By Jhoo Dong-chan
Shinsegae Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin, the country's first owner of a Tesla electric car, said Thursday that he had ordered his second Tesla vehicle.
Known as a trend-conscious early adopter, Chung bought the Tesla Model S 85 in 2013. Since there was no local sales unit here for the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) maker then, he directly ordered and imported the model from the United States.
"I have just ordered the Model X sports utility vehicle (SUV) this time," Chung told reporters when he visited Tesla's first showroom here at the Starfield shopping mall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday.
"I drove the Model S 85 for about eight months in 2013. The infrastructure wasn't here at all, but the country now embraces EVs and Tesla has launched its local affiliate here. Shinsegae is very happy to be Tesla's partner, and will fully cooperate with the company, especially in its mission to establish a charging infrastructure."
Chung is also known as being good at using info-tech devices _ he spearheaded the project of opening an electronics retailer franchise, Electro Mart, in Shinsegae Group's discount chain E-mart branches in 2015. Unlike its competitors of Lotte Hi-Mart and LG Electronics Best Shop, Electro Mart focuses on so-called kidult demands.
Rather than selling just home appliances, it concentrates on specific products such as drones, action figures and video games. Customers there are mostly men.
"I used to like superheroes like Superman when I was little, and still love them, especially Marvel Comics characters now," Chung was quoted as saying when the franchise debuted in 2015.
"I believe there are many male customers who share similar tastes. I am very interested in meeting their demands by providing customized products in our store chains."
Electro Mart has received an explosive response from male customers.
"Shopping has long been the exclusive activity for women, and I was only a mule to juggle a dozen shopping bags my girlfriend hands over," said Cho Jang-beom, a 33-year-old office worker in Gyeonggi Province.
"Electro Mart's got everything we want. Now, I leave my girlfriend at home to shop alone at Electro Mart."
Chung, the 48-year-old grandson of Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chul, also gained a good reputation thanks to his business acumen of having brought Starbucks to Korea in 1999 to chalk up a great success.
The Brown University graduate enjoyed drinking coffee in the U.S. and formed a business alliance with Starbucks to manage the brand in Asia's fourth-largest economy. Starbucks shops are now tucked into practically every spare sliver of real estate to set off a coffee craze and attract millions of people.
As a result, it became the country's first coffee brand whose annual sales topped the 1 trillion won mark last year.
"Shinsegae has the longest history in the Korean retail industry. Still, it is the youngest company, possessing endless endeavors for innovation, challenge, and creation," Chung said on the Shinsegae Group website.
"Shinsegae put an end to outdated practices and customs that persisted in the retail industry. As such, Shinsegae is creating a new retail order."