People Need Their Stuff and Korea's Got It

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Establishing Trends and Defining the Bleeding Edge is Korea's Electronics Industry's Forte
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
People need their stuff. Before the onset of the global financial crisis, not only were people buying houses that they couldn't afford, in addition they were refinancing their homes and using the money to buy stuff. Cars, TVs, computers, satellite radio, cameras & camcorders , home audio & cinema, DVD / Blueray players, cell phones and a plethora of other tech gadgets - the list goes on. Consumers wanted it, it was there and they bought it. Chances are, a lot of that stuff came from Korea.

While the rest of the world was trying to figure out how to leverage technology to improve their business, Korea was figuring out to keep them cool while they were doing it - with a Goldstar fan. According to the LG's official history, the founder Koo In-Hwoi established Lak-Hui Chemical Industrial Corp. in 1947.  In 1952, Lak-Hui (pronounced "Lucky", currently LG Chem) became the first Korean company to enter the plastics industry. As the company expanded its plastics business, it established GoldStar Co., Ltd., (currently LG Electronics Inc.) in 1958. Goldstar produced South Korea's first radio. Many consumer electronics were sold under the brand name GoldStar, while some other household products (not available outside South Korea) were sold under the brand name of Lucky. The Lucky brand was famous for its line of hygiene products, such as soaps and Hi-Ti laundry detergents, but most associated with its Lucky and Perioe toothpaste. In 1995, to better compete in the Western market, the company was renamed "LG", the abbreviation of "Lucky Goldstar". More recently, the company associates the letters LG with the company tag line "Life's Good".

Not only did the Goldstar fan keep consumers cool, but the present day LG keeps consumers cool by offering the cool stuff people want, like big flat-panel TVs and LCD computer displays. Not to be left out, the other consumer electronics giants in Korea, Samsung and some lesser known but globally successful, companies like Cowon Systems (mobile audio / video & content) and Thinkware (navigation industry) are producing hot new gear that is sure to be at the top of everyone's wish list.

The Samsung Group is often credited with beginning the electronics industry in Korea. In the late 1960s, Samsung formed several electronics-related divisions, such as Samsung Electronics Devices Co., Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co., Samsung Corning Co., and Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications Co., and made the facility in Suwon. Its first product was a black-and-white television set. In 1980, the company acquired Hanguk Jeonja Tongsin in Gumi, and started to build telecommunication devices. Its early products were switchboards. The facility was developed to manufacture telephone and fax systems and became the center of Samsung's mobile phone manufacturing. Off and running, they never looked back.

Editorial Disclaimer: What follows contains sweeping generalities, possible stereo-typing and conclusions based on observation, not science. That being said, as an interested observer of Korea and her people for nearly 35 years, there may be some truth to it.

Korea's leadership in the consumer electronics business didn't happen by accident - but it's understandable why is came so naturally. Korea is trend central. Whether it's green technology, well-being healthy diets, wine, coffee shops or every word describing a new product or service starting with an i-(iGoogle), e-(eBay) or u-(u-verse), Korea is on it.

Korea is also known as the “bali-bali” (fast-fast) society, meaning everything happens at the speed of light. Changing trends are no exception. Koreans can and do change their focus on what the new thing to have or do with amazing regularity. If they think the new thing or idea will make their lives even marginally better, then they'll change, so fast it'll make your head spin. They've got to have it and I mean right now. They shouldn't fear, for the next trend is right around the corner, like the proverbial street car, but Koreans are also joiners. If the group is doing it, in most cases, then they will, too. Being agile, flexible and always keeping your eye on the horizon will keep you alive in the consumer electronic business.

Expressions of style are everywhere in Korea. Take a walk down the street in Seoul and you will see a parade of fashionistas that will put New York or Paris to shame. The rest of the world likes their style too. You don't have to look any farther than the skyrocketing global popularity of k-pop music or the fact that the Hyundai Genesis was voted the 2009 North American Car of the Year.

Korea has some hardcore engineers, as well. Samsung and LG have literally defined the TV and flat panel display market. Don't look now, but their phones have Apple looking over their should and it only a matter of time before Samsung and LG surpass the iPhone, thanks to the fact that they had their eye the ball and were early adopters of the Android operating system. They have one of the most sophisticated nuclear energy programs in the world and you get there without good engineers. So respected in this field is Korea that the International Atomic Energy Agency Fusion Energy Conference is being held this month in Daejon.  Korea is also among the frontrunners in the development of 3D technology. You can look for Korea-designed, developed and manufactured 3D gear and content to join the list of tech-trend exports from Korea in the near future.

Koreans like their stuff too. Take cell phones, or hand phones as they like to call them, for example. They are ubiquitous. Everyone has one and what they do with them can only be found in the dreams of the average cell phone user in most of the rest of the world, including the US. Text messaging and MP3 are givens. Everyone has access to Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) and Video on Demand (VOD) – think watching TV and movies on your cell phone anywhere and anytime – not to mention enterprise-grade productivity tools . The Korean government has supported the development of the infrastructure to provide these services and the Korean people use them. The point is, without a robust domestic market for the gadgets the rest of the world likes, Korea wouldn't have gotten out of the gate in the global market.

This month, the 41st edition of the annual Korea Electronics Show is on tap at KINTEX in Ilsan. At the show the electronics industry will celebrate the culmination of achievements in the last half century of consumer electronics development and manufacturing in Korea. The current world leaders, and next generation to follow, of the global electronics business will be on stage, strutting their stuff. 3D HDTVs, Smartphones, Touchsceen tablet PCs, green technology, you name it and the Korean electronics industry has it. The best-of-breed examples will be showcased to the world at KES 2010.

No one knows where the Korean electronics industry will go in the next 50 years, but you can bet that their forward looking vision, technical acumen and desire to be a part of the next big thing will keep them out in front of the pack for some time to come.

Learn more about the Korean electronics industry at the Korea Electronics Association web site at http://www.gokea.org/newkea/index.html

For information the Korea Electronics Show 2010, visit the official web site at http://www.kes.org/