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Kukdong is the most
Dynamic and Hard Place
가장 거칠고 치열한 삶의 현장에서 매일의 일상까지
국동은 우리의 삶에 잘 스며드는 옷을 만듭니다.
Whether it's an intense battle against the harshest of elements or an easy outfit for everyday living, Kukdong's garments have the versatility to cover all lifestyles.
창업주 이야기Founder Story
지난 2017년은 고(故) 변효수 명예회장님(이하 ‘명예회장님’)께서 국동을 창립한지 50주년이 되는 해였습니다.
2016년 타계하신 후로 명예회장님의 한결 같은 성품과 사업에 대한 열정, 청렴함을 기억하고 그리워하는 이들이 많습니다.
경영지원팀 강태호 과장님도 그런 분이실텐데요.
명예회장님과 40년 넘는 세월을 함께 해오신 강태호 과장님에게
명예회장님의 인간적인 모습, 비하인드 스토리를 들어 봤습니다.
Last year, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of Kukdong's birth by Hyosoo Byun. After his death in 2016, there are many people who remember and miss the integrity of former chairman's constant character, business, and integrity. Let's take a look with two people (Myungsae Suck, CEO of Woosung T&G Co., and Taeho Kang, manager of the Management Support Team, Ltd.) who have worked with the former chairman for 40 years.
“명예회장님은 어디 나가실 일이 있어서 모셔다 드리면 기다리지 말고 바로 들어가라고 하시고 직접 택시를 타고 들어오셨습니다. 요즘 대기업 회장들이 하는 이른바 갑질이라곤 전혀 없었지요. 그러셨다면 제가 40년 넘게 모시지 못했겠지요.”
"Whenever I dropped the honorary chairman off to the place he wanted to go, he said don't wait for him and go home and he took a taxi himself. It was different from the chairmen of big companies these days. That is why I was able to be with him for 40 years."
1972년에 국동에 입사했습니다. 군 제대하고 나서 일주일 만에 국동에 입사하고 다른 회사는 가보지도 못하고 평생 여기서 늙었어요. 계기는 월남 파병 후에 명예회장님이 제가 살던 동네에 집을 짓고 이사를 오셨습니다. 당시 명예회장님의 어머니께서 같은 동네에 있는 누님 집에 자주 놀러 오시곤 했는데 어느 날 제 얘기가 나온 것 같아요.

명예회장님이 운전해줄 사람을 찾는다고 아침식사 때 한번 와보라고 부르셔서 갔는데 뵙기에 첫 인상은 무서웠죠. 운전을 하라고 하셨는데 당시 저는 운전도 잘 못 하던 때라 처음엔 사양을 했습니다. 그랬더니 명예회장님이 길은 내가 잘 아니까 같이 다니면 된다, 배우면 된다고 하시는 바람에 시작하게 되었습니다. 처음에 다닐 땐 명예회장님이 운전도 어떻게 할지 알려 주시고 서울 지리도 알려주시고 했어요.

그 길로 한 평생 다른 일은 생각도 못 해보고 40년 넘게 쭉 모시게 됐습니다.
Upon leaving South Vietnam, the honorary chairman returned to Korea and built a house in which to live in the same neighborhood where my sister lived. In 1972, after I was discharged from the military, I lived with my sister because I was single and I had no job. The chairman’s mother had become acquainted with my sister and often visited her house. During one of their conversations, his mother mentioned that he was looking for someone to drive his car. He called to see me at breakfast and offered me the job. I was so scared when I first met him. At the time, I did not drive very well, so I politely refused. Then he told me he knew all the ways to get around and all I had to do was follow his instructions. The honorary chairman ’s greatest strength was patience, and I’m sure he was pushed to its limits when he taught me to drive. In the beginning, he had to give me all the directions to get somewhere. I joined Kukdong one week after being released from the army. I had opportunities to work at other companies, but I chose to stay at Kukdong, and now 45 years later, I am still with the company.
과묵하시고 말씀이 잘 없으시고 잔소리도 잘 없으셨습니다. 마음 속에 있는 얘기를 잘 안 하시는 편이셔서 화가 나도 속으로 삭이는 스타일이셨어요. 겉모습과는 달리 워낙 속마음은 온화하고 성품 자체가 생전 남한테 무슨 안 좋은 소리를 못 하시는 편이셨지요. 또 의외로 유머도 있으셔서 친구분들 모임에 나가시면 농담도 잘 하시고 재미있는 얘기 담당이셨어요.

성격은 꼬장꼬장하고 고지식하셨지만 권위적이지 않으셨습니다. 제가 총각 때부터 모셔서 잠은 누님 집에서 자고 식사는 명예회장님 댁에서 하고 다녔는데 저녁에 일 마치고 같이 들어가면 회장님 씻고 오실 때까지 밥을 안 먹고 기다리곤 했다. 그럴 때마다 배고픈데 먼저 먹지 왜 기다리냐고 뭐라 하시고. 참 자상하셨어요. 또 가끔 심심하면 동해로 2박 3일 여행을 가곤 하셨는데 그때도 한 방에서 같이 자고 먹고 하셨어요.

약속이 없을 때 항상 같이 식사를 하셨는데 식사도 소탈하게, 검소하게 하시는 편이셨죠. 평소 아주 검소하셨고 필요한 돈은 써도 필요 없는 돈은 1원 한 장도 안 쓰셨구요.

요즘 운전기사들 갑질 사건 얘기가 많이 나오는데 저한테는 한번도 화내신 적이 없었어요. 오랜 시간 밖에 나가 있어도 서운한 게 별로 없었어요. 어디 나가실 일이 있어서 모셔다 드리면 기다리지 말고 바로 들어가라고 하시고 택시를 타고 들어오셨으니까요. 정확하고 깔끔한 성격이셨죠. 하나 더 얘기하면 출장 갔다가 출장비가 남으면 정확히 계산해서 다시 반납하는 스타일이셨어요. 그래야 다른 직원들도 본받는다고 하시면서.

예전에 본사 사옥을 지을 때 건축 관련된 일도 직접 다 챙기셨습니다. 섬유업을 안 했으면 나는 건축업을 했을 거라고 말씀하실 정도로 건축을 좋아하셨고 일가견이 있으셨어요. 베트남에 가 계실 때 돈을 엄청나게 많이 버셔서 한때 회사가 현대건설과 맞먹을 정도로 자금력이 좋았는데 어떤 때는 현대건설에서 자금이 부족해서 빌려달라고 할 정도라고 알고 있습니다. 한창 돈이 많았을 때 부동산 업자가 권유를 해도 사업하는 사람이 부동산 하면 안 된다고 거들떠 보지 않으시고 오로지 사업, 오로지 일만 관심이 있으셨죠.

국동은 지난 50년 동안 아무리 어려워도 월급이 단 하루도 늦은 적이 없었어요. 며칠씩 당겨서는 줘도 절대 안 밀렸어요. 퇴직금 같은 것도 회사가 망하면 직원들 퇴직금을 못 준다고 명예회장님이 보험을 들어놓으셨어요. 가입한지는 오래 되었지요. 지금처럼 퇴직연금을 의무적으로 가입해야 하는 시절도 아니었는데 그렇게 하신 걸 보면 참 그만큼 직원들을 배려하는 마음이 크셨던 거 같아요.

명예회장님의 가장 큰 장점을 들자면 참고 인내하는 것이 대단하세요. 회사가 7-8년전 KIKO사태 때문에 갑자기 어려움에 처했을 때 사옥이랑 공장도 다 처분하고 했는데 곁에서 뵙기에도 정말 견디기 힘드셨을 상황이었어요. 그런데 그걸 다 참아내시면서도 티 내지 않으셨고 어느 날 퇴근하시면서 한 마디 ‘사람은 잊는 걸 빨리 해야 되겠더라’ 라는 말씀만 하셨어요.

저는 원래 정년이 지났는데 현 회장님이 연말까지 일하라고 배려해 주셔서 다니고 있습니다. 내년에 정년 퇴직하면 손주들 재롱도 보고 좀 쉬어야죠. 가끔씩 명예회장님 생각하면 조금 더 사실 수 있었는데 하는 생각이 들면서 참 안타까워요. 뵙고 싶을 때는 협력업체 석대표님과 가끔씩 묘소에 찾아갑니다. 국동에서 명예회장님과 같이 한 기억이 앞으로도 많이 생각날 것 같습니다.
He was reserved and quiet but not snobbish. He didn’t lecture if you made a mistake. He always gave the appearance of calmness, even if on the inside he was infuriated or upset. He never visibly displayed his annoyance or displeasure and he never got angry with me. Unlike his rough looking exterior, he was gentle at heart and would never say anything rude to others. He also had an unexpected sense of humor and when he was with his friends, he was a good joke teller and a funny storyteller.

He has an upright character and is serious but not authoritative. When the chairman lived in my sister’s neighborhood, we shared the dinner meal at his house. After work, I used to wait for him to return to the dining table after washing up, and he would ask why I didn't start without him. He was so caring and considerate of others. He used to spend his free time at the East Sea and we would share a room whenever we went on a trip. When he had no appointments, we always ate together and it usually was a simple meal. He was very frugal and he didn't spend a single penny unnecessarily.

The news today is filled with stories about people abusing their power but he never did such a thing. He didn’t boast about how much money he had or how many companies he owned. He worked hard and he demanded as much from himself as he did others, but he was not authoritative. He had an upright character and was conscientious of the position he held in business and society. If he was going be a long time in a meeting, he never made me wait for him. He was precise, upright, and meticulous. To show you a good example; whenever he received a cash advance for business trip expenses, he always returned the unused cash to the accounting team saying that he needed to set the standard for other employees to follow.

When he was building his headquarters, he personally supervised all the construction related issues. He liked architecture and once told me that if he was not in textiles he would have been in the construction industry. Kukdong was started on a strong financial foundation with money the chairman had made when he was in Vietnam. From the beginning the company was stable and secure enough to compete with Hyundai E & C. More than once that I know, Hyundai E & C asked to borrow from Kukdong. When the cash flow was good, realtors would approach him to invest in land or buildings but he was never interested. His company was his only focus.

The honorary chairman was always concerned for the welfare of his employees. For more than 50 years the employees of Kukdong have never been paid a day late, no matter how hard it was. During the beginning years, although it wasn’t mandated by law, the honorary chairman took out insurance for fear he wouldn't be able to pay the workers retirement fund if the company went bankrupt. It's been a long time since Kukdong had Insurance. 

When the company suddenly faced financial hardship due to the KIKO situation, he had to dispose of the building and the factory. It was really hard to bear for me also but he did not express his feelings. As he was leaving work one day, he only said, " I have to forget things quickly. "

My retirement date is way overdue, but the current chairman has asked me to work until the end of the year. When I retire next year, I will spend time with my grandchildren watching them do cute things. I miss the honorary chairman .  Occasionally, I will visit his grave with Mr. Suck, the CEO of a partner company. Together we will reminisce about Kukdong and share our memories of the honorary chairman .