Miscommunication can cost companies serious money, especially in the legal realm. Therefore, for a global business, it is essential to find legal counsel who can operate in multiple languages. Translation is not as simple as converting words between languages; there is tone to consider as well as localization of terms and the ability to convey what is meant over what is said. That is one of the reasons South Korean semiconductor manufacturer SK hynix turned to Paul Cho to join its team as general counsel and corporate secretary. The $28 billion company relies on Cho to translate the nuances of law and the company’s culture across borders as the planet’s second-largest producer of semiconductors for the global technology market, including components in desktops and laptops, tablets, cellular phones, personal digital assistants, networking equipment, and hard disk drives, among items.
Cho is a Korean American lawyer who had mostly forgotten how to speak or write in Korean when he was hired by LG Electronics in 2012. He grew up Pennsylvania and later began his career at the Law Offices of Carey S. Rosemarin in Northbrook, Illinois, as an associate attorney in 2008 after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School. After stints at Cantwell & Cantwell and Quantum Legal, two prominent Chicagoland legal firms, he was recruited by LG Electronics, a subsidiary of multinational conglomerate LG Corporation. He wound up spending the next four years in Korea. At that time, he had not returned to Korea since the 1980s. Since he was living in Korea and working for a prominent Korean company, however, he put effort into learning how to speak and type in Korean.
Initially, “it was painful,” he recalls, but eventually, his language skills improved. After LG, he took a job at Samsung SDI as senior legal counsel. The high stakes of working for these massive companies is part of the reason for his mastering the language. Subsequently, Cho took a role at SK hynix as a senior legal counsel.
After putting up a strong record of success in the legal department for his first two years at SK hynix in Korea, he was promoted to general counsel and transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area to be the liaison between the Korean headquarters and the US office. Cho has proven himself well suited to operate at the center of communications between the two countries due to his experience in navigating both the Korean and American legal systems as well as familiarizing himself with the nations’ respective mores. That has given him a distinct advantage when preparing for legal issues that span both countries and bridging any gaps in communication.
Cho has been a part of several major projects during his tenure at SK hynix, developing multiple key policies and shepherding them to completion. For instance, he created the company’s customer communication policy, which defines how to handle customer relations across cultures. Similarly, he devised the company-wide purchase order training protocols to ensure smooth and sound order processing. He has also taken advantage of his multicultural experience to create internal policy guidelines for short-term expatriate employees. Finally, he leads the company in annual HR training on California state laws, since California is the home base of the US branch of SK Hynix. This is only a small sample of the wide and far-reaching range of tasks that Cho performs.
Cho remains in constant contact with his parent company in South Korea. SK hynix may have hired him for his legal expertise and time working for some of the largest companies in Korea. But they trust him because of his communication and project management skills. Cho has amply demonstrated his fluent command of English, Korean, law, and leadership.