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The engine that drives South Korea

The Dec. 10 front-page article “S. Korea debates power of Samsung” spotlighted the anti-conglomerate sentiment that some in South Korea hold. More attention should have been paid to the myriad contributions made by such large companies.

Samsung and other “chaebol,” or large conglomerates, began to receive government support during the 1960s, when the South Korean economy was struggling to recover from the Korean War. The unique structure of such a system made up for missing economic institutions and a lack of capital, helping to propel South Korea out of a devastating economic slump to a position of industrial leadership. The chaebol business model continues to prove successful today.

The growth experienced by Samsung has also brought benefits overseas. Samsung Group directly employs hundreds of thousands of people and provides business for many small- and medium-size companies, all while contributing “roughly a fifth” of South Korea’s gross domestic product — a fact that The Post curiously framed as negative. Samsung Electronics alone employs more than 221,000 people, 54 percent of them outside of South Korea.

The article cited Samsung critics as saying that the company limits “choice for Korean consumers.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Thanks in part to the company’s success, Samsung is able to invest heavily to drive innovation and provide quality products across a broad spectrum of price points for consumers at home and around the world.

Keon-hyok Lee, Seoul

The writer is senior vice president of Samsung Global Communications Group.

© The Washington Post Company