Samsung sleeps with eyes open

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Samsung sleeps with eyes open

When Choi Ji-seong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, asked Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee why he was chosen for the second-highest post at the high-tech giant, Lee answered: “You studied social sciences in college, didn’t you?”

Choi had studied international trade at Seoul National University, in sharp contrast with other CEOs of the company who majored in natural science or engineering.

At a time when Samsung Electronics was overpowered by the Apple iPhone, Lee made the drastic decision to put Choi into the position because he believed that a new technological era demands creativity and software beyond the realm of technology. After his appointment, Lee declared a de facto war on the industry to gain unrivaled competitiveness in the field and the company released the popular Galaxy smartphone series.

The company’s achievements since then have been marvelous. Since topping Nokia - once a mobile phone juggernaut - in mobile phone sales last year, Samsung has become the world’s biggest IT company with total sales of 164 trillion won (141.7 billion) and operating profits of 16 trillion won, mostly thanks to uninterrupted success in its semiconductor and LCD exports, and to the Galaxy sequels’ remarkable success in the world market.

But the world No. 1 will not be able to avoid its downfall unless it is awake, as demonstrated by Nokia, which has suddenly turned into a target for mergers and acquisitions.

Choi has said he still strives to always be awake. He said he almost sleeps with his eyes open, in order to keep up his guard against potential rivals and stay alert so he doesn’t become complacent. We must keep his statement in mind if we want to maintain our competitiveness in today’s ever-tougher economic environment.

In our society, however, jealousy of conglomerates is still rampant. At times like this, it is important for them to concentrate on their job to make more profits through the use of excellent management skills and to look for a new growth engine for a prosperous future. The common denominator in fiscal crisis-stricken European countries is a scarcity of internationally competitive businesses and an abundance of welfare populism. The backbone of a nation’s prosperity is private companies. Top-notch global companies like Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor, LG and Posco should move on. That’s the key to our country’s prosperous future.
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