Realizing an old patriot’s dream

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Realizing an old patriot’s dream

As times change, management policies do, too. Lee Byung-chull, the late founder of Samsung, stood by “business patriotism.”

He said, “A company is committing a crime against the country when it does not make a profit.” The “man of steel” Park Tae-joon lived by “steel patriotism” - a resolution to pay back the country by making steel, the “rice of industry.” In an age when the national income was not even close to that of North Korea, at less than $200, these heroes directed their efforts to help “the nation.” It was an age of patriotism. Nobody would dare to dream of driving a foreign-made car under the circumstances, and even foreign cigarettes were subject to restrictions.

But as Korean industry grew to depend overwhelmingly on exports, the attitudes of its people changed. This is an international age that places importance on mutual benefits. The government has purchased foreign vehicles for diplomatic occasions, and restrictions on foreign cigarettes have been weakened. We had to buy if we wanted to sell. This created a tight multinational network, and since the 1988 Seoul Olympics, we have lived in this global age.

The word that has gone missing in this long transition? “National.”

Management policies and mottos also change to match the times. Global companies like Samsung and LG no longer speak of the “nation.” They speak of “customer satisfaction” and “reaching customers.”

They do not mean just domestic customers, but consumers from around the world.

Former dean of Yonsei University Song Ja emphasized, “The world is one market, and you cannot survive unless you are No. 1 in the world.”

Following this trend, Posco has announced a new “Posco way” motto - a change from their 40-year-old motto of “steel patriotism.”

Former Chairman Chung Ju-yung of Hyundai is the perfect example of the hardships of modernization. He was a bulldozer who famously said that there may be pain, but there is no failure. He was always asking, “Have you tried it?”

However, he never owned a comprehensive steel mill. Yesterday, his son, Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group chairman Chung Mong-koo, held the opening ceremony of the first Hyundai comprehensive steel mill. He realized the dream of the older generation after 32 years. His motto is somewhere in between the patriotic one of his father and the customer-focused one of the future.

This was “quality management.” He fired the shaft furnace with a passion for “zero defects,” even handling parts himself. Above all, this vision is said to have created 170,000 jobs and stimulated production worth 24 trillion won ($21.4 billion). This is the modern version of steel patriotism, and I look forward to a year of new ideas and a rich harvest of the new “rice of industry.”

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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