No one can enjoy victory forever

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No one can enjoy victory forever

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I had a chance to interview Kenichi Ohmae, an internationally renowned business consultant and economic commentator, seven years ago in Tokyo. The two-hour-long interview was especially memorable because I asked questions without reservation, and he gave straightforward answers. When I thanked him after the interview, he said, “I did my best, and so did you.” It was a satisfying experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

I asked various questions, but one that I still remember is the discussion about Samsung Electronics and Sony. The net profit of Samsung Electronics was already greater than that of Sony. Nevertheless, he continued to make critical comments about the Korean economy. I was bothered by his arrogance and presented him with hard data on how Korea was starting to outpace Japan.

When he couldn’t avoid it anymore, he acknowledged Samsung’s success but used absurd reasoning to conclude that Samsung Electronics could not be seen as a Korean company. He argued that Samsung is Korean only on the surface and is closer to a Japanese company because of the strengths it drew from its Japanese counterparts. He said Samsung Electronics was connected to Japan through an umbilical cord because Samsung is the largest importer of Japanese products in Korea.

Recently, Sony announced a plan to lay off 10,000 workers. Last year, Sony suffered a deficit of 520 billion yen ($6.4 billion) during its fourth consecutive year in the red. Samsung, on the other hand, earned about 5.8 trillion won ($5.1 billion) in profit in the first quarter. I wonder what Ohmae would say about the fates of the two companies now.

But even as its iconic Sony declines, Japan is a more developed country than Korea. Political chaos hinders its growth, but still, Japan is an economic and cultural power. This was made obvious after spending just a few days in Japan.

So we must simply realize that the world is full of ups and downs and that success can be measured in different ways. Samsung Electronics is thriving today, but no one knows how long the success will last. Sony is troubled now, but the situation may change any time.

No winner can enjoy victory forever. Rather, it is more important to simply fulfill one’s duties. Businessmen should abide by rules and do their best to turn profit. Problems arise when they neglect their own duties and focus on other things.


The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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