The History of Samsung (1938-Present)

Who Founded Samsung, When Samsung Was Created, and Other Facts

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The Samsung Group is a South Korea-based conglomerate company that includes a number of subsidiaries. It's one of the largest businesses in Korea, producing nearly one-fifth of the country’s total exports with a primary focus in the electronics, heavy industry, construction, and defense industries.

Other major subsidiaries of Samsung include insurance, advertising, and entertainment industry businesses.

Samsung History

With only 30,000 won (about $27 USD), Lee Byung-chull started Samsung on March 1 in 1938, as a trading company based in Taegu, Korea. The small company of only 40 employees started as a grocery store, trading and exporting goods produced in and around the city, like dried Korean fish and vegetables, as well as its own noodles.

The company grew and soon expanded to Seoul in 1947 but left once the Korean War broke out. After the war, Lee started a sugar refinery in Busan that was called Cheil Jedang, before expanding into textiles and building the (then) largest woolen mill in Korea.

The successful diversification became a growth strategy for Samsung, which rapidly expanded into the insurance, securities, and retail business. Samsung was focused on the redevelopment of Korea after the war with a central focus on industrialization.

Samsung entered the electronics industry in the 1960's with the formation of several electronics focused divisions. The initial electronics divisions included Samsung Electronics Devices, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung Corning, and Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications. Samsung built their initial facilities in Suwon, South Korea, in 1970, where they started producing black and white television sets.

Between 1972 and 1979, Samsung began selling washing machines, changed to Samsung Petrochemical and then Samsung Heavy Industries, and by 1976, had sold its 1 millionth B&W television.

In 1977, they started exporting color TVs and established Samsung Construction, Samsung Fine Chemicals, and Samsung Precision Co. (now called Samsung Techwin). By 1978, Samsung had sold 4 million black and white television sets and started mass producing microwave ovens before 1980.

1980 to Present

In 1980, Samsung entered the telecommunications hardware industry with the purchase of Hanguk Jenja Tongsin. Initially building telephone switchboards, Samsung expanded into telephone and fax systems which eventually shifted to mobile phone manufacturing.

The mobile phone business was grouped together with Samsung Electronics which began to invest heavily in research and development throughout the 1980's. During this time Samsung Electronics expanded to Portugal, New York, Tokyo, England, and Austin, Texas.

In 1987 with the death of Lee Byung-chull, the Samsung group was separated into four business groups leaving the Samsung Group with electronics, engineering, construction, and most high-tech products. Retail, food, chemicals, logistics, entertainment, paper, and telecom were spun out among the Shinsegae Group, CJ Group, and Hansol Group.

Samsung grew as an international corporation throughout the 1990's. The construction division of Samsung secured several high-profile construction projects, including one of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Taipei 101 in Taiwan and the half-mile tall Burj Khalifa Tower in the UAE.

Samsung 's engineering division also includes Samsung Techwin, an aerospace manufacturer that manufactures aircraft engines and gas turbines as well as supplying parts used in jet engines on Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

In 1993, Samsung began to focus on three industries — electronics, engineering, and chemicals. The reorganization included selling off ten subsidiaries and downsizing. With a renewed focus in electronics, Samsung invested in LCD technology, becoming the largest manufacturer of LCD panels in the world by 2005.

Sony partnered with Samsung in 2006 to develop a stable supply of LCD panels for both companies, which had been an increasing problem for Sony, which had not invested in large LCD panels. While the partnership was nearly a 50-50 split, Samsung owned one share more than Sony, giving them control over the manufacturing. At the end of 2011, Samsung bought Sony's stake in the partnership and took full control.

Samsung's focus in the future is centered on five core businesses including mobile, electronics and biopharmaceuticals. As part of its bio-pharma investment, Samsung formed a joint venture with Biogen, investing $255 million to provide technical development and biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in South Korea. Samsung has budgeted nearly $2 billion in additional investment to pursue their bio-pharma growth strategy and leverage the advantages of their joint venture.

Samsung has also continued to expand in the mobile phone market, becoming the largest manufacturer of mobile phones in 2012. To remain a dominant manufacturer, Samsung has earmarked $3-4 billion to upgrade their Austin Texas semiconductor manufacturing facility.

Samsung announced the Gear VR in September 2014, which is a virtual reality device developed for use with the Galaxy Note 4. Also in 2014, Samsung announced that they would begin selling fiber optics to glass manufacturer Corning Inc.

By 2015, Samsung had more US patents approved than any other company, being granted over 7,500 utility patents before the end of the year.

Samsung released a fitness smartwatch in 2016 called Gear Fit 2, as well as wireless earbuds called Gear Icon X. By the end of the year, the Gear G3 smartwatch was announced. In late 2017, the company continued to release products: The Galaxy Note 8 was a particular triumph for the company, which had struggled with manufacturing issues during the release of the Galaxy Note 7.