Samsung is one of the largest and most competitive corporations in the world market. Some experts say that Samsung is the only thing standing between Apple and monopoly of the smart phone market. In this battle of giants, one behavior of Koreans has conspicuously re-emerged: a blind pride and support for Korean companies.
Whether they are posts on the Internet, or conversations with friends, Koreans are always proud to support Korean companies. As if a family member would support you under any circumstances, Koreans tend to take the matter of Korean companies personally. When Korean companies excel in international markets, they perceive it as a national or even a personal victory. This type of behavior has been unusually strong in our country and it is time for us to ask why.
The very first reaction as a Korean might have to this question would be even asking why it could be problematic. Is not a little patriotism good? The growth of a domestic company yields many benefits for the country such as creating jobs, paying more tax, and ultimately economically growing the nation as a whole. Everyone acknowledges these benefits. However, the type of support shown in the Korean society exceeds this rational level of acknowledgement. People personalize Korean companies. This type of behavior is particularly peculiar since the companies that Korean people are most fond of such as Samsung or LG are now international conglomerates that are not restrained by borders or nationalities.
Is there a reasonable explanation to why the Korean people are overly obsessed with Korean companies? The answers lie within us. It goes back to the 1960s. Having been devastated to the point where the whole nation was in poverty, the Korean government emphasized the importance of working through the hardships together. In the 1970s and 80s, Park Jung Hee, the former president known for leading a successful industrialization of Korea, actively directed government investment in domestic companies to stimulate economic growth as well as encouraging the public to buy Korean products. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the companies that lead the Korean market right now grew in the protection and funding of the government. In this stage of modern Korean history, the public equated the growth of companies with overcoming national poverty, and the government promoted this idea. It is not strange that people of this generation and children who grew up during this time feel a stronger connection to Korean companies.
Fueling this perception is the underlying historical inferiority complex that Korea faces as a nation. For Korea the 20th century was a nightmare. Victimized as part of Japan’s militant colonialism, Korea was exploited economically and politically for over three decades. A large part of Japan’s program was to completely belittling and annihilating the Korean identity. Even after Korea was freed, the nation’s fate depended on other countries that fought the Korean war and the political decisions during this time was largely decided by the United States (U.S.). For the next two decades, Korea had to depend on humanitarian aid of the U.S. and other countries to even stay afloat. For a long time, Korea and its people found themselves being looked down as inferior beings or a country of poverty. Such notion lies deep within the mindset of the Korean people. Therefore, combined with the government propaganda in the 70s and 80s that promoted national growth through companies, it is leading people to overcompensate in the victory of Korean companies. For some Koreans, these are no longer Korean companies but “Korean” companies, companies with a nationality.
If Koreans understand the underlying mindset that is triggering this behavior, it is time that Koreans realize that they are taking a self defeating stance. In the current global economy, governments can no longer protect their corporations and corporations must become international to stay competitive. If Koreans continue to obsess with overcompensating through Korean companies, the only recognition we will get will be a reputation as an overly nationalistic group of people in a diverse global world. Realizing that a nation and a company are two different entities driven by two different motives will finally help them see that Korean companies are not “Korean” companies.