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[Editorial] Korean Companies have not been Idle

Posted March. 04, 2005 22:38,   


Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd., and Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd received an order worth more than $10 billion of 44 liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships from Qatargas (Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Ltd.) in the Middle East. Approximately 1,000 graduate students flocked to a hall at Harvard University in the U.S., where Samsung Electronics President Hwang Chang-gyu gave a special lecture, to learn the secrets of his company’s success in the semiconductors business. The Harvard MBA program also selected Samsung’s success story regarding semiconductors as the case study subject of “managerial strategy,” a required class at the school. This welcomed news indicates that Korean companies have been working very strenuously to renovate themselves and make inroads into the global market, while the political circles have been busy, involved in useless ideology disputes.

LNG ships are high-value-added ships; it costs $250 million to build each ship and it boasts a margin rate of 15 percent. Presently, upwards of 90 percent among LNG ship orders worldwide are received by Korean firms. Korea also has ranked at the top since 1999 in terms of the percentage of all types of ship orders. Yet, the Korean shipbuilding corporations’ great accomplishments have not come all of a sudden. Rather, their success is a result of their incessant energy and labor. They have put forth far greater efforts than their rival companies in other countries to develop technologies and keenly manufactured ship models that customers wanted.

“American brains” who went to take Hwang’s lecture outnumbered those who went to see Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Some of those who took Hwang’s lecture even said, “Samsung’s success is the pride of Asia.”

Then, one might ask, how are Korean companies that have been recognized on the international stage being treated locally? As for the government, it sees corporations as the subjects of regulation and intervention. For their part, some civil groups take companies as the public enemy. In other words, the anachronistic perception that the companies are greedy and society-harming and the belief that they should be restricted and suppressed remain intact.

The government has belatedly stepped forward and said, “Let us learn from companies,” acknowledging how much harmfully anti-corporate sentiment can afflict the economy. Yet, Korea has already paid too high a price. President Roh Moo-hyun said during his visit to Brazil last November, “Companies are real patriots,” a remark that should have been made far earlier. Though overdue, the government should help change the working conditions and atmosphere so that enterprises can concentrate on their business. A country can survive and thrive only when its companies succeed. The Republic of Korea can assume a high standing in the world only when there are more internationally respected companies like Samsung Electronics.