Current President of the Premier Automotive Group Korea (PAG Korea) and former CEO of Volvo Car Korea, Lee Hyang-lim (84, Life Sciences) set several milestones for achievement. She rose from being the head of Volvo Truck Korea to PAG Korea President in only eight years, and is one of only a few women to have lived in Korea her whole life and then risen to the top position at a foreign firm. A peek into the ideals and life of Lee Hyang-lim shows what contributed to her success and renown of today.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I am an optimist. I try to see only the good points in subordinates because maximizing use of people's strengths is good for the company as a whole. Having a positive outlook on things connects to making an effort not to lose hope. This encourages people to try out new things which might turn out positively.
In my opinion, whatever you work at, when you work hard, you are bound to succeed. However, one job that particularly suits me is accounting. I realized I am good with numbers, so I found both working and studying to be a lot of fun.
Q: How did you prepare for employment during college years?
A: As an undergraduate, I prepared to study abroad for a doctorate. Though I never went, this was a big help in my English abilities, and consequently also in my career. I used to watch AFKN on TV for three to four hours every day, memorizing vocabulary lists and watching to hear them again. In studying English, it is the "how" that is important, not the "where."
Q: While at Ewha, how did you usually spend your time?
A: There are several images that come to mind. The stairs wrapping the University Stadium bathed in the light of dusk, the Music Library where I would go and listen to opera arias full blast when I got angry, the riots after the Gwangju Massacre, and the coffee shops in front of the school, always filled with loud chatter. My four years at Ewha were a time to relentlessly train myself to reflect on my attitude towards life.
Q: Up to this point in your career, what was the hardest ordeal or period you had to go through?
A: The hardest time was when I was pregnant with my first child. I had to give a lot of thought to choosing between my job and my baby. In the end I chose to quit my job and spend time with my child, but not without fear of how well I would be able to work again after spending time away from the workplace. Yet, if you leave your mind open, there is always a way to make things happen. In order not to lose "touch" with social issues and working, I followed newspapers and worked part-time as an accounting consultant. Consequently I had no problem getting things done when I was employed full-time at a company three years later.
Q: Have you ever experienced sexual discrimination, and, if so, how did you overcome it?
A: I have never had any such experiences in my 20 year career. Surprising, right? This is probably because I unconsciously never acknowledged it. Every time I encountered obstacles at work I assumed it was because of lack of skill or effort, and I tried to find solutions to my problems within that frame. Thus, I never found time to wonder whether I was being treated unfairly. I had self-confidence. Everybody else was a co-worker, nothing more and nothing less. So if anybody ever has tried to discriminate against me because I am a woman, they have failed, because I never felt that way.
Q: Do you have any final words of advice for Ewhaians?
A: You know your own abilities and skills best. Before taking others into consideration, set high standards for your own work in every situation, and manage yourself with a strict conscience.