4월 25일 디트로이트 메리앗 호텔에서 열린 40주년 행사에서
Four Decades of KPAI
Good evening. Consulate General Mr. Lee, KOTRA’s Mr. Sohn, Chemical Bank’s Mr. Provost, HATCI’s Messrs. Freels and Lee.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am Chul Koo Yun. I am extremely happy to have a chance to talk to you all tonight about the last 40 years of KPAI.
I find myself on this podium in one capacity or another just about every 5th year. The 15th anniversary, 20th, 25th and now the 40th anniversary. So if any of you wish the longevity of KPAI, the long life of KPAI, just wish me to live long. KPAI would be taken care of. The 40th anniversary of KPAI is great. However, often, people come to me and, instead of saying that “Oh, you were the first president of KAPI,” they say, “Oh; I didn’t know you were that old.” I will tell you it’s not funny. The photo up there was taken when I was young. Some may not recognize me.
Seriously, KPAI has come a long way. When we had the first general membership meeting, it had 20 members attended. Now we have more than 300 members. I was one of the speakers for the first KPAI seminar. I think we had about 20 people. Look at now here. We have come a long way.
Many people asked me “why” and “how” of KPAI. I would say that the primary backdrop is timing. If we look 40 years back, the Korean economy, as well as the Korean automotive industry, was booming. They knew that the American markets were huge and wanted to come in, but did not have fully established infrastructures yet. At the same time, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the American automotive industry was extremely interested in this rising star, Korea. And, the founding members of KPAI, many of whom are here tonight, were sitting in between. We all thought that we should be able to make some concrete contribution to both the American and Korean automotive industries. The timing was perfect.
Once we initiated KPAI, we witnessed a tremendous response from the Korean automotive companies. We started seeing a stream of visits by “Who’s Who” of the Korean automotive industry, which lasted for many years. Hyundai Motors Chairman Chung Se Young, Daewoo’s Kim Woo Jung, Kia’s Kim Sun Hong, SsangYong’s Kim Suk Joon, and SsangYong Motor’s Sohn Myoung Won. You name it. They were here. So, this active response from Korea promoted the visibility and growth of KPAI.
Particularly, then Hyundai Motor Chairman, Chung Se-yung was the first Korean CEO who visited KPAI. Just about one month after KPAI was created; he threw a big dinner party for all KPAI members and spouses right here in Ren Center. That was a big morale booster for KPAI. Mr. Chung that time had the success of Pony Excel  behind him. He was energetic and charming, and I kind of miss him.
While we had such a great start, the 40 years of KPAI were not always smooth, as many founding fathers and other KPAI staff members would testify.
We had the issue of the conflict of interest, since, that time, all KPAI members worked for American companies. The transition from the first generation to the 1 ½ and second generations was not easy. While we were growing, financing the ever-expanding KPAI programs was not simple. It’s particularly true since KPAI has been an independent organization and not relying on any direct government subsidies. Securing qualified and dedicated staff members for 40 years was not easy. However, we have managed them all really well and we are here.
At this time point, it may be worthwhile to ask ourselves what are the major differences between the KPAI in the first year and the KPAI today. Even in the first year, we had a tennis tournament, golf outing, picnic, seminars, Christmas party, newsletters, membership directory, and so forth. Therefore, you can ask what the difference is.
However, I believe there have been fundamental changes in KPAI in qualitative and quantitative senses. First, KPAI has transformed itself from an inward-looking and somewhat isolated group into an outgoing entity. I would say one excellent example is the KPAI Scholarship program for high school seniors. This is a solid sign indicating that KPAI is going out and try to reach the Korean communities and the future generations. I like the recent KPAI tax seminar on video webcast, which could easily be expanded to non-KPAI members. Today’s event co-sponsored with, the Consulate General’s Office, KOTRA and MEDC is another good example.
Organization-wise, I would also like to point out that we expanded beyond the Michigan boundaries. A prominent example is KPAI Korea. Previously, Mr. Lee Hyunsoon, who was with Hyundai, but now with Doosan, and now Vice Chairman Yang Ung Chul (who was a speaker today) have done marvelous jobs there. There is also Southern KPAI. These 2 organizations claim 50+ members. On KPAI Korea, I was in Korea when KPAI Korea was started and I was the first and the second president there. But not many people know this. Actually, I did not do too much there. Many of you know Prof. Sunwoo Myung-ho of Hanyang University. He did all the ground works and deserves the credit.
So all I am saying is that there have been tremendous changes in the characteristics and composition of KPAI over the past 40 years. However, if we are looking for another 40 years and more, we can look into the field of social psychology for an answer. Then, it would be clear that we need radical internal adjustments and external adaptations. Just to give you some ideas, let me cite some probably wild examples. Let’s start with the term “professional” in our name, KPAI. Why are we confined to just professionals? Why don’t we have hourly workers as KPAI members? Have we abandoned them? In relations to the recently popular women’s power, are there any rules against female KPAI presidents or VPs? Why are we confined into the “automotive” Industry? Could we change the “automotive” in our name and aggressively expand our boundaries to like transportation? How about bi-lingual newsletters and communications?
These are not easy issues and we have surely discussed many of them before. I just want to suggest that we need to radically change our thinking if we want to see another 40 years and more.
Let me pause here and utilize this occasion to acknowledge several groups that have been critical to the initiation and growth of KPAI.
At first, I would like to point out the support we enjoyed from the Korean and Michigan governments. We receive a very high-level support from the Consulate General’s office in Chicago. KPAI has also been working with KOTRA from Day 1. I still remember the soul-searching discussions and meetings we had with the first KOTRA-Detroit Director General, Mr. Park Young Bok. I am sure some of you recognize that the current KOTRA Director General Mr. Shin and our KPAI President Mr. Lee share the same first name. It’s wonderful to observe the harmonious way these two gentlemen, Seung-Hoons, worked together and produced this great event today. Our sincere thanks to them all.
I already mentioned the strong support from big Korean OEMs up front. However, I also have to recognize the Korean as well as American supplier companies at all different tiers. Many are represented here. They have provided moral and financial support as well as a continuing stream of qualified staff members to KPAI.
In addition, I would like to recognize the KPAI staff members over the last 40 years. They all have had full-time jobs and families to support. I believe that their dedicated professionalism over the years is the single most important reason KPAI is here today and they deserve our full complements.
The last, but not the least group I would like to recognize is the founding members. They are the ones who started KPAI and have continuously been supporting KPAI last 40 years. Not a small achievement. These days, the retirees meet each month under the name of KRLC, KPAI Retiree Luncheon Club. (Mr. Park/Lee. If you allow me, I would like to ask those KRLC members and their spouses to rise.) (Round of applause.) Thank you. They are the ones who have been providing the continuity and stability to KPAI.
If I missed any that I should recognize, my apologies and would like to ask your forgiveness.
Let me conclude my remarks tonight by giving a warning to the current, active KPAI members. As I mentioned, the retired KPAI members are meeting every month and we have about 30 members now. Not only that, as you know well, we have more than 300 potential members who would sooner or later may join this retirees group. If you, active members, don’t work hard, there would eventually be more retirees than active members. So, watch out! We may catch up with you some time.
Thank you for listening and hope I will see you all again sometime soon. Good night.