Success all boils down to the peopleUpon watching the movie “Assassination,” I thought I had forgotten about the suffering, sacrifices and heroism of our nation’s independence fighters.
I realized earlier this month that I had forgotten about Lee Byung-chul, Chung Ju-yung and Koo In-hwoi - or at least not given them much thought. Their stories are still relevant and inspiring. Lee, Samsung’s founder, ignored opposition from investors and challenged the semiconductor business at age 73. Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung sold two oil tankers before he even had a shipbuilding yard, and LG founder Koo In-hwoi was an electronics industry pioneer, introducing the first radio and television to Korea.
While people are fascinated by Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Korea’s tycoons have more dramatic stories. They built world-class companies with their bare hands on the back of the devastation of colonization and World War II. They truly are legends.
But all these stories are bygone dreams and old songs. We awoke in the 21st century to a Korea in crisis and the president continues to call for an economic overhaul. We all talk about the seriousness of youth unemployment, the ordeal of early retirement and the bankruptcy risks for small businesses. The decline of the manufacturing sector, the export crisis and the threat from China are dispiriting. However, the independence fighters saw undying hope in chaos. Lee and Chung built business empires in a much worse environment. We may be too scared now, underestimating our own caliber.
Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon said that the only way to get out of the crisis is to readopt that founding spirit. It’s the best strategy to start anew. So let us brood over the challenges Lee and Chung faced, and let’s study those who helped them accomplish their visions.
The legends that are Samsung and Hyundai were created by men who were well educated and had the determination to succeed. The growth engine for the next century is not semiconductors or automobiles, but people. The well-educated and visionaries with dreams are Korea’s engines. Just like 70 years ago, Korea’s best asset is the public.
We need to invest more on people to allow them to succeed. That’s why it is especially regrettable and tragic that 410,000 young Koreans between ages 20 and 29 are without jobs. Korean education has been lost now for quite some time. At this rate, the growth engine that is our people may die away. We don’t have much time left to plan Korea’s next 100 years.
The author is a business news reporter
for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 19, Page 30
by KIM JUN-HYUN