How Samsung electronics made the transition from a consumer electronics dwarf to a global brand is a well-told story. Over the past decade, Samsung has ascended to the status of media darling and envy of the industry as it has transformed itself into the world-leading supplier of everything from consumer electronics to PCs to wireless handsets to flat-panel displays to memory and semiconductors.
Less well-known, however, is the story of how Samsung, based in Seoul, South Korea, achieved its current supremacy by battling Japanese companies on their own turf—consumer electronics and memory chips. Samsung co-opted the Japanese playbook, which calls for a commitment to win at any cost, and eventually beat Japan at its own game.
Deeply rooted in Japan
After languishing for years on the sidelines, watching Japan's technology giants score big, Samsung indeed adopted a new strategy: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em—then beat 'em."
Jong Yong Yun, former vice chairman and CEO at Samsung Electronics and now the company's permanent advisor, personifies that strategy.
Yun, protg of Samsung Group's legendary former chairman Kun Hee Lee, spent five years in Japan. He was first sent to Japan in 1978 to head the company's branch office there. In 1992, Yun returned to Japan as president and CEO of Samsung Tokyo headquarters.
Yun, who deftly switched among Japanese, English and Korean during a recent interview with EE Times, spoke nostalgically of his days in Tokyo.