete the task, but if my memory serves me right, I remember my boss did not seem happy with the result that I had produced.

2. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

 Everyone is given the same amount of time each day. This is the best piece of advice I have ever had. It seems like life is not fair to everyone. As a matter of fact, everyone is born with different levels of physical attractiveness, family wealth and talent. The only thing that is given to everyone equally is time. How that same amount of time is spent can make a big difference to one’s life. When I found myself failing to do something on the job, I would invest more of my time to make an extra effort to resolve the task at hand, In particular, I got into the habit of making the most of the wee hours of the morning every day to do things that will help make my life better and more meaningful. I think that is what got me where I am today.      

4. Describe your most memorable meeting.

 When I was 21 years old as a university student, I did not have any clear set of principles or goals in life. However, one person that I happened to meet on the campus has changed my life. He guided me to have faith in god, and it was a real life-changing event for me. Since then, I have been living my life with a clear sense of direction.

5. What makes a good chief executive?

 I believe one of the most important tasks of a CEO is to motivate his or her people to build their skills and capabilities and realise their potential to the fullest so they should feel proud of what they do at work. As CEO, your job is not just about is making decisions and executing what needs to be done. You should also know about how to motivate your people to do their best on the job because they are the ones who actually do the work. They should be allowed and encouraged to maximize their potential to do their job in the best way possible. That encouragement should come from the CEO possibly by means of an effective reward system that gives proper credit to those who deserve. I believe the success of an organization depends on each and every member of the organization doing their best in their respective capacity.

7. If you didn’t work in reinsurance, what would your dream job be?

 There are two dream jobs that I would have. One is a theare actor. I always thought an actor’s life would be fascinating as he could experience so many different lives through various roles on the stage. The other is a Korean literature teacher. When I was young, I liked studying the Korean language and literature, and I believed teaching would be a wonderful job as it is about making someone’s life better.

8. If you were only allowed to insure one possession, what would it be?

I don’t have anything that I want to insure. You may be surprised to hear such an answer from somebody who has been in the insurance industry for a long time. But the reason is I tend not to feel attached to things in my possession. I don’t think I have many valuables. I do have some favorite music CDs and cameras, but they seem valuable only when I use them. If the question were what is the most valuable in your life, I would undoubtedly say it is my family.