Tech Talk: What Samsung Means to South Korea

Samsung Logo AH9

If you were born, raised and still live in the United States, it is virtually impossible for us to understand what it is like in a smaller country, such as South Korea, where one company’s financial success can make or break that country.  To understand how big Samsung is in South Korea – “its business accounts for roughly 20-percent of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).”  So how well Samsung does, is how well South Korea is doing.

In that country, Samsung is everywhere.  I cannot think of even one company in the US that has near the presence of a Samsung – GM, Ford, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Apple, Exxon, McDonalds, IBM, General Electric, Target, Kroger, Taco Bell… well, maybe Walmart and Sam’s Club… just kidding – none of these companies, some our biggest and the ones that hire the most employees, cannot begin to touch what Samsung is to South Korea.  Although, that is probably a good thing, as relying so heavily on one company can lead to trouble and boredom.

Samsung is a multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Samsung Town, South Korea… it even has a town named after it… and is the largest business there.  It started out in 1938 as a trading company and over the next three decades quickly diversified into food processing, textiles, insurance, securities and retail.  In the sixties, they entered into the electronics industry, same goes for shipbuilding and construction in the mid-seventies.  Samsung Electronics is the world’s largest information technology company, Samsung Heavy Industries is the world’s largest shipbuilder, Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T are their construction arm, Samsung Life Insurance is the fourteenth largest in the world, and Cheil Worldwide is their advertising agency and fifteenth largest in the world.  Being that large, has a powerful influence on South Korea’s economics, politics and culture.

Our source recently took a trip back to his homeland of South Korea, and when he lived there, he did not notice the influences of Samsung, but after living in the US, upon his return, he was amazed and overwhelmed by Samsung.  The airports greeted him with Samsung TVs, as they did when he entered his in-law’s apartment… also built by Samsung.  He went to do his laundry and was greeted with a Hauzen washing machine – Samsung’s local home appliance brand – as was the oven in their kitchen.  When it gets too warm in the apartment, a Hauzen air-conditioner can be turned on for comfort.  Samsung was even the brand of Bidet Toilet he had to use and its electronic touch controls would put many remote controls to shame.  The Cheil Medical Center was founded by Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee’s cousin and was a subsidiary of Samsung until recently.  In the hospital waiting room was Samsung branded copy paper, a Samsung TV that had a program on with the Samsung Insurance volleyball team playing, and a Samsung desk-style phone.

On his way back to the apartment, he went to a bookstore whose best sellers were about Samsung – one concerned about the future of Samsung and another tell-all book written by a former top legal counsel for Samsung… it was so controversial, that newspapers would not carry ads for the book for fear of retribution.  Next to the bookstore was a department store that was owned by Samsung until the 90’s, but it still had kiosks to sign-up for a Samsung credit card.  His trip on the subway had more Samsung TV screens, although, had he rented a car, Renault Samsung Motors would have produced it.  There were laptops by Samsung that doubled as a tablet by detaching the screen and on the same desk was a Samsung calendar.  The bank wanted him to invest in a fund run by Samsung Asset Management, but he just wanted to get back home where he was greeted by the Samsung home security keypad.  No company in the United States is that intrusive into our lives… and that is a good thing.