[Viewpoint]Samsung needs to open itself upAs I watch the course of the investigation into Samsung by the independent counsel team, I cannot help but think that something is wrong. Samsung comes across as the most unethical and corrupt organization in the country. The executives are corrupt and the artwork the company keeps in storage is illegal.
Through it all, Samsung is not responding or reacting to the allegations. The biggest conglomerate in the country is acting like an embarrassed honor student who unexpectedly failed a class.
Samsung reminds me of a dinosaur. It might be too large to react quickly. Or maybe its brain is too small for its body. Because of the Samsung investigation, bribery has become the talk of the town.
There are three kinds of bribery. One is given and taken between a boss and his subordinate within an organization. The second is a bribe taken from the outside, and the last is a bribe given to someone on the outside.
The worst of the three kinds is the internal bribery, since it could cause an organization to collapse. The second worst is a bribe received from the outside, such as a manager at a company taking bribes from subcontractors. The least of the three evils is bribery as a means of lobbying those with power. Samsung has not committed the first two sorts of bribery; the controversy is being caused by the third kind.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates advocated creative capitalism. This capitalism is designed to maximize individual interests. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, estranging them. To revive capitalism, this blind spot needs to be corrected. When a company gets recognition from society due to its philanthropy, the consumer will trust the company. In the end, that maximizes the firm’s corporate interest. Both the company and society benefit from the philanthropic works.
Samsung is the first Korean company that realized the importance of such social contributions. Now, all of its efforts are in vain. It has been written off as a corrupt organization that frequently breaks the law.
In retrospect, Samsung should have respected the law and pursued a transparent management policy to gain social recognition. Instead of giving 800 billion won ($845.6 million) to charity, it should have used the money to pay the inheritance tax and gotten rid of the slush fund. Samsung should use the independent counsel investigation as a chance to reinvent itself.
Is the independent counsel team a skilled and temperate surgeon? Will Samsung be able to cope with the operation?
If a surgeon cuts up the patient’s body to find out the sore spot, he would ultimately pinpoint the affected part, but the patient could already be dead. It would be wise to conclude the investigation as quickly and appropriately as possible. However, a speedy conclusion is difficult to do, structurally.
The National Assembly passed the bill establishing the independent counsel bill. That means both the whistleblowers and the politicians who approved the investigation made political decisions. They were only worried about what would benefit their specific political faction. The citizens are not interested in the destiny of the company, either. No one has the interests of the country in mind, first and foremost, when talking about resolving the crisis. Therefore, should we let the affair continue on to an unknown conclusion?
Aside from the external factors, is there anything Samsung can do to save itself? Someone needs to take accountability and conclude the crisis quickly. If slush funds were hidden behind the names of executives, someone must have made that order. Not one of the executives summoned has stepped forward and said he ordered the establishment of the slush funds and his colleagues are innocent. One of Samsung’s corporate goals is the valuing of human talent. Is it fair that so many of those talented staff members are being treated like criminals?
Samsung’s perspective on the talents of its employees should change. If a company wants to be a global giant, it should have globalized standards for its employees, as well. Samsung should not expect its employees to be unconditionally faithful to the company. It needs people who can say no if the company is deviating from its principles and is breaking the law. If Samsung had promoted people who weren’t afraid to say no, the company could have saved itself from the disgrace.
Samsung is currently facing its biggest challenge. The more difficult the situation, the more you should stick to principles. What Samsung desperately needs is transparency and openness. How Samsung gets that transparency will determine its future.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial pages of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk