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`Emperor` Steve Jobs

Posted July. 13, 2010 12:52,   


A bad guy indifferently parks his car in a parking spot for the disabled and his staff complains of his dictatorial style. He was even kicked out of the company he founded, but returned 12 years later after it was on the verge of collapse in 1997. He eventually revived the company as the world’s top IT powerhouse this year, beating Microsoft. This is the story of Apple founder Steven Jobs. Fortune magazine ranked him as one of the 50 smartest people in technology last week.

What Jobs has introduced is not merely new high-tech gadgets, but “killer apps that have revolutionized conventional markets and created a new business order. He has repeatedly challenged social prejudices doubting whether such products will sell and keeps taking risks. When he introduced the Macintosh in 1984, he ushered in the first technological revolution of using an innovative user interface. The iPod, introduced in 2001, heralded the second revolution of the era of legal digital music. Six years later, the iPhone began the third revolution of integrating hardware and software in a cell phone. The iPad, a tablet PC which hit the market this year, is reshaping the map of the IT industry while going beyond the arena of notebook PCs and smartphones.

Could an innovator like Jobs emerge in Korea as well? Not as long as young people blindly seek to get jobs at conglomerates and state-run companies. Harmony among staff is considered the top priority in such established corporate environments. Personnel managers are complaining, saying new hires are smart but too selfish. Steven Jobs has remained highly independent and self-righteous since his younger days. His friends say that when he lost a game, he would cry because he could not appease his own anger. On if a Steven Jobs could emerge in Korea, a personnel affairs executive at a global electronics company in Korea said after a brief silence, “Jobs created his own firm.”

Ahn Chul-soo, a first-generation IT pioneer in Korea, teaches entrepreneurship as a

chair professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST. He said he mentions Jobs in his lectures. “When I did that, half of my students changed their career paths, saying they’ll open their own startups. At first, I felt worried,” he said. Saying entrepreneurship is the engine powering the economy, he said, “A Korean Apple can emerge when an environment is created where an ample pool of talented human resources seeks to take on challenges.” Such human resources, however, first need a challenging spirit to try again even if they fail. Also needed is flexibility to accept the erratic behavior of people like Jobs as being different.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)