Culture & Peoplefeatured

New Leadership Spotlight: Vice President Kitae Kim, Head of HBM Sales & Marketing, on Future-Proofing HBM’s Market Leadership

By February 21, 2024 April 4th, 2024 No Comments

Vice President Kitae Kim, Head of HBM Sales & Marketing, on Future-Proofing HBM’s Market Leadership

SK hynix’s HBM1 was the superstar of the semiconductor memory industry in 2023. The company’s technological competitiveness led to a record increase in HBM sales and a profitable fourth quarter, signaling a rebound in the market.

Vice President Kitae Kim, head of the HBM Sales & Marketing (S&M) department, significantly contributed to HBM’s successful performance by anticipating market changes, responding to customer needs, and increasing profitability. Kim has extensive experience in semiconductor sales and marketing having managed accounts for major global tech companies, where he drove revenue growth and built strong customer relationships.

He has also been a key figure in maintaining SK hynix’s sales even during unstable market conditions. Kim drove the company’s record operating profit in 2018, and has led the sales division’s downturn task force since 2022 to successfully navigate the recession.

In this third installment of interviews with newly appointed executives, the newsroom spoke with Kim about his vision for strengthening SK hynix’s HBM market leadership and future-proofing the company’s sales strategy.

1High Bandwidth Memory (HBM): A high-value, high-performance product that possesses much higher data processing speeds compared to existing DRAMs by vertically connecting multiple DRAMs with through-silicon via (TSV). There are five generations of HBM, starting with the original HBM and followed by HBM2, HBM2E, HBM3, and HBM3E—an extended version of HBM3.

Striving for Market Dominance Beyond HBM Leadership

Kim attributes early preparation for the AI era as an important factor in HBM’s market success

Kim attributes early preparation for the AI era as an important factor in HBM’s market success


“As the AI ecosystem expands with the diversification and sophistication of generative AI services, demand is increasing for HBM—a high-performance and high-capacity memory solution. HBM is a revolutionary product which has challenged the notion that semiconductor memory is only one part of an overall system,” he said. “In particular, SK hynix’s HBM has outstanding competitiveness. Our advanced technology is highly sought after by global tech companies.”

Kim emphasized that HBM’s key sales strength is its advanced technology. This is because it is crucial to first secure the technical specifications required by customers to promptly respond to the surging demand for AI memory. He added that his team’s foresight in detecting and preparing for market changes in advance also proved to be highly effective.

“We had been consistently preparing for the onset of the AI era through efforts in both sales and marketing. We proactively established collaborative relationships with our customers and anticipated the market conditions,” he said. “Building on this foundation, SK hynix was able to establish mass-production infrastructure for HBM faster than anyone else, move forward with product development, and quickly achieve market dominance.”

Having established itself as the HBM market leader by pooling its company-wide capabilities, SK hynix plans to maximize this dominance in 2024. To achieve this goal, the HBM Business division was created to bring together all departments including product design, device, development, mass production, and the HBM S&M department which is led by Kim.

Looking ahead, Kim aims to achieve the milestones needed for the company and division to expand positive relationships with customers and promptly respond to market trends.

Fundamental Technical Capabilities & Shortening Time to Market

Kim underscores the importance of technical competitiveness and rapid time to market to gain an edge in the market

Kim underscores the importance of technical competitiveness and rapid time to market to gain an edge in the market


“The most challenging period was the industry downturn that began in 2022,” Kim revealed. The combination of this recession with an unstable global landscape made the situation more difficult.

“As the downturn worsened, the situation became increasingly uncertain. It affected our team members, but we rallied together to overcome the challenges,” he said. “On the sales side, we concentrated on improving profitability. To achieve this goal, we focused our sales capabilities on HBM—an AI server and data center-oriented product. In the process, we worked to strengthen our collaboration with clients, focusing on long-term benefits rather than immediate gains. I believe these collective efforts enabled SK hynix to weather the downturn.”

Despite some lingering external uncertainties, Kim believes that the semiconductor memory market is on an upward trend this year. This is in part due to a recovery in demand from global big tech customers. In addition, the application of AI in more areas including on-device2 products such as AI-equipped PCs and smartphones is set to boost demand for not only HBM3E, but also for other products such as DDR5 and LPDDR5T.

Kim emphasized that “technical competitiveness is fundamental, but from a sales perspective, shortening the time to market3 (TTM) is key to maintaining market dominance.”

“Proactively securing customer purchase volumes and negotiating more favorable conditions for our high-quality products are the basics of semiconductor sales operations,” Kim said. “With excellent products in hand, it’s a matter of speed. Our planned production volume of HBM this year has already sold out. Although 2024 has just begun, we’ve already started preparing for 2025 to stay ahead of the market.”

2On-Device AI: AI technology that implements AI capabilities on the device itself instead of proceeding with computation in a physically separated server. With on-device AI, AI functions become more responsive and more customized AI services can be provided as smart devices are capable of independently collecting and computing information.
3Time to market (TTM): The length of time required to develop a product from initial conception to when it is released to the market and available for sale.

Delivering Total Solutions to Customers Through ‘One Team’ Synergy

Kim believes the HBM division’s One Team synergy allows SK hynix to provide total AI memory solutions to its customers

Kim believes the HBM division’s One Team synergy allows SK hynix to provide total AI memory solutions to its customers


Kim acknowledged that while he feels deep pride as the head of the HBM S&M department for the industry’s number one HBM company, he also feels a great sense of responsibility. The HBM S&M department is comprised of three teams: the HBM Sales team that pursues win-win relationships with customers; the HBM Marketing team that discovers optimal pathfinding through market and industry analysis; and the HBM Planning & Intelligence (P&I) team that maximizes sales and profitability by determining the ideal product and supply strategy to lead the market. This unprecedented integration of teams reflects the company’s commitment to becoming a total AI memory provider that leads market change while also being first to provide tailored solutions to customers.

“Semiconductor sales is a position that requires collaboration with major global tech companies,” he said. “To meet our customers’ expectations, it is essential to provide total solutions that encompass not only technology but also elements including quality control, sales, and marketing. To achieve this, we have started optimizing our organizational operations this year. At a time when the direction set by leaders is crucial, I will do my utmost to lead the way in bringing together the capabilities of each team to maximize our One Team synergy.”

Lastly, Kim expressed optimism and confidence for the coming months in a message to his coworkers.

“In 2024, the time for the long-awaited upturn is getting closer,” he said. “In this new era of progress, I will strive to achieve the best results in our business. I hope that everyone at SK hynix can also realize their aspirations this year.”


<Other articles from this series>

New Leadership Spotlight: SK hynix’s First Female Research Fellow, Vice President Oh Haesoon, on Advancing NAND Flash

New Leadership Spotlight: SK hynix’s Youngest Exec, Lee Donghun, Discusses Spearheading NAND Flash Development

New Leadership Spotlight: Vice President Hoyoung Son Targets SK hynix’s Evolution Into Total AI Memory Provider Through Advanced Packaging Tech

Leadership Spotlight: Deoksin Kil, Head of Material Development, On Achieving Tech Innovation Through Advanced Materials

New Leadership Spotlight: Head of HBM PI Unoh Kwon Aims to Finish SK hynix’s HBM Roadmap & Lead in the AI Era