Foreign businesspeople are often complimentary and envious of South Korea’s success and potential. They not only recognize the rapid growth achieved in the past, which is represented by the “miracle of Han River,” but also the current potential that South Korean companies have. A close relationship between Deutsche Telekom AG CEO Timotheus Höttges of Germany and SK Telecom of South Korea began in 2016 at the Mobile World Congress. The German CEO saw all services he wanted to realize then – AI, map system, pet service, etc. – were showcased at the SK Telecom’s booth, which was located right next to his company’s, and came over to the South Korean company’s management.
There are many areas in which South Korea is ranked No. 1 in the world, despite its relatively small populations of 50 million. Five out of 10 TVs sold globally in the second quarter of this year were Samsung Electronics’ or LG Electronics’ based on sales. Sony of Japan, which South Korean companies once looked up to, only accounts for 8.8 percent in the global TV market.
LG Electronics was ranked No. 1 in the world in home appliances, including washer, dryer, and wireless vacuum cleaner, based on the sales of the first half of this year, beating Whirlpool Corporation of the U.S. Samsung Electronics has been one of the most dominant players in the U.S. home appliances market for 13 consecutive quarters. There's even no need to mention smartphones and DRAM semiconductors, which have been South Korea's strong suits over the many years.
Hyundai Motor Group's three brands – Genesis, Hyundai, and Kia – were ranked from No. 1 to No. 3 in the 2019 Initial Quality Study by J. D. Power, an American-based global marketing information services company.
South Korea's remarkable success is not limited to the manufacturing sector. South Korean telecom companies were the first to successfully commercialize the 5G service in the world, and the Incheon International Airport has topped the Airport Service Quality evaluation by the Airports Council International for 11 years in a row.
However, there began to exist a gap between foreign nationals’ perspective on South Korean companies and South Korean people’s internal view on them. It is only reasonable for South Korean companies to become dominant players in the domestic market to expand their business in the global market, yet they seem to be treated as guilty simply for being large companies. A sense of proudness about businesses is regarded as outdated. Large companies in South Korea were also blamed for an insufficient growth of the South Korean materials and parts industry by some politicians, which shows that large companies are the cause of systemic issues in the country. Against this backdrop, one South Korean conglomerate reflected on why they were hated in society.
Can’t we just all be proud of these companies, just like we are of South Korean celebrities or sports stars? South Koreans all cheered, without a second thought, when Kim Yuna won gold medals for her beautiful yet powerful performances at figure skating contests, which used to be considered as a sport of the western world, and when BTS won the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards this year. This might be because we consider Kim Yuna and the members of BTS as one of us and feel affectionate towards them.
Samsung and Hyundai are not so much different from these sports stars and celebrities in a sense that the companies also have achieved something remarkable in a challenging environment. South Korean representatives are among the best in the world. They deserve a sense of proudness from South Korean people.