From “Mr. Oil” to “Mr. Green”
Though the press usually dubs Dong-Soo Hur MS1968, PhD1971 as Korea’s “Mr. Oil,” a better nickname for the long-time energy executive is “Mr. Green.”
In the 1960s, Hur came to Madison to pursue graduate studies in chemical engineering because he felt strongly that the field would make a substantial contribution to the Korean economy in the decades to come. Though his years in Madison were lean times, he never forgot the encouragement that he received from UW faculty members.
“During my years as a PhD student, I lived off the research-assistant scholarship and had no time to visit Korea or even travel to other cities in the United States,” he says, describing his graduate studies as a “challenging and interesting period.”
After completing his degree, Hur became a research engineer at Chevron and soon returned to South Korea to work for GS Caltex, the country’s first privately held oil company. He rose quickly through the executive ranks. In 1991, Hur was named president of the company, which supplies almost a third of all Korean petroleum products and exports oil to more than 20 countries.
Under Hur’s leadership in the 1990s, GS Caltex began to explore alternative energy technologies, and in the early 2000s, it launched two subsidiaries to advance eco-friendly materials and systems. One, GS FuelCell, is dedicated to installing emission-free electricity systems in tens of thousands of Seoul apartments. The other, GS Platech, focuses on generating electricity from waste incinerators.
In 2002, Hur organized the Korea Business Council for Sustainable Development to help leaders share ideas and cooperate in order to promote sustainable growth. For this work, he was awarded the Order of Civil Merit, Mugunghwa Medal, the highest honor the Korean government bestows on a civilian.
Hur is now GS Caltex’s chair of the board, and he also serves on several industry committees and university boards. “For more than four decades, my passion has always been the energy and petrochemical fields,” he said. “And the driving force behind it all has been the knowledge and experience that I gained during my time at the UW.”
Dong-Soo Hur is also well known for his passion for Baduk, a board game similar to the Japanese game Go. He was elected head of Korea’s Baduk Association and its Amateur Baduk Association. Learn how to play this historic board game, which dates back 3,000 years.