Samsung, the huge corporation known around the world for high-tech mobile phones,
flat-screen-TVs and huge merchant ships, is being rocked by another scandal that has renewed concerns about the power and influence of the “Republic of Samsung.” In South Korea many call Samsung this in deference to its size and worldwide exposure, and take great pride in the conglomerate.
“Samsung has two faces,” Kim Byung-su, the editorial page editor at the liberal Hankyoreh newspaper wrote. “The Samsung brand is a name recognized worldwide and makes you proud. Take a step back, however, and there is another Samsung.”
The latest scandal was broke by Kim Yong-chul, a former top Samsung lawyer. Yong-chul went public with allegations that Chairman Lee Kun-hee and others masterminded a campaign to raise slush funds to pay prosecutors, judges and lawmakers and influence high-profile court cases. Prosecutors have started to investigate the allegations. Samsung says the bribery charges are false and groundless. Elected officials across the political spectrum have called for an independent counsel, saying a probe by prosecutors could not be objective, given that they are alleged to have accepted bribes.
For many in South Korea Samsung is more than a corporation, it is a distinctive part of the nation. They can make a mobile call on their Samsung handset while sitting in an apartment built by Samsung and eating a snack from a Samsung refrigerator. While on vacation, Koreans can stay in a Samsung hotel to visit a Samsung amusement park, and pay for it all with a Samsung credit card.
‘It means South Korea,” said Jang Ha-sung, dean of the business school at Korea University. “If something goes wrong with Samsung that will have an immediate impact on every corner of Korea,” he added. “It’s not just because it is big, nor is it just because it is one of the multinational corporations we have. Because Samsung is embedded in the whole society.”
“All Koreans like Samsung,” said Ko Young-hun, who sells phones at a small shop in Seoul’s electronics market. He cited their quality and design as well as thorough post-purchase service.