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Otsuka People Talk

March 2013

Senior Operating Officer Responsible for Asia and the Middle East

I encourage young people to take on all the challenges they can, even if they think it might be a little risky.

Born in South Korea, he graduated from the Department of Forest Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, at Seoul National University. He then joined JE-IL Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. in Korea. After becoming President and Representative Director of Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., he went on to become a Senior Operating Officer at Otsuka Pharmaceutical in Japan, and the Deputy General Manager of the OIAA Division (responsible for pharmaceuticals).

  • In collaboration with NHK Enterprises, Inc.

A background in forestry

I entered the College of Agriculture and studied trees, grasses, flowers, birds and even insects. I still remember the names of hundreds of species, and whenever I find a tree or grass I don't recognize, I enjoy trying to identify it using a classification book.

We didn't have to decide on a major until the second year of university, so I didn't study at all as a first-year student, spending my time having fun instead of going to classes. Following that, I thought that forestry would be interesting, and so I decided to take that for my major. Even though it has nothing to do with my current job, I'm glad that I studied forestry, as I learned a lot. There are many trees that I do not recognize in Japan, but I intend to learn their names too, it's a hobby that I really enjoy.

When I retire, I'd like to become a forest interpreter in South Korea. I could take children on tours of the forest, teaching them the names of the trees and flowers, and the stories behind them. But that is something in the very distant future.

Finding a job at Otuska by chance

After graduating from university, I had to do my mandatory military service. It was April by the time I finished, which is not the usual job recruiting season in Korea. I decided that the important thing was to get hired first and not worry about the type of company. That's when I came across a job advertisement for Otsuka Pharmaceutical. I went for an interview, and soon joined the company. It was really just by chance that I began my career here.

My first five months with the company were not so interesting. The job had nothing to do with my university major, and I was not that interested in sales. Then in October I was sent to Japan for training, and after returning to Korea, I was given the position of product marketing manager; it was then that my pharmaceutical work became really interesting. I enjoyed deciding the product positioning and strategy myself, and then working with my team to achieve results. To some extent, I found it a lot of fun to achieve the figures I had planned, and whether I was working late or coming in on my days off, I would always return home with a sense of satisfaction.

Empowered with the authority to make a difference

When I was a product marketing manager for antiplatelet agents, the indications for our product were not clearly stated on the medication reimbursement list of Korea's health insurance system. There were not that many patients in Korean hospitals for vascular surgery, and I met with various doctors and asked them about the situation. Based on my research, I found out that there are a lot of vascular complications in patients with diabetes, so we carried out clinical trials based on this, and diabetic peripheral vascular disease became one of the covered indications for our product under Korean health insurance. I believe a lot of patients were helped because of this, and I found it very rewarding to take on this kind of challenge and then see the results.

After I became President of Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical, we launched a certain drug in Korea. However, health insurance did not cover it for a particular disease in children. We performed a clinical trial to get an additional indication on pediatric fields for the drug covered in Korea, and it became the first indication of the drug in the world. I was gratified to hear that some pediatricians in Korea expressed their appreciation for our efforts.

Otsuka is a company that provides these kinds of opportunities to those that are eager to take them; this is what impressed me after joining the company.

President of Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical at age 35

It was unusual in Korea for someone to become a company president at age 35. I had been a product marketing manager, and then sales director for eight months. Just before going on my summer holiday, they asked me if I would consider serving as president - I couldn't believe it! But of course I didn't want to say no to such an opportunity, so I accepted. To be honest, I wasn't really sure, however, by the time my summer vacation was over, I was told to start preparing a speech for employees. I became president nine years and six months after joining the company. This was such a rare thing that I appeared on the KBS nine o'clock news in Korea. The story was picked up by a lot of media organizations and I became famous for a while! As a result of that, we had a lot more applicants than usual during the recruitment season the following year.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical is a company that gives its employees a lot of responsibility and authority. If you are capable and reliable, then the company will give you opportunities.

Creativity is what companies are looking for today

When I became Deputy General Manager of the OIAA* Division in September 2011, I was also put in charge of pharmaceuticals for the OIAA region. I believe my job is to help create a corporate environment that supports employees, because by increasing employee motivation, and clarifying the positioning of products, we can offer pharmaceuticals that help treat diseases in every region. The healthcare environment is now changing worldwide, with policies for containing healthcare costs becoming very aggressive, even in Asia. Therefore, I think that creativity is now more important than ever. You can't achieve growth by doing the same thing over and over again. We need to go beyond conventional ways of thinking and doing, and must execute new ideas based on creativity. At Otsuka, we are uniquely positioned to take on these challenges.

  • Otsuka International Asia Arab

Motto: Trust, pride, and fun

"Trust" means having confidence in the company that you have chosen
"Pride" means being proud of your own work
"Fun" means enjoying your work
It has been a year since I joined the OIAA Division. I would like to gradually spread this motto of trust, pride, and fun throughout our organization.

Decision making: start slow

I follow the mantra of "start slow." It takes time to make decisions. But once the decision has been made, we must be ready to execute it.

A message for young people

A ship is safe when in the harbor. But ships are not built to stay in the harbor, they are made to sail across the oceans. Therefore, I encourage young people to take on all challenges they can, even if they think it might be a little risky. Accepting new challenges is the most important thing in life.

When I spoke to our newly hired employees as President of Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical, I told them the following. "It was you that chose Korea Otsuka out of all the possible companies. The company also chose you out of all the possible applicants. Therefore, please take responsibility for at least half the reason you are here today. Do not complain that people are bad or the company is no good, as this is your choice. Respect your choice, and do your best. Try to ensure that after a certain amount of time has passed, or when you eventually leave here, you will be able to say to yourself that you made the right choice."

Life is a series of choices and decisions. I believe it is very important to make your best effort so that you will have as few regrets as possible. I gave you some examples of my choices, but there were also some failures. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed success, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical is the reason that I had these opportunities in the first place.

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