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Naver’s Founding Members: Where Are They Now?

The Founding Eight of Naver
All from Samsung SDS
Who are the others besides Lee Hae Jin?

Online Community

The founder of Naver, Korea’s leading portal, is Global Investment Officer (GIO) Lee Hae Jin. Most people believe that Lee single-handedly built Naver, but behind him were seven other co-founders.

In October 1997, Navercom was launched as an in-house venture of Samsung SDS (then Samsung Data System). This team included Lee Hae Jin, Kwon Hyuk Il, Kim Jung Ho, Choi Jae Young, Oh Seun Hwan, Kim Hee Sook, Kim Bo Kyung, and Kang Seok Ho.

Employees from diverse backgrounds, including new hires and those with 1-2 years of experience, could develop search engines and conduct business online.

Kakao

Twenty years later, not all of them are still with Naver.

Kim Jung Ho made significant contributions when Naver and Hangame merged to create NHN in 2000. He also served as the CEO of NHN. He later worked as the head of management support for the Kakao CA Committee but was recently fired from Kakao for raising suspicions of an internal cartel.

Kwon Hyuk Il took charge of Happy Bean after the launch of Naver. He has now launched an online co-parenting platform called ‘Dalkong Parenting.’

After leaving Naver, Choi Jae Young reportedly retook the college entrance exam and enrolled in Kyung Hee University’s College of Korean Medicine. According to the Chosun Ilbo, Choi opened a Korean medicine clinic near Hongik University in Mapo-gu, Seoul. However, he was forced to leave when the building was suddenly sold, and the new owner evicted him.

The Smaller Foundation

Oh Seung Hwan was the head of the Naver Cultural Foundation until the 2010s. He was in charge of Knowledge Sharing, a department that conducted Naver’s social contribution activities and often built public libraries in culturally underdeveloped areas.

He then led the non-profit organization The Smaller Foundation and set up an exhibition hall for the visually impaired in Gahoe-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul.

Kim Hee Sook is said to have returned to the countryside. In 2006, Kim moved to Yongseol-ri, Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, bought a 6,673 square yard (5,600 square meters) field, and is reportedly living leisurely while farming potatoes, peppers, peanuts, beans, cabbages, and radishes.

Kim Bo Kyung, the only female among the founders, runs a children’s book publishing company called Gaamnamu. She is credited with creating Naver’s ‘Knowledge iN’ and ‘Junior Naver.’

Naver

Kang Seok Ho is still active at Naver. He is involved in the development work of Naver and Line, and as of 2022, he is the responsible leader for Clova, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform launched by Naver.

Last but not least, GIO Lee Hae Jin is focusing on global investment operations.

Kakao

Meanwhile, Kim Beom Soo, the founder of Kakao, and Lee Jae Woong, the founder of Daum, have worked with these eight people and Samsung SDS. Like Lee Hae Jin, they graduated from Seoul National University.

The lineup of Lee Hae Jin GIO’s classmates from the Department of Computer Science at Seoul National University was even more impressive. His classmates included the late Kim Jung Ju, former CEO of Nexon; Song Jae Kyung, former President of XL Games; Bae In Sik, founder of Gratech; Yang Seung Hyun, CTO of Conan Technology, and Ka Jong Hyun, Global Representative of SK Planet.

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