Hoam’s pioneering spirit

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Hoam’s pioneering spirit

Today marks the 100th year since the birth of one of the greatest modern entrepreneurs the country has seen, Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull.

Samsung Group, as well as other business and social organizations, has taken the moment to contemplate the business philosophy and accomplishments of the entrepreneur, nicknamed “Hoam.” The accolade for a kingpin of “Korea Inc.” is rightfully due. Together with Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, Hoam helped to shape the country’s modern economy and bring about rags-to-riches industrialization.

Lee had been born in the year when the country was forcibly annexed into Japan. He incubated a business vision growing up in a colonized society and weathered the turbulence of post-colonial rule and a civil war.

He turned his business into the country’s largest in just 10 years. Samsung remained the country’s top conglomerate until Lee’s death in 1987. His legacy survived with the group and his son and successor, Lee Kun-hee, who extended the group to foreign frontiers and turned it into a global household name.

But even for a successful entrepreneur like Hoam, gains were not without pain. He recalled his life had been a “long, painful course.” But unceasing pioneering and innovation kept him “running a marathon course of life with all his might, as if in a sprint.”

Hoam’s perennial spirit of energy and passion should not stay within the boundaries of Samsung. All young entrepreneurs should learn from him. Our economy is at a crossroad with sluggish investment, few growth-generating future industries and worsening unemployment. The core of corporate lethargy lies with lack of entrepreneurship.

Despite warnings that semiconductors could jeopardize the entire group, Hoam staked everything on the nascent technology, claiming that the future of the company as well as the country depended it. If he saw his corporate descendants today, he would probably scorn them for taking the easy way. He would also stress his life-long business philosophy that a company should pursue fields that can contribute to its nation.

Hoam also emphasized talent and people, saying that the people are the company. He hired employees based on capabilities and efficiency rather than schooling or their backgrounds.

If companies all follow Hoam’s people-first philosophy, the nation’s elitism and obsession with university backgrounds may ease. Bans on favoritism, rigid employee training programs, efficient personnel appointment and diversification are all part of his valuable legacy.

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