OWL Magazine Korea

“Lee Jong-kyu: ‘I Burned Each Day – From Masan High School to Lotte CEO'”

As I approached the second semester of my senior year in college, there was an inevitable pressure – the impending reality of “employment.” Eventually, as graduation loomed, I found myself submitting job applications to various companies. Whether it was due to my major not being in business, the challenging job market, or my own skills being lacking, I received more notifications of “application rejection” than the coveted “application acceptance.”

After numerous rejections, occasionally, I received notifications of “application acceptance.” One such opportunity arose from Lotte Department Store, where I had applied during the semester, granting me a chance to participate in an interview.

“Preparing for Interviews with Books on Corporations”

While preparing for job interviews, individuals often have their own methods. Common practices include participating in “employment study groups” where students gather for mock interviews. Personally, I chose a different approach, delving into various books on corporations to prepare for both written applications and interviews. After receiving notification of my application’s acceptance at Lotte Group, I visited the library and borrowed around 4-5 books related to Lotte. During this process, I came across a book about Lee Jong-kyu, the former CEO of Lotte.

“Lee Jong-kyu, Former Lotte CEO”

Lee Jong-kyu, a graduate of Masan High School, entered Lotte Group and eventually rose to the position of CEO. While most individuals enter the workforce after graduating from college, he managed to secure employment as a high school graduate and climbed the corporate ladder to become a CEO, showcasing an unparalleled level of dedication.

The content of the book primarily revolves around how fiercely he lived. The book is written in an easy-to-read format, making it a quick read.

Throughout the book, there is a distinct impression of Lee Jong-kyu as a person who is “positive and cheerful.” The following passage from the book resonated with me personally:

  • “During my bachelor days, lacking money and education became an advantage. It instilled a habit of frugality, and because I was only a high school graduate, I had to work even harder than others.”

I could relate to this sentiment, having faced financial challenges while studying in Seoul. The experience taught me the habit of frugality, allowing me to save more money despite a modest income.

Additionally, the book describes how Lee Jong-kyu approached his military service without any worries. This resonated with my own military service experience, where basic needs were met, and there was a sense of security.

“The Three Principles of Management”

The book introduces the concept of the “Three Principles of Management,” which every businessperson should remember:

  • Purchase normally,
  • Produce normally,
  • Sell normally.

These principles, simple yet profound, serve as the fundamental basis of business management.

The core of management is centered around “people,” and since the future is unpredictable, one must predict it through “experience.” To do so, one needs individuals who are unafraid of challenges, capable of making decisions, and possess a broad perspective.

Moreover, the book concludes with Lee Jong-kyu’s statement that every individual is dignified. While reading the book, I gained indirect insight into Lee Jong-kyu’s thoughts.

“Lotte Department Store Interview”

Returning to the Lotte Group interview after reading the book, it was a multi-interview format, where three candidates entered simultaneously to face three executives.

It was the most significant interview of my life, and I was quite nervous. (At the time, my biggest weakness was stage fright, which was especially pronounced. Now, having encountered related psychological content and applying methods to minimize tension, it has improved compared to the past.) Unfortunately, due to excessive nervousness, I did not provide satisfactory answers even to simple questions, leaving me with regrets.

However, at one point, one executive asked, “Do you have a person you personally admire? If so, could you tell us about that person?”

  • I replied, “I personally consider former Lotte CEO Lee Jong-kyu to be an admirable person.”
  • The tone of the interviewer’s voice changed instantly: “No, how do you know him?”
  • I explained, “I used to work as a subcontractor at Lotte Department Store. I developed a fondness for Lotte Department Store and, while searching for books at the library, came across books about Lotte.”

After this point, the attitude of the interviewers became somewhat less aggressive. In the early stages of the interview, there was a distinct feeling of aggression in their tone and content. Even though Lee Jong-kyu was not directly related to the person in question, simply being familiar with books about Lotte and demonstrating a positive perspective seemed to have a positive impact on the interviewers. It hinted at the importance of approaching such topics with respect.

Despite this, I ultimately received a rejection after the final interview. It was disappointing not to pass the last hurdle. Nevertheless, looking at it in the long run, it turned out to be a blessing. After facing several rejections in the final interview stage, I eventually succeeded in obtaining a position in a public corporation.

While I have since left that public corporation to work as a content creator, the experience served as a valuable lesson.

“Lee Jong-kyu: A Book Reflecting His Passion”

Returning to the book, the title “I Burned Each Day” truly encapsulates the life of a person who lived and worked diligently. When in need of motivation, reading the book may provide an indirect sense of Lee Jong-kyu’s energy.

“I Burned Each Day”

  • Author: Lee Jong-kyu
  • Publication Date: February 20, 2008
  • ISBN-13: 9788992822114
  • Available on Yes24: Link