Starbucks Korea has a new CEO. Shinsegae I&C CEO Son Jung Hyun was appointed to replace outgoing CEO Song Ho Seop, who was lambasted for inadequately handling a series of company mishaps that caused some customers to boycott Starbucks products.
Son is faced with the formidable task of improving the coffee chain’s tarnished brand image while strengthening its competitiveness in the face of intense competition and rising ingredients’ costs.
In April, customers complained about Starbucks’ paper straws smelling like gasoline. Customers alleged that the foul smell affected the taste of the coffee as well. The straws were pulled out while Starbucks assured customers that the straws had passed all safety tests and denied speculation that the straws might harm customers’ health.
More recently in August, Starbucks voluntarily recalled its giveaway bags. The Summer Carry Bag was accessible to customers who purchased 17 Starbucks drinks between May and July but were found to contain above the legal limits of the carcinogen formaldehyde.
Starbucks had been retrieving the bags since July 28 by allowing customers to exchange their bags for an online gift voucher or another set of Starbucks merchandise items— a desk organizer and a wireless charger. It shall continue to do so until October 11, the end of the recall period.
Starbucks issued an official apology for the recall of the bags and promised to prevent similar incidents while investigating the issue internally.
The new CEO, Son, is a graduate of Korea University with an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined SK Telecom in 2007 and served as the team leader of SK Holdings‘ Seoul and Singapore offices. In 2015, he transferred to Shinsegae I&C and stepped in as CEO in 2020 after serving as Executive Director of Shinsegae I&C’s IT business.