The Rise of Samsung

A quick look into one of the world’s biggest corporations

samsungOver the past few decades, there is one company that has consistently been getting bigger and more noticeable in the international community – Samsung. Many people in the UK will undoubtedly have heard of this company. From TVs and laptops to the leading mobile phones, Samsung products can be found everywhere in the UK. While many will know of the name Samsung, not many will know anything about the company itself.  So let’s start at the beginning…..

It’s amazing to think that this company started off in 1938 as a small trading company with just 40 employees, dealing in groceries and noodle production. Lee Byung Chul, the founder of what was then known as Samsung Sanghoe, moved to Seoul in 1947. However, he was soon forced to go to Busan and start a sugar refining company as a name of Cheil Jedang due to the Korean War. In 1954 Lee founded Cheil Mojik and built the largest woolen mill ever in the Daegu countryside. It was then that Lee’s company started to resemble a large corporation. Lee was clearly an ambitious and clever man who focused on industrialisation and diversification, and by the 1960s had his Samsung Group dealing in electronics. In the 1960s, there were several divisions related to electronics, but they were brought together in 1980s to form Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. What really moved Samsung forward was the amount that was put into research and development in the 1980s and 1990s, and it was here that they started to invest in building factories and plants in other countries. Rising as an international corporation, several subsidiaries of the Samsung Group were sold off so the three industries of electronics, chemicals and engineering could be concentrated on. By 1992, Samsung has become the largest producer of memory chips in the world, by 1995 had built its first Liquid-Crystal Display (LCD) screen and in 2005 overtook Sony as one of the world’s most popular consumer brands. Now, Samsung has become so successful that if it were a country, in 2006 it would have the world’s 35th largest economy (source)! A much more detailed history can be read here (wiki page used as primary source).

1938 Samsung logo oldDid you know that the name Samsung (originally from the Korean Hanji 三星) means “three stars“? Three is significant as it represents something big and powerful and is “the nation’s favourite number”, and the stars represent eternity (source). How poetic!
The “three stars” can be seen on the noodle logo from the late 1930s.

Green peace rant chart 2011


So, Samsung are obviously a powerful corporation, but just how large are they? Looking at CNN’s Global 500 (ranking of the world’s largest corporations), Samsung Electronics are at number 22 for 2011, with a revenue of $133,781 million. (roughly £100, 646 million). What’s even more outstanding is that its position on CNN’s Global 500 has risen 10 places from last year, where it was at a rank of 32. Not only are they big shots in this aspect, but they have a global rank of 22 in the Green Rankings, which looks at environmental rankings. Samsung comes in fourth place in Greenpeace’s 2011 Smartphone Supplier Green Ranking (they had originally tied first place with Nokia during October). Also this year, Dow Jones named Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd as the World’s most sustainable technology company in their 2011 Dow Jones sustainability Index (DJSI) reflecting its industry-leading performance across a range of economic, environmental and social criteria” (source).

But what about Samsung and the UK?

Samsung established itself as a big player in the UK mobile market when it introduced the first dual screen flip mobile to us in the form of the silver and blue screen A800 back in 2000. Three years later, Samsung upgrades their dual screen feature with a camera. Does anyone remember this awesome advert?

Now Samsung is constantly in battle with the big guns such as Apple and the BBC reports that Samsung had overtaken Apple in smartphone shipments in October “Samsung shipped 27.8 million smartphones in the three-month period [July-September], compared with 17.1 million from Apple and 16.8 million from Nokia.” Not only are Samsung doing very well in the smartphone market, but Samsung’s Q3 sales figures for laptops this year show an increase of 39% from their Q3 sales last year (source).  Samsung also has a product in nearly ALL the Top gadget charts of popular UK Gadget mags such as T-3 and Stuff in forms of TV, Blu-ray players and home cinema systems. Not forgetting the huge range of Samsung home appliances available too, what can’t you do Samsung?! Another fun fact: Samsung was also first to introduce the dual screen digital cameras to us, the PL150. We’re starting to see a theme here…

The Rise of Samsung

Looking at other areas of Samsung, they have also got involved with the UK charity scene. For instance, this year they were the headline sponsor of Cancer Research UK’s ‘The Swim’ initiative and Samsung are also sponsors in the 2012 Olympics, where they will be the official sponsor in the wireless communications equipment category (source). Samsung, you have your fingers in a lot of pies! In the UK, Samsung doesn’t feel like a foreign company at all. It’s so ingrained into our daily lives that hearing the name ‘Samsung’ seems commonplace. Quite possibly, many of the Christmas presents you may buy or be given this year will be a Samsung product. However, even though many know the Samsung name and what they do and produce in general, the UK is still unaware of some of the most important aspects of the company. Namely that it’s a South Korean company, and not Japanese. Quite a lot of people I know think that Samsung is a Japanese company, which drives South Korean people I know to despair. I even found this rather amusing Facebook group devoted to this. This isn’t just the UK though, it seems quite a lot of people from around the globe are confused as to Samsung’s origins (for example here). It looks like many people still presume that Japan and the USA are the centres of technological advancements, but it is readily being seen that “South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, with [high] broadband penetration and very active cell phone providers. In many ways, it’s more advanced than the U.S [source]”.  The capital city Seoul, is also one of the best connected cities in the world, with the government now pushing to have the whole capital enabled with FREE wifi which includes all outdoor open spaces and transportation (source)!!! In comparison, we can’t even get mobile reception on the underground yet… So although Samsung may be able to boast its technology, and many people are aware of their credentials as a company, many are unaware to the origin of it and where it all began. Which is a shame really, as the story behind the company, and it’s small beginnings is an interesting one. So next time you’re out at the shops or flicking through a catalogue, and you see the Samsung logo, give a thought to Mr. Lee, without who, I would not have my new Samsung Galazy S2! (NB – I do apologise if any of the facts and figures are wrong, it seems there are about a million articles coming out each day with differing stats for Samsung so it’s hard to keep up)


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