Samsung’s Dangerous Dominance over South Korea

Samsung’s Dangerous Dominance over South Korea

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Writing by Sam Denby and Tristan Purdy
Editing by Alexander Williard
Animation led by Josh Sherrington
Sound by Graham Haerther
Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster


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47 Responses

  1. SaltpeterTaffy says:

    This was one of the most interesting and gripping episodes you’ve ever made. The logistics of corruption tempered by pragmatism. I was glued to the screen. <3

    • headoverheels88 says:

      The craziest part to me was hearing how the Biden admin pushed for the full pardon, as the US is trying to aggressively challenge China in semi-conductors and actively courting Samsung (the second most advanced chip makes in the world) to shore new chip manufactures here in the states. I believe they plan on opening huge facility in Texas. In this case, geopolitics have trumped justice, and Samsung/the Lee family was deemed simply too big to fail. What an insanely lucky and Machiavellian family.

    • onceinawhile says:

      @Kevin Johnson how did you get it inside your head that the Korean people are somehow indebted to one rich family. It’s such a big claim to make.
      Samsung is a huge company, it doesn’t follow that this is the reason South Korea is successful, or that this is the best possible outcome, it doesn’t follow that SK wouldn’t potentially be better off without the dominance of Samsung.
      Competition is usually way better for consumers and workers than monopolies. And even IF SK’s success was only because of Samsung it doesn’t follow that Samsung is only successful because of that one family, or that it wouldn’t be more successful with more diverse ownership.

      It just seems like a dumb justification to excuse corruption.
      Actually, even IF it was true that in this specific case it’s best to overlook the corruption, that just sets a terrible precedent, as corruption is usually.. bad.
      And even IF it was true that the guy would be the best leader, if he doesn’t deserve it, or if it’s literally illegal, it’s still wrong – you’re undermining your whole legal and political system, presumably the system that enables SK to be a functioning society in the first place.

    • onceinawhile says:

      He didn’t really explain how it’s somehow pragmatic.
      “We need his leadership skills”, that sounds like a bunch of bs

    • Kevin Street says:

      With the pragmatism forced on them by the continuing state of war. Without such a pressing need to stay focused the corruption may have consumed their economic system long ago.

    • SkyraSK says:

      @GSNRecords You mean Rockefeller

  2. Squid game man says:

    As a South Korean:
    #1 very timely video. Tomorrow is college entrance exam day, which many will move on to prepare for the Samsung test mentioned. (GSAT) Samsung also has programs that recruits bright students from various universities.

    #2 South Korea is dominated by conglomerates because it was always a war economy, and will be until Korea is unified. Samsung, Hyundai, Hanwha, LG etc all take a part in producing weapons, ammunition, military vehicles etc.

    Having a small number of conglomerates was also a key component of Korea’s state-led economic growth. Samsung investing in electronics wasn’t its own doing but its allotted industry, ordered by the government. Even now long-term decisions in which future industries to invest in are often decided beforehand, so companies minimise wasting investment/R&D money competing for the same market.

    #3 I do not think Samsung’s dominance will continue for long. Its prestige and superiority is based on the international market, which is currently being competed by many firms. Samsung CEO also has a drug problem and may not be too focused on how to keep the company dominant globally long term. And given very small size of South Korea’s domestic demand, losing intl market will make Samsung suffer.

    • ChinaSongsCollection says:

      @Crowy It’s more like BOTH China AND South Korea will prevent that from happening.

      It seems that only North Koreans want reunification. Looks like both China and South Korea prefer the status quo.

    • Chang Joon says:

      not true at all. Don’t trust this bogus

    • paVlo711 says:

      someone better versed in socialist theory please clarify something for me: if this comment is accurate, specifically point #2, is South Korea essentially a planned economy in a capitalist trench coat?

    • Cheng Chi says:

      @Crowy China’s involvement in the Korean war had another (very important but rarely mentioned) aspect to it – the Soviet Union. After “winning” WWII and the the civil war, the CCP didn’t want any foreign militaries stationed in Chinese territory, if North Korea was to go bust and the united Korea was under “western control”, the Soviet Union would’ve likely demanded to station troops in Manchuria which was not ideal for Mao.

      Taking that into consideration and the fact that the Soviet Union had went bust for good, it’s unlikely that the Chinese will intervene if Korea was to be united by the south.

    • South Korean Mapping 🇰🇷 says:

      yay! because i dont have to go to that test i dont have to go to school!

  3. C V says:

    Interesting topic. Not long ago I visited South Korea and I couldn’t help to notice how fast things are being built and how modern the country is. When I did a little research I was stunned when I found out how much Samsung has invested in the country.

    • unka says:

      @C V and South Korean companies invest huge amounts of money in the US as well

    • unka says:

      @C V do you think Korea gets money?? when they have the tenth largest economy in the world???? someone’s really stupid here

    • Minkyu Kim says:

      @C V Well, US gives subsidies to SK? Dude those days are gone by decades! 😁 Now US is kinda patting South Korean conglomerates’ pockets for the government’s political interest.

    • Kairos Soteria says:

      @C V which help. USA is not helping south korea

    • Sagittarius A* says:

      @Navyseal168 China does that to get poor countries and authoritarian regimes into the debt trap – then it takes over control, plunders all resources and pollutes the country.

  4. Come Fast To Get Into My Body says:

    The Korean word “chaebol” has Sinic roots and is written in the same characters as the Japanese “zaibatsu” and literally translates to “family wealth.” The Japanese zaibatsu were powerful monopolistic conglomerates of pre-war Japan, with the most famous being Mitsubishi. They were broken up by the American Occupation Forces but later on loosely reconstituted.

  5. Daniel Lee says:

    Chaebol influence in South Korea really does run deep, especially in the economic and political aspects. From what I have researched, 50% of South Korean Gross Domestic Product (GDP) consisted of the country’s Top 5 largest chaebol conglomerates (Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SK Telecoms, and Lotte).

    Granted, thanks to policies by the Rhee, Park, and Chun presidencies/dictatorships, these companies receive government support under conditions of export requirements, in turn making the Korean economy of today. The influences chaebols have can dictate certain government policies to favours company interests.

  6. cheesecake1monster says:

    I recently watched the Vice documentary about the cancer victims at the Samsung Electronic factory and how Samsung, the government, the Ministry of Labour and the police all worked together for 11 years to take the victims to court and try deny what they did. Of course there was very little payment compared to hospital costs, court costs and labour fees paid (11m split to dozens of families) with no one sepping down or any change being made to stop corruption like that happening again.

  7. 빛나리 says:

    Actually, Korean National Pension Service is the largest shareholder in most of popular Korean companies, just as Samsung group subsidiaries. Like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK are facing same situations against Korean government. That’s why Korean government has quite a lot of power to shake over ‘chaebol’ groups.

    • Phil .W says:

      @Wireless Trav You don’t even know what socialism is lol

    • Spacemongerr says:

      @Wireless Trav Perhaps you should read a little bit about what socialism actually is. A good start might be the wikipedia article about it 🙂

    • Wireless Trav says:

      @Sherkaaa Ciii Government is shareholder. That’s fundamental socialism.

    • katt katt says:

      @Wireless Trav Social democratic economy, there is a difference. A lot of European countries have the same system, sovereign wealth and pension funds that means the government can owns shares in both domestic and foreigne companies. You many have heard of the Norwegian one which is the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world and one of the biggest funds in the world in general owning assets for over 1 trillion US dollars.

    • Sherkaaa Ciii says:

      Looks like the other way around. From this story looks like Chaebol has power over government. Lee made the government short itself by agree to merger hence devalue its holding in C&T. Will not invest in Korea ever, no rule and law, like China.

  8. Brambrew says:

    Geographically speaking, all four “East Asian Tiger” economies should be poor. Yet Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan are considered “miracle economies.”

    • TheShamefurDispray says:

      Purely due to foreign US/Israeli military industrial complex needs. These nations have 0 sovereignty and with reshoring efforts ongoing in preparation of another zionist world war the future positions of these vassal states looks bleak.

    • Bearded Sifu says:

      I wish it was called Tigers of East Asia just so an acronym of T. E. A would exist lol

    • Korakys says:

      @perfectally cromulent and yet the only truly wealthy countries in the tropics or desert climates are Singapore (dominated by people of Chinese heritage) and the Gulf states (overwhelming mineral wealth). Geography isn’t everything but clearly it is a big advantage somehow.

    • Kin Sae says:

      nah, only South Korea should have failed geographically. Hong Kong is the gateway to the west, it was never going to fail, technically its worse now, than in the past. Singapore has an amazing position geographically. Singapore fortunately was able to take advantage of it and not fall to the same issues as other impoverish countries hda before it. Taiwan was never going to fail, it was always going to be backed by the western world. Similar to Hong Kong, Taiwan has probably lost less favor on the global stage due to acceptance of position by the rest of the world. Taiwan has always been the strategic point to hold China down. It was speculated decades ago, that eventually China would be a super power house on the global stage, and Taiwan is its achilies heel.

    • Alden O says:

      @Steve J Also cursed since it is at the behest of military powers since Singapore doesn’t have the land capacity to defend itself.

  9. TheOneCleanHippy says:

    I’m an American currently living in South Korea. It is insane how much brand loyalty there is here. Literally every phone in the country is a Samsung (I’ve never seen so many foldables in my life). Every single car on the road is a Kia or Hyundai. Every appliance is an LG or Daewoo. And Lotte and Kakao are everywhere too. I’ve lived all over the world and never seen a country so loyal to its own brands. It’s actually kind of admirable.

    • unka says:

      You need to see how many younger generations use apple

    • unka says:

      @Stevia hoenheim what about the US? it’s 90% and i think it applies to most of countries

    • Andrew An says:

      @Jason South Korea is dependent on foreign markets for exports yes but not sure what that has to do with Korean companies producing things to meet Korean demands? Even if South Korea has a harder time exporting their products, they will still make products that better suit the needs of their domestic market better than foreign suppliers. Not sure what missionaries from over a 100 years ago bringing their toilets has to do with what we’re talking about today. SK is heavily dependent on American military but not sure what you mean by 100%. In a war against North Korea, it is most likely not 100%. In a war against China, it is most likely 100%.

    • Kairos Soteria says:

      americans in Korea have brand loyalty too. I bet your phone is from apple

    • Kairos Soteria says:

      @Jason stop spreading misinformation.

  10. BodaciousChad says:

    The whole thing is predicated on their ability to predict their own deaths. They’ll always be one heart attack/plane crash/stepped on a lego at 3am/rock in their shoe/wet sock/OD away from dissolution.

    • Shankar Ravikumar says:

      His father is rumored to have died many years ago, but not official declared so. So yes, they can ‘predict’ their own deaths, in the sense that they can control when they’re official considered dead and hence liable for paying for the inheritance taxes.

    • Falling Pictures Productions says:

      If your rich and well connected enough, your untimely death can be covered up for months ala Weekend and Bernie’s as long as it’s not something like a high-profile plane crash. In those months the family can quickly prepare and reevaluate their positions to maintain control.

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