| South Korea

Starbucks Korea appoints Son Jung-hyun as new CEO

The new CEO appointment forms part of a wider senior leadership reshuffle as the coffee chain seeks to draw a line under recent PR missteps in Korea

Jung-hyun succeeds outgoing CEO Song Ho-seop who oversaw a highly-publicised PR misstep and major product recall earlier this year | Photo credit: rawkkim


Son Jung-hyun has been announced as Starbucks Korea’s new CEO as the company seeks to strengthen its position in the country and draw a line under PR missteps arrising from a major product recall. 

Jung-hyun succeeds outgoing CEO Song Ho-seop, who departs despite being initially contracted to lead Starbucks Korea until 2025. 

Ho-seop faced criticism for his response to an error in which Starbucks Korea gave customers promtional bags which were found to be tainted with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. 

The bags were given for free to customers who purchased 17 Starbucks beverages between 10 May and 11 July 2022. The following month Starbucks Korea announced a major product recall of more than a million of the bags. 

The incident, which led to a small-scale boycott of Starbucks products in the country, also resulted in an official apology and an internal investigation. Ho-seop was criticised for not taking immediate action on the issue and was later accused of violating consumer rights law. 

Jung-hyun is currently CEO of global retail tech company Shinsegae I&C, owned by South Korean retail conglomerate Shinsegae Group. The group also owns Emart, which finalised its majority acquisition of Starbucks’ South Korean business in January 2022. 

As part of the senior leadership reshuffle, Hyung Tae-joon, current Vice President of Emart, was nominated as the new CEO of Shinsegae I&C. 

“We applied strict standards of rewarding good deeds while punishing bad deeds to the reshuffle, also focusing on enhancing the competitiveness of our business, preparing for future changes and fostering talent. We implemented a very strict performance-based approach to the reshuffle,” said Shinsegae Group in a statement. 

Starbucks opened its first store in South Korea in 1999 at Ewha Womans University and now operates more than 1,600 outlets in the country. Starbucks Korea achieved revenues exceeding ₩ 2trn ($1.5bn) in sales last year, with South Korea representing the US brand’s third largest market globally, behind the US and China.  

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