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Exclusive Interview with Hyoung-Keun Lee

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Mr. Hyoung-Keun Lee and a Kia car
Hyoung-Keun (Hank) Lee was promoted to Vice Chairman and CEO of Kia Motors Corporation in September 2010 from his previous position as President in charge of the company’s overseas business operations which he had held since August 2009. In his current role, Mr. Lee is the highest ranking Kia Motors global executive and oversees the company’s global business activities including sales, marketing and after sales service; corporate planning and production ; as well as labour-management relations.
A member of the Hyundai Motor Group for the last 35 years, Mr. Lee has also held the position of Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the International Business Division, President of Kia Motors Europe and President and CEO of Dongfeng Yueda Kia, the company’s joint venture in China.

Mr. Lee has led Kia Motors through the ongoing global economic recession during which the company has posted among the industry’s highest sales growth with expanding market share in nearly all countries in which the company operates.

He has his sights set on guiding Kia to a market leadership position through the continued execution of the company’s design management and quality improvement strategies while strengthening the flexible operation of Kia’s overseas manufacturing network, dealer competency, and service offerings to enhance global consumers’ experiences with the Kia brand.

ISO Focus+ : What is the strategic value of International Standards to the company’s expanding market share? How do International Standards allow Kia to move forward?

Kia Motors

Hyoung-Keun Lee : For a company like Kia, with 80 % of our sales volume outside of Korea, International Standards are among the most important management tools at our disposal.

In today’s fast-moving world of changing technology, it is crucial that our designers and engineers in facilities all around the world have a sound knowledge of International Standards.

They enable us to achieve the integration of work carried out in diverse Kia locations, including nine manufacturing operations in five countries, and to comply with the national criteria in the 149 markets in which we sell our products.

ISO Focus+ : What is the secret of your success? What new standards are needed to support Kia’s pole position in terms of customer satisfaction and reliability?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : There is no magic formula or secret behind our success. We still aim to demonstrate Kia’s brand slogan – The Power to Surprise – by providing customers with products and services which exceed expectations, and at a price which is perceived as good value. By doing this consistently and by continuously improving our products, more and more current owners are recommending Kia to their family, friends and colleagues – driving forward sales growth.

Brand awareness has also been greatly enhanced by high-profile sponsorships of major sporting events and by creative, sometimes amusing, advertising campaigns which have begun to give Kia a stronger personality and more emotional appeal.

While complying with International Standards, creating and implementing new internal standards is important to our continued growth, and we also hope to influence future International Standards with our innovation and creativity.

Our success has been powered by our design-led product range. Now we need to push for even higher standards across our dealer networks, so that the purchase and ownership experience improves in line with the styling and quality of our vehicles.

ISO Focus+ : Can you describe the use made by Kia Motors of ISO’s quality management system standards – ISO 9001:2008, and ISO/TS 16949:2009 – and what value they have added?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : ISO 9001:2008, Quality management systems – Requirements, is considered as the cornerstone of Kia’s current quality management system. The core values of the ISO system are embodied in our current Global Quality Management System (GQMS) and, by utilizing this, we plan to secure outstanding quality control systems, particularly in our activities aimed at preventing any quality defects.

ISO/TS 16949:2009, Quality management systems – Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001:2008 for automotive production and relevant service part organizations, is an important tool for us to better manage our relationships with suppliers. After making a few improvements, Kia introduced its supplier evaluation system, providing a five-point measuring system in the areas of quality, payment and technology.

We have gladly accepted our role as a mentor for our supplier companies, working closely together to make improvements in various fields including technology and process management. We also utilize our own check-sheet, which carries the core elements of ISO/TS 16949. The importance of the objective standardized evaluation system is always emphasized, and this helps both Kia and its suppliers to make mutually beneficial progress.

ISO Focus+ : What is the added value of this involvement for the industry in general, and for Kia Motors in particular?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : The opportunity to play a part in the creation of International Standards, based on experts from different countries reaching agreement, is vital to those corporations which are determined to succeed in the decades ahead.

Participation in the development of International Standards is essential to ensure that every factor is fully considered and resolved.

ISO Focus+ : Why did Kia sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on the occasion of World Environment Day?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : We aim to support steadfast efforts to solve global environmental challenges through the participation in environmental partnerships such as the UNEP. The MoU is part of our ongoing global efforts to support our environment.

ISO Focus+ : How does the company use ISO 14001 and what added value has it provided?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : In 2003, we announced our corporation-wide environment management system called ECO GTS 2010. Based on this system, our Korean domestic and overseas production facilities and service departments earned ISO 14001:2004, Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, certification in various operational fields, including the first Dongfeng Yueda Kia plant in China and our Zilina plant in Slovakia in 2007, along with Kia Motors Manufacturing in the State of Georgia, USA, in 2011.

Since early 2012, we have been making gradual improvements to our IT system environment with the aim of strengthening our management structure and establishing more finely-tuned global environmental goals. With our current environmental management system, Kia has been able to post continuous improvements in environment-related measurements in all of our operational fields.

ISO Focus+ : Have you considered the implementation of other management system standards, such as ISO 50001 for energy management?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : Since 2000, Kia has participated in a voluntary agreement (VA) to save energy and cut the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). In 2006, we introduced Korea’s very first three-stage GHG investigation process in our plants and service departments. We have been continuously monitoring and reducing GHG levels to ensure more environment-friendly operations as well as expanding this monitoring to our overseas operations.

To strengthen our energy management and control of greenhouse gases, we are currently preparing for certification to ISO 50001:2011, Energy management systems – Requirements with guidance for use. We expect the Gwangju facility in Korea to be our first plant to earn certification later this year, and plan to be certified to ISO 50001 for all our operational fields in the near future.

ISO Focus+ : How can Kia’s Social Responsibility Charter be an example for other car manufacturers?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : One of the main factors that has enabled us to continue our success under the current tough economic conditions are our efforts to preserve the corporation’s core vision – to be a lifetime partner in automobiles – and beyond. With the goal of working towards this vision, we announced in 2008 that our corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme would focus on trust management, environment management and corporate social responsibility management.

We enacted our CSR charter in 2009 and, two years later, we introduced our own CSR index based on the ISO 26000:2010, Guidance on social responsibility, guidelines to better scrutinize our performance. Furthermore, we included in Kia’s recently announced vision for 2016, the need to strengthen CSR management in areas related to the company’s eight main strategic goals. Kia’s Social Responsibility Charter is not just a declaration, it is part of our management philosophy and vision, which is now at the heart of all our global operations.

ISO Focus+ : What’s your perspective on the contribution of ISO 26000 toward helping the international community tackle today’s global challenges?

Hyoung-Keun Lee : As a corporate citizen, Kia has dedicated itself to better meet its corporate responsibilities. We strongly believe that our CSR efforts, based on the ISO 26000 guidelines, will be a tremendous help in overcoming numerous challenges.

However, we also believe this is a duty. The current discussion on social responsibility has been limited to corporate social responsibility alone. ISO 26000 has expanded the role of social responsibility to all members of society, within which there are various groups and organizations with diverse, even conflicting, interests, and the level of complexity has expanded as a consequence.

Therefore, it is safe to say that the challenges we are facing today cannot be solved or settled by one specific group or domain. We, in different circumstances, must bring our efforts together to move in the right direction, in order to make optimal changes. ISO 26000 reflects the currents in society, and its intended goals need to be fulfilled.

About Kia

Kia Motors Corporation is part of the Hyundai Motor Group, the fifth-largest automaker in the world. With its worldwide headquarters in Seoul, Korea, and operations in 149 countries, Kia has annual sales in excess of 2.5 million vehicles. A large part of Kia’s global success is an understanding of the importance of producing vehicles that meet the needs of individual markets. So Kia has research facilities, design centres and assembly operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Hyoung-Keun Lee
Hyoung-Keun Lee
Vice Chairman & CEO
Kia Motors Corporation