Friday, February 14, 2014

Is Samsung Really a Hallmark of South Korean Globalization?

A global leader in industrial design, Samsung Group, the largest South Korean business conglomerate, is widely known as a major icon of Korean culture. Although it is relatively globalized and does benefit from globalization, some say that Samsung cannot be an effective force for advancing Korean economic interests and society on the international level.


The Korean bobsleigh team meets the Jamaican bobsleigh team at Winter Olympics in Sochi

The chief reason: in Korean politics, globalization is not a very popular issue. Many Koreans feel that the country should be more concerned about its citizens than about foreigners; thus, Samsung is hesitant to support an issue that is so controversial. It wants to be socially responsible and does not want to strongly advocate a matter that could alienate its primary customers and supporters. Unless globalization is a means for nationalism, it will continue to be deprioritized.

Another major limitation of Samsung’s role as the foremost “globalizer” of Korean society is that Samsung has other, more important interests. Although Samsung wants to export as much as it can, its real goal is to monopolize the Korean market. Only when it’s confident that it can keep its domestic market will Samsung exert real effort in globalizing.


The Apple iPhone, the main competition for many smartphones

Additionally, why Samsung seemingly can’t be an effective force for globalization is because it’s completely “Korean”. Samsung produces everything on its own and dominates hardware production. Although Samsung can increase production quickly and take advantage of the latest technology, the company is so dependent on one source of production.

As well, one of the biggest problems is Samsung’s corporate governance: its top management members are all Korean. While we can debate what it means to be an Asian man in the Western business world, the influx and variety of ideas and perspectives are relatively limited and localized as those in charge are of Korean heritage. Samsung itself is not globalized: through and through, it’s a Korean company, from the top to the bottom of its structure.

This leads to yet another significant limitation: Samsung’s success. Ironically, Samsung has become so successful in recent years (partly through globalization) that many people in Korea feel that change is unnecessary. Why are foreigners needed when Koreans, by themselves, are doing so well? This leads to a situation where Korean society and Samsung are in a standstill: the lesson that many Koreans have extracted from Samsung’s success is that the Korean way is the best way.

Some question Samsung’s sustainability as a truly global company because it is based on Korea’s authoritarian culture, where a company worker can earn a lot of money in the “system” – as long as he follows the rules and focuses steadily on the ladder. Related to its uncertain future, Samsung’s design is also a potential concern, as it is for many companies who compete with the coveted Apple sleekness.

Regardless, Samsung is a stronghold in Korea, and it’s rapidly growing internationally. We can only wait to see what’s next in its development.

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