Late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee was an asset, not only for Samsung but for Korea and the world. He was undoubtedly a first-class businessman who pioneered through the first-end of more than just a business, but a market itself. He was a visionary leader and innovator. His heroic feats brought up and challenged the standards of Korean businesses to those of the world's first.
It was 1987 when Lee took over the chairmanship of Samsung after his father's passing. When taking the job, he announced his vision of making Samsung a worldwide enterprise. No one thought this vision to be realistic at that time, especially coming from a young manager who just inherited his father's work, let alone in a mere developing country in the Far East.
To many people's surprise, Samsung under Lee's management accomplished remarkable feats. Sales went up by 34-fold, asset 70-fold, export 25-fold and market value 350-fold. Not to mention the value of Samsung brand is easily listed in the global top 10. Without doubt, people know he kept his words of making Samsung a global business, a household name not only in Korea but also around the world.
Such success could only be achieved through introduction and installation of an advanced management system Lee sought to adopt. His eagerness to bring about corporate culture of welcoming and appreciating challenges also contributed. Under Lee's leadership, Samsung grew not only externally but also internally, to become a true international enterprise.
He always feared Samsung losing out, demanding executives and employees be vigilant at all times, to push innovation forward. He was under pressure of keeping his promise to his company and employees of making Samsung the very best of the best. It was such a critical sense of danger that drove Samsung forward and kept himself and company in check of advancing in the right direction.
His appeal for innovation in June 1993, Frankfurt, had a huge ring: "Change everything except your wife and kids." Even to this day people remember the quote as a critical point in Samsung's drive for innovation and sense of danger.
He did not hesitate to use shock tactics for the benefit of the company. A good instance of Lee's progressive management style could be witnessed when he ordered burning of 150,000 defective cellphones. Changing working hours and lifestyle also became a means to persuade and induce responses within Samsung to be more desperate for innovation and change.
Success in the semiconductor and cellphone businesses required more than just hard work but precision and acute vigilance. Samsung's stance in the global electronics market could only be established through the level of awareness and desperation Lee sought to instill within Samsung.
Lee's acumen in business and management was highlighted upon his determination to buy Korea Semiconductor which was on the edge of bankruptcy. Nobody would have dared to jump into the semiconductor market which was already dominated by far-end Japanese companies.
Samsung's presence in the electronics market today was not easily imaginable upon its start. One Japanese corporate research institute even issued a report on "Why Samsung cannot pursue a business in semiconductor."
Lee's insight made the impossible possible. Far beyond the possible, actually, to the best indeed. People now all acknowledge Samsung as a household name in electronics. After establishing a ground in semiconductors, Lee shifted his interest to cellphones.
He foresaw the future of the cellphone industry in which each and every person would have a phone of their own. In August 1995, Samsung's cellphone brand Anycall dominated the cellphone market in Korea. Because of Samsung, Korea was the only country where Motorola could not reach the top position in the market.
It is undeniable that despite the successes and contributions Samsung and Lee made to the market and society, Samsung often came under criticism amid political disruptions. Now Samsung is under heavy political risk and scrutiny due to Lee's absence. Overwhelming political pressure is distracting Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong from fully concentrating on Samsung's business matters.
Truly it is a difficult and challenging time for Samsung with adverse circumstances. Room for innovation and change is little allowed, but the demands and interventions form politics are rampant. Greater leadership and insight are required to deal with this critical moment and threat. By overcoming the given obstacle Samsung should be able to prove the legacy Chairman Lee left behind ― that what he built can stand through the test and challenges of time.
Choi Sung-no is president of the Center for Free Enterprise.
| 지금 국회가 해야 할 일
최승노 / 2021-08-16
| 주 52시간제에 빼앗긴 일할 자유
최승노 / 2021-07-14
| 2030이 서울 밖으로 쫓겨난 이유
곽은경 / 2021-06-28
| 과도해진 부동산 거래비용, 줄이는 것이 옳다
최승노 / 2021-06-14
| 이재용 부회장 사면이 필요한 이유
최승노 / 2021-05-21
| 기본소득과 일자리의 미래
곽은경 / 2021-05-09
| 자유시장 경제 원칙에 기초한 노동 개혁을 해야
최승노 / 2021-04-15
| 국민연금의 본분
최승노 / 2021-04-06
| 금융 규제에 발목 잡힌 금융기업, 미래가 어둡다
최승노 / 2021-03-04
| 쿠팡의 미국행으로 한국경제가 잃은 것
곽은경 / 2021-03-02
| ‘마이너스의 손’ 정부, 부동산시장에서 손을 떼라
곽은경 / 2021-02-24
| Real estate regulations for no one
최승노 / 2021-02-22
| 자동차의 미래는 여전히 밝다
최승노 / 2021-02-15
| 자유시장경제와 토지 공개념: 개인과 조직, 나아가 공동체의 생산성 높일 수 있는 해법 찾아야
최승노 / 2021-02-09
| 중대재해법, 인명을 생각한다면 사후처벌 대신 사전예방으로
최승노 / 2021-01-22