|Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong answers reporters' questions at the Seoul Gimpo Business Aviation Center, Wednesday. He arrived in Seoul after a four-day trip to the U.S., during which Samsung's decision to build a foundry plant in Taylor, Texas, was unveiled. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul|
Lee's remark 'sober reality' to indicate tech giant has much to work on
By Kim Bo-eun
Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong's first trip to the U.S. in five years was meaningful in some ways. He met with White House officials to discuss Samsung's role in addressing supply chain problems. Samsung also finally announced its selection of Taylor, Texas, as the site for its upcoming $17 billion foundry plant.
But his first remarks after returning to Seoul, Wednesday, addressed the "sober reality" he witnessed and acknowledged while meeting with chief executives of Samsung's key U.S. clients.
During his trip, Lee held a series of meetings with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as well as Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and Moderna co-founder and board chairman Noubar Afeyan.
"I feel burdened after witnessing the sober reality of the market and hearing the voices of people working on-site," Lee said at the Seoul Gimpo Business Aviation Center.
The Samsung vice chairman didn't elaborate, but his remarks are widely seen as indicating Korea's top conglomerate has much work to do to stay competitive.
"While holding meetings with top executives of leading U.S. firms, he would have realized Samsung's shortcomings and felt a dire need for the company to do step up its game," an industry official said.
Samsung, the world's top memory chipmaker, is now seeking to narrow the market gap with Taiwan's TSMC in non-memory chips. It is seeking to boost its capacity to contract manufacture information-processing non-memory chips amid the growing demand for components that form parts of the metaverse, AI and driverless vehicles.
Samsung is hoping that its Taylor plant, which will be operational by 2024, will lay a solid foundation for it to catch up with TSMC in the foundry competition. TSMC accounts for more than half of the market, followed by Samsung with a 17 percent market share.
But now Samsung's vision is not simply chasing its competitor by closing the gap. The company is seeking to take the lead in technological trends in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While Samsung is also the world's top smartphone firm, it's been losing its luster despite its ambitious unveiling of foldable mobile devices.
The company is a pioneer in premium phones experimenting with different forms, but market views are that Samsung's reign will not last, given its competitors are catching up quickly.
Samsung is tasked with coming up with the next big item, given the global market for smartphones has become saturated.
Corporate acquisitions are a key strategy for companies to stay competitive. Samsung has stated plans for possible acquisitions in future growth sectors, which now appears necessary to be able to sharpen its business sword.
"If Samsung wishes to become the leading non-memory chip maker, it needs to secure premium talent in the chip sector," said Yu Hyun-yong, a professor of semiconductor engineering at Korea University who previously worked for Intel.
"This is not just about securing talent in Korea. Samsung is already a global company. If it truly wishes to make the next leap, it needs an influx of talented foreign professionals, not just to work for Samsung's overseas operations, but also here in Korea."