By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporters Kim Jung-mi and Sua Kim
The Millennium Seoul Hilton is now obviously in good hands. One of the top-notch five-star hotels in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2018 announced the appointment of a seasoned Korean-born hotelier, Mr. Jong Hun (Jay) Lee, as its new General Manager—for the first time in its history in Korea.
Why is it obvious that the property is now in ‘good hands’? It became apparent at an extensive interview with him recently conducted by The Korea Post media, established 33 years ago and now owning and operating 3 English and 2 Korean-language news media outlets.
Why is The Korea Post so sure about the selection of Mr. Lee as the new GM?
The interviewer has covered the hospital industry in Korea and around the world for the past 43 years, 10 years as the Cultural Editor of Korea’s top English daily, The Korea Herald, and 33 more years thereafter as the publisher-editor of The Korea Post.
GM Lee spent much of his years with Hotel Shilla, owned and operated by Korea’s top business conglomerate, Samsung. The largest jaebeol (zaibatsu) business group in Korea, Samsung literally reigns the business world in Korea—and stands ‘very tall’ in many other countries of the world.
Lee has also worked for other prestigious and international hotel chains such as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Seoul, Banyan Tree Club & Spa, Stanford Hotel Korea Ltd., and Best Western Premier Seoul Garden Hotel. Prior to this appointment, GM Lee was the General Manager and Executive Director at Chaum Life Center, a state-of-the-art center for anti-aging, beauty and health.
GM Lee received his MBA from Soongsil University & University of Hull in England, as well as his Executive MBA from Yonsei University. GM Lee’s management policy has 3 basic tenets: honesty and fairness; transparency; and communication. Mr. Lee plans to employ those tenets while working with the MSH team to successfully lead and drive overall performance of the hotel.
Lee’s appointment, as was briefly mentioned earlier, marks the first time Millennium Seoul Hilton has made a local hire for its top position of General Manager.
“The Millennium Seoul Hilton family is excited to welcome General Manager Lee and the new era of management and leadership he will bring to the hotel,” said Public Relations Director Kim Jung-ki at a recent meeting.
Of his new position, GM Lee says: "I am pleased to be appointed the new General Manager of Millennium Seoul Hilton, one of Seoul's major five-star hotels. With honesty, fairness, transparency, dialogue and communication as our core management principles, I will make our customers, employees, and owners of the hotel work together to win."
At the interview, there was one thing GM Lee struck this writer hard. It was his motto: “I will try to give all my customers and clients 10% more than the money’s worth.”
Asked how, Lee said without a moment’s hesitation, “We are trying to make our customers and clients feel fully satisfied with our services to such an extent that they would wish to pay 10% more than they are actually charged.”
Lee played a key role in providing proper accommodation to the VVIP guests of the world. According to reports of prestigious Korean-language news media, GM Lee played a prominent role in the accommodation of world leaders visiting Korea, who include the then President George Bush of the United States, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan—during their visit to Korea.
“It is my motto that each and every one of the guests at my property should be given the same care and service accorded to any VVIP of the world,” said Lee.
Asked if he would give the same accommodation to the ‘quizzers’ at the interview, he said, “Of course, yes! All my guests I would like to treat as we would an Imgeumnim (a Korean emperor)!”
GM Lee takes personal interest in the accommodation of the ambassadors and madams. And judging from his personal family background, Lee is considered a best-fit GM as far as service and accommodation of the ambassadors.
GM Lee himself is from a ranking Korean diplomat family. His father was former Korean ambassador to Germany, Italy and a number of other countries of the world. His father stayed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a long time and made up to the vice minister. GM Lee learned quite a lot being the son of a Korean ambassador and a ranking foreign ministry official.
Against this backdrop, GM Lee is expected to provide proper service to the ambassadors and madams in Seoul. Currently, there are a total of 115 resident foreign embassies in Seoul and an all but identical number of embassies in other countries concurrently covering Korea.
“I feel like a diplomat myself,” he said. “I will serve the ambassadors and other diplomats as I would my own father!”
Each embassy in Korea normally has two major celebrations a year, the National Day celebration and the Anniversary Day celebration when the country established her diplomatic relations with Korea. Normally, they celebrate such occasions at the ballroom of the five-star hotel in Seoul (such as Millennium Hilton).
The Millennium Seoul Hilton is ideally located as far as the diplomatic functions of the embassies are concerned. It is easy of access from all parts of Seoul and this is especially so for all the guests from the ‘Diplomatic Town of Yongsan Area’ in Seoul, where are located many embassies and residences of ambassadors and other senior diplomats. An economically-minded guest said, “At least you don’t pay the Namsan Tunnel fee of 2,000 won which you pay when you attend diplomatic functions at other five-star hotels in Seoul when you go home from the party!”
GM Lee said, “My father used to tell me, ‘When you serve the ambassadors, remember you are serving the Head of the Government of the country,’ and I never forget his advice. So when I was at Hotel Shilla and other hotels, I always kept in the depth of my mind the advice of my father, and tried to provide the best service possible.”
GM Lee recalls a time at Hotel Shilla when he was in charge of providing service to the foreign ambassadors at diplomatic functions.
The host was the Head of Government of an Asian country visiting Korea in the late 1990s. The President was so popular that the guests, Koreans and the diaspora of that country in Korea, came in numbers more than double those for whom the food and beverage had been ordered.
The F&B people at the hotel, from the head chef on down to the kitchen helps, did their utmost in complete unity and helped make the party a sheer success—making everyone happy. The ambassador was very pleased and gave the hotel people a citation.
After successfully finishing the event with all F&B and service staffs, I was very pleased that I receive the official praise from the embassy.
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company, with a portfolio of 14 world-class brands comprising nearly 5,000 properties with more than 812,000 rooms in 103 countries and territories. Hilton is dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time. The company's portfolio includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio Collection by HiltonTM, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by HiltonTM, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty program, Hilton Honors. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose exactly how many Points to combine with money, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard Wi-Fi. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.