Kyung Bae (K.B.) Suh earned his Johnson MBA in 1987. His children, Minjung and Hojung, are 2014 and 2018 graduates of Cornell University, respectively.
Mr. Suh is CEO and president of Amorepacific, Korea’s largest luxury cosmetic company. Founded by his father with his grandmother’s homemade skin care products, Amorepacific’s ventures have spread throughout the world, including markets across Asia, North America, Europe, Oceania, and the East. He and his company have been recognized with many awards, including the 2010 Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award and the 2012 Presidential Citation for promoting gender equality in the workplace. He and his wife, Yoonkyung Shin, are avid art collectors, and in 1979 established the Amorepacific Museum of Art, dedicated to the research and exhibition of Korean art; the museum moved to a spacious Seoul location designed by British architect David Chipperfield in 2017. He is a keen supporter of Korean art and has made significant donations to renowned global arts institutions as part of his commitment to be a “cultural missionary” introducing Korea to the wider world. He established the Suh Kyungbae Science Foundation to support innovative research in basic science and to promote the field of bioscience for the advancement of humanity.
Mr. Suh served as president of the Johnson School Alumni Club of Korea from 2004 to 2012 and received the first Proud Cornell Alumnus Prize from the Cornell Club of Korea in 2007. In 2013, Johnson’s alumni magazine Enterprise praised Mr. Suh’s leadership for restructuring his company to focus on natural and plant-based cosmetics. He received Johnson’s L. Joseph Thomas Leadership Award in 2015 and served two terms as president of the Cornell Club of Korea, ending in 2016.
KYUNG BAE’S RESPONSES TO ENGAGEMENT AND ADVICE QUESTIONS:
1. What is it about Johnson, and your time here, that drives you to stay engaged?
I appreciated the beautiful nature of Ithaca, which reminded me of my father, the founder of Amorepacific, who consistently studied plants. It inspired me to bring a new kind of beauty to the world—one that is rooted in a profound understanding of nature and people.
What I learned from Johnson motivated me to rebuild Amorepacific in the early 1990s. We did this at a time when many Korean companies were scrambling to diversify. But I knew from my time at Johnson that simply diversifying our number of business lines would not necessarily guarantee qualitative benefits. Instead, I took a more objective approach, and in such a way that would give us the opportunity to achieve sustainable growth even through an economic downturn.
2. What’s your advice for current students, who will soon be global business leaders?
Do what you truly love. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but conviction is important. There was once a time in Korea when many people said that Korean cosmetics would never make it in the global marketplace. But we held fast to our beliefs and redoubled our efforts, somehow understanding the value of perseverance. Today, K-beauty is a worldwide phenomenon, and I’m proud of our success. You’re more resilient when you do what you love, regardless of what others may think. It was not easy, but I embraced setbacks as necessary, and I believe you can do the same.
3. How have you leveraged the success of your business to make the world a better place, both in Korea and beyond?
At Amorepacific, we believe that beauty is a gift that transforms the world. When it comes to happiness, we also believe that consistency is more important than intensity. You could say that we’re trying to deliver happiness in small but consistent doses, helping our customers live a more beautiful life with our products and services.
In this mission, we are committed to empathizing with our customers, helping them discover their “New Beauty” even in our rapidly changing world. Simultaneously, I am also dedicated to making contributions to humanity’s beautiful future by supporting innovative discoveries in life sciences through the Suh Kyungbae Foundation. I believe this unyielding commitment will help make “A MORE Beautiful World.”