After the Korean war (1950-53), South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, less than thirty years later, it became the world’s 15th largest economy. This success can be partly explained by “chaebols“, huge conglomerates supported by dictator Park Chung-Hee between 1962 and 1979.
Established in 1938 by M. Lee Byung-Chul in the city of Daegu, Samsung (which means “Three Stars”) is the largest of those chaebols, and the largest group in South Korea. It represents, directly or indirectly, one-fifth of the GDP. Even though Samsung is famous worldwide for its electronic devices, its influence in Korea goes far beyond that. Through its 79 subsidiaries, Samsung can be seen everywhere— from every layer of the society to every aspect of daily life. From the cradle to the grave.
This extreme form of capitalism, which brings wealth to an entire society but also creates a dangerous dependency towards a single entity, is a fascinating paradox.