amounting to the end of the century it was common to site Korean Brand Names, especially of Electronic Products, on vast advertisement panels at airports and high-rise buildings in Metropolis around the World . while you’ve been wondering if ..

  • those bargain Korean cars are they safe ?
  • so given similar specifications, what is the difference between a SamSung and LG ?
  • then how do they compare to the more familiar Sony and Panasonics from Japan ? then even with Philips and GE ? I mean .. really .
  • and what is with those Korean TV-stars making waves across Japan, China and S.E.Asia ?

[ Early Korean Inventions ]

we should start with the people, for they make these products .
I could conclude from the start that South Korea could have been an industrial power much, much earlier had it not been for the wars and conquest it had to endure, owing much to being smack in the middle geographically of Super-Powers .

this was a very civilized society early-on addressing each other by surnames . (if seen negatively : overy class-conscious, with several levels of speaking to each other depending on who you are and who has the power to dawn favours)

Ancient Korea records some first inventions such as Movable Metal Type Printing in 1377 and HwaCha siege weaponry around 1400
and advanced scientific knowledge such as astronomy (7th Century), water clock (1434) and ship-building .
no wonder the No.1 shipbuilder in the World, Korea had mighty warships with harness and firepower preluding Japanese conquest .


[ The Biggies ]

between the ever-going Battle of the Giants in Modern Korea, there rose a type-cast to each of the good ol’ manufacturers because Koreans has been using their products for a long~ time, more in the old days when imports were down-right illegal (and some arena still holding-on strong, in the grand name of Patriotism). ask an old man the difference between a SamSung and an LG, and he would lay out the answer in a sentence . should you do the same to a teenager and it would spawn a spoken essay in comparison to all the other makers that decorate this land . so the following paragraphs (as much as my other stories relating to development history in the Penninsula) are not my own perspective, but those told through generations of local consumers :

The Korean Conglomerates exist on a different parallel Universe than your every-day citizen, for they actually made money when the normal people were starving and killed during the Korean War . (on this note, their Japanese counterparts had joined in the war effort lured by the resources of Asia)
and are now untouchable entities inheriting down within owning families while governmental regimes routinely change guard .


SamSung has always been the larger one and more sleek design-wise (still no match on looks with Japanese products, especially Sony). they make better products which shines & glitters like your LCD monitor or TV . they now make automobiles too, but only in purchasing the Dream of the founder, with passe design AND dragging sales . merely surviving on by cunning tactics such as selling below cost and forcing suppliers to buy .
LG has always been the more functional one . they make better products which has lots of moving parts, more so if it’s inner part rotates, like a CD/DVD player, refrigerator or air conditioner .

I should add an exception for each here :
as in Computer Hard Disks where SamSung is currently a major player (with NO competition from LG).
and in wide-screen LCD-TV’s where LG is immensly popular in Korea (with much competition from SamSung but winning widely the past year).

one BIG reason why locals buy from conglomerates is their product support – of much importance on Electronics where anything can go kaput . large companies able to with-stand losses if something goes wrong, they put “service” high-up on their strategy, and keep it up, for it really is the only way to go in Modern Korea where imports keep increasing by the decade .

a good example here is a SamSung Hard Disk Drive . its technological reliability is of no match – meaning : chances it can halt – anytime .. next week perhaps a year later – is much higher than – to Western Digital, SeaGate and even Hitachi (although catching up pretty fast) but if it clutters or goes dead and you bring it to a Support Center : they will exchange it on-the-spot without even testing (saying it takes time and cannot keep our customer waiting), while if this happens (and yes it does occasionally) to any other manufacturer above, they merely glance at you like a bug, then test it thoroughly while you wait, or ask you to come back in the afternoon and ONLY exchange it if this is your first time with this product AND is within warranty dates .


while leaving out HyunDai, Korea’s 2nd conglomerate due to their negligable produce in electronics perhaps with the exception of in-dash GPS on HyunDai Automobiles . then there is DaeWoo, Korea’s 4rd conglomerate, once reputable manufacturer of refrigerators, air conditioners and TV, ripped apart along with a third of other conglomerates in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis . as a result DaeWoo Motors has been bought by General Motors while DaeWoo Electronics still operates today January 2009 . their product support is sufficient, perhaps on a bit torn-down atmosphere than SamSung or LG .


[ and the Others ]

in the hard days recovering from the Korean War, agriculture and heavy machinery led the country’s industry . with a few local business that developed into a major income for a whole town, then a city . still, as the country developed, the conglomerates were about the only entity rich enough with lobbying contacts with outside World (with much help from the government) AND technology to manufacture Electronics . first it was copying and when there were not many left to copy, development started . so after the 1988 Olympics and prior to the bubble every other guy tried to think of a catchy idea and lure investment, and got started .

ofcourse only a few survived in effect, and some operate incognito supplying made-to-order for export to Japanese and other foreign vendors . most of these companies specialize in one line of product . while some have extended to produce other line of electronics after immense success in their major category (spelling here may differ from their said official names, for 1.I believe in pronounciation-based, 2.the company may NOT have even a solid English name)


I should add here that as much as the story of Korean conglomerates is intact with their relationship with the controlling government, the rise of the underdogs are intruigly webbed in marriage between prominent families . a big diagram of these marriages (much like in knighthood Europe) would dawn you a “ah~ I see” effect from you . and if not by marriage, some companies were jump-started by former employees of their respective conglomerates .

and then comes the wonder years, of housewives having nurtured a distinct product from sheer inspirational idea branched from their recognition of inefficiency in existing products – only possible in post-Olympics (88) and the Millennium when rigid culture allows for such . but then again, now is a too teen-oriented market where all eyes are looking for the new .

numerous makers coming and going . some of them not known to consumer circles because they make-to-order domestic and from abroad, even Japan . most start in their own range of products and some becoming so successful they pier out into related products :


[ Home Electronics ]


[ Computer Peripherals ]

  • graphic cards are Universally paced but the ones popular are small Korean companies who tune imports for maximum output, such as e-mtek and Rextech (defunct by October 2012 with rumours a manager fled with funds).
  • video-encoders have been here for a while with encoders to watch TV on monitors and vice versa until the dawn of more capable TV’s and monitors . poineers in Korea has been DVico and Sky Digital joining .
  • power and case : many Korean companies have been popular for good-priced fairly reliable machines . but the prestigious ones are from Taiwan and the States, with almost double the price .

[ Mobile ]

  • GPS & Navigation has been a field Korean companies have been tweaking with, considering their own turf of land . among all however iNavi has earned the trust throught their navigatable maps .
  • Portable Movie Players : so many have come and gone in this arena mainly because of everyone using different codecs and the painstaking effort to decode that and there seem to be no end to this mess .
  • Electronic Dictionary : in the last Century Japanese wonders of Sharp and Casio were it, but now seem out-of-date with their still dictionary-only dedicated black-and-white machines barely competing with Korean aspirations added with DMB-TV, movie player, mp3, scheduler – all this in touch-screen color with pen-recognition .
  • mp3 player : perhaps the most successful of all above categories is  iRiver‘s Global rise with their well-designed machines .
  • earphones : very, very important on portable machines Cresyn has been long popular with their intricate design and listening wonder amidst Sony, Philips, and SennHeiser .


– Korea Tech Blog, February 2009 –