[Attention, Hanyangians!] Alumni Lee Young-kyu Chairman of Welcron Group Becomes a K-Quarantine Leader
“As we’ve grown twice during the former crises, we’ve got a change for COVID-19.”
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Lee Young-kyu, chairman of Welcron Group, a medium-sized company that maintains technical skills in functional material fields such as microfiber, is a matchmaker. He transformed the crises which others said were difficult, the 1997 and 2008 financial crises, into opportunities by making aggressive investments. As a result, Welcron, which started as an industrial textile company, now has Welcron Healthcare and Welcron Hantec under its wing, with last year’s sales reaching 391.9 billion won.
Lee graduated from Hanyang University's Department of Organic and Nano Engineering in 1992 and started his business. While he was working at his second job at Yakjin Trading Corporation after the Tong Yang Nylon Corporation, his participation at the Japanese textile product exhibition served as momentum. Seeing that microfiber was only being used to create high-end textiles, he proposed using it as a cleaning cloth. He thought “the added value would be great if I make cleaning tools such as mops and dishcloths with microfiber.” Lee focused on the added value of the commercial microfiber field from the start of his business and devoted on developing microfiber post-processing technology. As a consequence, he created a highly absorbent composite material that has better absorption and cleaning power than ordinary fabrics, and which has become acknowledged as an environmentally friendly product across Europe.
However, all of a sudden, the IMF financial crisis broke out. Lee went to the bank before the financial crisis . “We decided to export the microfiber cleaner to Germany and Sweden” and asked the bank to “lend us money to build factories and buy machines as we wanted to handle all of our customers' orders.” Even the company faculties said it wouldn’t work, but after persistent persuasion, they were able to borrow 350 million won. Thanks to the money to buy factories and handling all the orders from foreign countries, their sales tripled from 2.8 billion won in 1997 to 8.8 billion won in 1998.
The second crisis came along with the 2008 global financial crisis. As the global economy stagnated and exports decline, Lee turned his eyes to domestic markets and concentrated on developing bedding products using microfiber. In his interview on May 17 with Maeil Business Newspaper, he said that “60% of current sales of Welcron is from the bedding and living industry sectors” and that “We would have stayed at as a small and medium-sized company if we hadn’t taken on new challenges at the time.” Also, he added that “Our company has grown during the two crises” and showed confidence that “We also see a possibility in COVID-19.”
Verifying his statement, Welcron’s living business sector has been slowing down due to the aftermath of COVID-19, but the meltblown felt, which is the core material for mask filters, and their masks are playing an important role. The amount of production of the meltblown felt rose to 50t per month. In the past, Welcron has had a history of success in developing a KF94 level mask filter that was accredited by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety by developing a HEPA filter through the meltblown complex radiation construction method in 2008. Lee said that “The mask factory production line located in Bucheon is now producing 1.2 million masks per month, and we are planning to add one more production line by the end of this month” and that “If we have a chance, I would like to export masks around the world and play a role in promoting the "K-Quarantine."
Currently, Lee is focusing on expanding the business scope by using the material business as the next growh engine, including the high-efficiency filter projects using the meltblown method and defense projects using composite materials. Lee showed his will by saying that “the defense industry is growing five times the size of its plant located in Gimhae,” and that “We will start various material industries such as multi-material applied products and PTFE artificial vascular tubes in the coming future.”
Global News Team
Translation by: Park Gyeong-min
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