중앙데일리

Think of us as a local firm, says Motorola Korea president

Apr 30,2007
Motorola Korea President Gill Hyun-chang
Commemorating Motorola Korea’s 40th anniversary, the JoongAng Daily interviewed the company’s president, Gill Hyun-chang, at the company’s headquarters in southern Seoul. Gill said that Koreans often have a lot of antipathy toward foreigners due to a history of oppression.

Q.You’re a chief executive of a huge foreign firm and yet you don’t make a lot of public appearances or do a lot of public relations. Is that your own policy or the company’s?
A.Koreans have the experience of being under foreign control by the Japanese during the colonial period, so they have a tendency to think that foreigners are going to take things away from them. Even if you say you are trying to do good, they tend to think negatively, which is why former [Motorola Korea] chief executives kept a low profile in Korea. In Malaysia, for instance, the same people would have a lot of media exposure and it would be fine, but they didn’t do it in Korea.

Does that mean that you are acknowledging cultural differences?
In games, there are rules and there are differences in how you play. Things are better than before due to the process of democratization and the experience of going through the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, but Korea still has very strong nationalistic sentiments.
It’s wonderful that Samsung and Hyundai are global companies, but from the outside, Korea may seem strange, because if you look at us, all of us are driving Hyundai cars, carrying Samsung phones; I’m even wearing a Samsung suit.

Forty years ago, there were no cell phones, so what was Motorola Korea doing here?
Then-president Park Chung-hee was attracting foreign capital and Motorola was one of the companies, along with IBM, that came to Korea. But unlike IBM, we were not huge. We were making semiconductors. For the first thirty years, we had a semiconductor plant that worked around the clock on three shifts. We had up to 5,000 employees until Motorola got rid of its semiconductor unit. In fact, the factory established here at the time was Motorola’s first successful foreign plant. Building on that success, it expanded to other countries, but its foreign expansion all started in Korea. It was good for Korea too, because a lot of people later moved to semiconductor firms and smaller parts companies had built up their technology to a global standard.

Do you think that Koreans reject Motorola because it is a foreign brand?
It is different depending on each person, but as Korea’s economy grows, Koreans have a lot of opportunities to go abroad and compare Korean products with other products. In the case of fashion, Koreans hardly buy Korean luxury brands, but it is different with cell phones. Koreans have the eye to see and compare and when they choose us or don’t choose us, it is not because we’re a foreign brand, but because of the characteristics of a product.

What are the difficulties of being a foreign firm in Korea?
I wish we wouldn’t be considered a foreign firm. Except for the fact that the company originated in the United States, if you look at our holdings and our employees and the benefits that we return to Korea in terms of both revenue and employment, we’re the same as any other Korean company.

Being the head of a company that is at the forefront of technology, what do you see in the crystal ball ten years from now? What will cell phones be like then?
Who would have thought 10 years ago that everyone would be carrying such expensive phones? Even elementary and middle school students carry cell phones. I believe that in ten years, technology will develop so that things will become even more convenient for people. Now, you have to know technology, but in the future, you won’t have to.
For instance, 20 years ago, television sets had a lot of switches, but now, you don’t have all the switches because the screens are automatically focused and so forth, although you can still manually adjust things if you want.

Do you see such technological developments coming from Korea?
I believe Korea has a high potential and that a lot of industrial leaders will emerge if the government keeps the right pace. But if it doesn’t, we won’t be able to survive. It is also a very positive thing that many Koreans are studying abroad because it creates a synergy effect, upgrading professional skills and schools.

Do you think that Koreans are falling behind?
Koreans are not behind at all, but compared to Americans, they have a tendency to want their superiors to tell them what to do instead of thinking of ways to influence and impress the leader.
But that is changing with the younger generation.

What are your plans for Motorola Korea this year?
Motorola was recognized by consumers in the analog age but we lost ground as gadgets became digital and consumers forgot who we are. The only way to recover that image is by providing more products.

Does that mean we’ll be seeing more brands released this year?
Yes. Advertising is a means, but in the end, you have to release more handsets.


By Wohn Dong-hee Staff Writer [wohn@joongang.co.kr]



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