“If you failed your business and want to die, don’t die but come to the training camp of the Returned SME Development Institute!”

김태인 기자l승인2022.08.18l수정2022.08.18 13:53

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▲ Returned SME Development Institute / MS Group / President Wontae Jeon

9 out of 10 companies in South Korea are small or medium. While others make their way and grow business, around 1,500 SMEs go bankrupt every year. They probably had ideas and passion but lack of capital and experience. The failure often leads not only to bankrupt of the business but also to the family and they lose hope and will of starting again and likely to lead a wasted life. 

Wontae Jeon, CEO of MS Group, learned to make acetylene gas from his father and established his own factory at the age of 25 in 1973. The business went well and the number of staff grew to 16. In 1976, the factory got exploded and 2 of the staff lost their lives. The bereaved families wailed in front of his house with the dead bodies and more than 50 people also came to him that their eardrum splitted. The accident came from a loosened management of the site as Jeon wanted to reduce unit cost and labor cost because his client companies went bankrupt. 

When things were settled and he came to himself, he opened a gas tank factory where he slept in a tiny room in that tiny factory for 7 years. He seemed to see the light again but the 1979 oil crisis hit the business hard and firm and he had to see his factory closed again in 1983. 

“When things go well, creditors were kind and willing. When things go badly, they turned their back like they never had been kind and willing. Deeply disappointed about the nature of man, I bought 8 bottles of soju (liquor) and went up to the roof of my factory to kill myself after drinking them all. Then I was struck with a possibility of not dying but living the rest of my life severly damaged and miserable. I quit killing myself at that instant thought. I packed and went to Juk Island in Tongyeong and wailed almost everyday without hardly eating. One day, a voice of my father resonanced in my ear: what are you doing here you fool! aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Then I came to myself and started writing letters of apology long and many pages again and again. And I realized I was the one to be blamed but not others. After 40 days of wailing and self-reflection on the island, I decided to start all over again from the beginning.” looked back Jeon.

Today, he is the owner MS Group that has 10 affiliated companies creating yearly 12 billion won (USD 92 million) sales. In 2003, he bought the disused school on that very island for the use of a training center and in 2011 founded the Returned SME Development Institute. The institute so far has trained 440 people and 245 have succeeded restarting a business. The 3 week training program is free and is customized person to person and case to case. The program includes one tent a person, self-reflection, recovery, entrepreneurship, management, administration and restart. Excellent trainees are given opportunities to receive Restart Success Package of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups. 

“Those who have tasted a failure are likely to have more possibilities to restart and make things happen. In most cases, every failure has its own reason from the person who failed. In other words, it is very important to find the cause from myself rather than from others. This way, they have more possibilities of not failing because they will not make the same mistake again at least. If the trainees can realize 70% about this at the camp, the training we provide is a success and we believe they will restart again.” says Jeon. 

“If you failed your business and want to die, don’t die but come to the training camp of the Returned SME Development Institute!” <PowerKorea>


김태인 기자  red3955@hanmail.net
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