저작권자 © Korea IT Times 무단전재 및 재배포 금지
Samsung's Way Samsung Electronics' $33-billion plan to build the world's largest semiconductor cluster attracts interest in two important ways. If everything goes as planned, Samsung will surpass Intel to emerge as the No. 1 chipmaker in the world by 2012, making a great contribution to the national economy. Still, one can't help but notice the recent announcement came as its parent group is embroiled in unprecedented controversy over corporate governance issues. These contrasting points indicate the direction Samsung should take in the future. Samsung's plan extends its successful strategy over the past three decades: to preempt the market and technology through bold, advanced investments. This is in stark contrast to some Japanese rivals' moves to cut workforces and close plants in major restructuring. Any business strategy has its risks and promises, but we hope Samsung's confidence reflects correct industrial forecast on demand and competition. It was keen insight and bold entrepreneurship that made Samsung jump into this industry in 1974 despite strong objections. However, Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who has made all of the key decisions, is not here now. Lee has been in the United States for weeks for medical treatment but there are suspicions that he is distancing himself from domestic scandals, including illegal lobbying and tax-free inheritance of managerial control. Critics even say the largest-ever investment plan is just another publicity stunt to diminish "Samsung bashing." The plan just pieces together annual capital spending that would have been done anyway, critics say. We hope not. Nor do we think Samsung has violated laws in governing 64 affiliates through a complex web of circular shareholdings. There are too many top-class lawyers and former bureaucrats within the group to allow such a mistake. Even if Samsung violated some rules, it may not be the only family-controlled conglomerate to do so. President Roh Moo-hyun was wrong when he said Samsung has problems not because it violated laws but because public sentiment disapproved of its behavior. But the president was right in calling for a compromise between the government and the powerful chaebol. This is not just because a prolonged struggle between the nation's political and economic powers would weaken its recession-stricken economy further. Rather, the people want to see at least one company with global corporate might and business ethics. Likewise, Koreans hoped to have at least one respectable president in Kim Dae-jung without rumors about his lobbying for a Nobel Prize. There may be no single answer for good corporate governance, and only performances can tell. People are not anti-business but antichaebol. To be precise, they are not against chaebol but their unethical or unrespectable aspects. It would be best for Samsung to rectify own problems before being forced to do so either by ruling elites or "genuine" public sentiment.