By Park Soung-Jin
Staff Reporter & Editor
Chairman Lee Sung-Un of "Bojeong PJT," a successful construction company, was a jobless young man 30 years ago when he went to Japan. Now at 53, he is applying techniques on NPLs (non-performing loan) to the local Korean market, making remarkable achievements in the real estate market.
Back then Japan was in recession after decades of rapid economic expansion. He witnessed Japan's bubble economy and the real estate market started plunging limitlessly.
He began studying about Japan, the language and culture, particularly its economy. His area of special interest was the real estate market. Specifically, He paid his attention to NPLs (non-performing loan) sweeping Japan. He spent over 30 years learning NPLs and practicing his business in Japan's NPL markets.
A native of Seoul's old town he grew up in the newly sprawling Gangnam area which was fast developing. He still lives and works in the area.
A devout Buddhist he enjoys writing the famous Chinese phrases in calligraphy. He is also a devoted practitioner of the time-honored Chinese martial arts of Wing Chun Kuen (çÉõðÏë). He has a small training room where he has a wooden dummy and other facilities for the Chinese martial arts. He graduated from Korea National Sport University in Seoul.
Years of his physical training and sportsmanship have been the basis of his social success and business achievements. He always tries to maintain a positive view of the world, keeping his mind open to anybody.
The Seoul Times recently met Chairman Lee in his office by Bongeunsa Temple and found out the secrets of his success.
The following is the full text of the questions and answers of the interview he had with The Seoul Times.
A1: My definition of NPLs (non-performing loan) is a loan that is in default or in the process of being in default for 90 days.To be more specific, the loans defaulted for over 90 days can be classified as "normal," "special mention,¡± ¡°substandard,¡± ¡°doubtful,¡± and "estimated loss.¡± But only loans below ¡°substandard¡± level can be called the genuine NPL loans in the strict sense.
Q2: Will you elaborate on your company? When did you establish it? What are its scale and size? What do you think are the strong points of your company?
A2: The English name of my construction company is "Bojung PJT." I established it as a special purpose corporation in October of 2017. I earned the construction license for housing from the government in November of 2019.
The construction project underway is called "Terrace & 139," a luxury townhouse dubbed "Jukjeon Terrace House" located in Yongin City south of Seoul.
For its construction we purchased its land through the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) in the form of an auction. The land was indebted in NPLs.
We expect to earn some 145 billion Korean won (some 133 million US dollars) out of this housing project alone.
We are composed of 10 various experts in our company. They are asset management experts, real estate agents, and other professional staff.
Q3: Could you introduce to our readers your professional career and social experience in detail? We heard that you stayed in Japan for a long time. What did you do while you were in Japan?
A3: It was some 30 years ago that I crossed the Korea Strait (the southern sea between South Korea and Japan) to go to Japan. I wanted to study about NPLs in Japan.
Back then Japan was in a depression and its real estate market collapsed under the influence of its bubble economy. For over 20 years I watched its once-powerful economy fall down. I learned a lot about the NPL market.
When returning to Korea in 2012, I started applying NPL techniques to the local Korean market. I was highly successful.
I was decorated with "the Best Korean Award" in 2013 for my achievements in the construction field.
Since then I have been involved in various NPL loan projects in the construction of apartment complexes, regular houses, town houses, and luxury villas.
Q4: Would you like to comment on the ongoing Korean economy? How would you analyze the current economic situation and how would you expect the NPL and real estate markets to change?
A4: In spite of the onslaught of the corona virus South Korea maintains relatively a healthy and strong economy. Its economic indices are quite satisfactory and South Korea's credit rating is highly rated. I believe it now stands at "AA-" according to Fitch Ratings.
I expect that consumers' market is not likely to improve soon. However, export market looks quite rosy despite the aftereffects of the corona virus.
If the economic crisis caused by the corona virus prolongs any longer, more self-employed businesspeople will close their businesses, and more jobs will disappear.
If the government supplies more and more liquid funds, stock and real estate prices will eventually fall sharply, worsening an already difficult economy. This will produce a lot of non-performing loans (NPLs). This is only my view. I hope that the corona virus crisis will end sooner or later, so that the Korean economy and the world economy will be back to normal.
Q5: What are your plans in relation to your business? Do you have other plans you want to persue?
A5: My ultimate goal is to run an asset management company in my efforts to prevent aggressive overseas money from entering the nation. I also want to help small- and medium-sized companies with their finances.
Q6: What advices do you have for the younger generation?
A6: It is important that the young men and women start now what they want to do with their profession. Time and tide waits for no man. Time is fast going thus it is very precious.
My second advice is that they should always listen carefully to elders and experts in the areas they want to advance into. Life is too short to make mistakes. Nobody can live life twice.
Q7: Where were you born? Tell us about your family. What do you do for your health or in pass time?
A7: I was born in Namhak-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul as the oldest son of two sons and four daughters. And I have two sons and one daughter. I enjoy golf and I practice Wing Chun Kuen (çÉõðÏë), a traditional Chinese martial arts.
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