days of Gold Star
in September 1958, I wandered around here and there for about 2 years in
until I finally got a job at Gold Star Company in Sep. 1960 by pulling a few
strings from Mr. Seung-Chan Park, Executive Director of Gold Star Co. and my
second brother-in-law¡¯s youngest brother.
think the Gold Star at the time, which had Lucky Chemical as a holding
company, was only three to four years old.
The company was located in Yeunjidong, Busanjingoo,
city, where Lucky Chemical was located on the opposite side cross the
order to find the company, one had to pass by the American military camp
called ¡°Hayaria¡± and follow a long narrow road to Yeunjidong.
assume now that there were less than a thousand workers including girl
operators at Gold Star at that time. It was the first electronics company in
producing radio sets. A witty friend of mine even sent me a letter with the
address written ¡°The place where Gold Star radios are made in
,¡± and it was really delivered to me.
because it was the first production of radio sets in
without any help from other countries, it was really difficult to produce
with inexperienced college graduated engineers who learned theory only at
college. Therefore, they hired high school graduated but experienced radio
repair men at radio shops as engineers at first. This way, they could make
radio within short period without having technical alliance with
, but they could not be quality radio sets instead.
addition, during the 60¡¯s, we didn¡¯t have any good measuring instruments
available in the market and the only equipment we had in Gold Star were
American military surplus voltage/current/ohm meters and a few 2 inches
oscilloscopes (No one use 2 inches today. They are all 5 inches or larger
to the situation, to make decision whether the quality of the radio set we
have designed or produced (sensitivity, selectivity, audio quality etc.) is
acceptable for sale or not, we had to judge the quality of the radios just
listening to a few Japanese broadcasting stations we could easily catch in
Pusan, without any measurement with instrument as every company does today.
make matters worse, there was no air conditioning in whole plant at that
time and we had only steam heater just to make operation area not too cold
to work in winter. Thus, the room temperature was much higher in mid-day and
lower in the morning or late afternoon. This made the components of the
radio sets to expand in day time and contract in the morning or late
afternoon, resulting radio sets had been adjusted differently depending on
the time adjusted during the day, especially in the winter. In spite of this
kind of problems, Gold Star made a lot of money because it was the only
company making radios in
in those days. That sounds like it was way back to the time when the earth
was created. Isn¡¯t it?
It¡¯s hard to imagine now, but it really was.
was the first engineer graduated a university majoring Electrical
Engineering and started to work as an engineer at radio design section,
directly reporting to plant manager with a few other design engineers, who
had been radio repair men at radio shops, without section manager to report.
When I started designing radio, I realized that I didn¡¯t have enough
knowledge to design radio set as I was neither really an electronics
engineer nor electrical engineer, though I had graduated from one of the
best universities in
. I studied electrical engineering course as the official major but spent
about half of the time to study electronics as the optional subject,
resulting I could not study neither one well enough as I had already
described. However, I couldn¡¯t say I could not do the job and regretted
again that I did not major in communication engineering.
addition, I was speechless when the plant manager told me in reply of my
request to purchase about ten books to study about radio design - he said
¡°How can you say you are a good engineer if you have to have all the
things other engineers have.
A good engineer should be able to do well enough even without any
materials or sources, while others have to have everything they need.¡± I
was absolutely stunned and I had no idea how to react to his response. The
Gold Star was thank kind of company at the time !!!
had no one to teach me and I had to take apart sample radios made in
, imitated it and designed radio set for Gold Star somehow. When I asked
some questions to my senior design engineers about designing radios, he
said, ¡°Don¡¯t even think about the theory. If you don¡¯t know how to do
it, just take it apart and do cut and try to find the best way.¡± They had
just ignored the theory and designed radio by their repair experiences only.
And that was the Gold Star then.
I was the only college graduated engineer, I couldn¡¯t just follow the
suggestions of high school graduated repair men. I don¡¯t remember well how
I have designed one model of radio, but I struggled more than a half year
and finally designed the model A-503. But I don¡¯t think it was a
successful model and didn¡¯t sell well in the market.
was the beginning of the transitional period of the radios switched from
traditional vacuum tube type to transistor radios and Gold Star was selling
some transistor radios already. Meanwhile, I lived up in one of my fellow
engineer¡¯s house and was busy to go to
every weekend for dating. I think I went to
more often than many separated married couples are doing these days. As the
Sunday was the only holiday during a week, I usually went to
on Saturday night and came home Sunday night, after which I had to go
straight back to work. It was tough dating.
after I got engaged in May 1961, 7 months after I started to work in Gold
Star in September 1960, it was lot easier for me as I could visit her home
openly and stay there whole day. (I didn¡¯t have to find a place outside to
date.) But I still went to
to see her almost every week end until I married her in April 1962. (Later
on, there was a sleep train with beds that I could sleep in during the trip
and I wasn¡¯t as tired as I used to be. Instead, I guess I spent quite a
money for train tickets.)
I got married in April 1962 and started new life with Jane in a small rented
house with one room in Seomyeon, I was so glad that I didn¡¯t need to go to
Seoul so often and, best of all, I didn¡¯t have to eat Pusan food, which
was really salty and spicy.
Cho and Im family
members at our wedding.
Jane had a pharmacist license, we decided to open a small drug store near
home, which was called Sungil Drug Store. Because we spent most of free time
still dating together here and there, the store was kept by a hired
pharmacist without license most of times. Therefore, She could kill times at
the store while I was working at office and I don¡¯t think we have ever
that time, salary was so low and many salary men had to have advanced
payment of salary from the company. I borrowed 30,000 won (Less than $3,000
worth today?) from Gold Star when we started our new life in
, which could not be fully repaid until I quit Gold star, repaying some but
advanced again every month.
few months later after we have married, Gold Star made a technology contract
with Ziemens of
to build watt-hour-meter for residents for the first time in
. As a part of the contract, Gold Star arranged a fund of 1,200,000 dollars
loan from Ziemens for the project. $1,200,000 isn¡¯t a whole lot of money
today, but back then, it was the time that Dong-Myung Wood Company received
a special trophy of ¡°The First One Million Dollars Export
Achievement" from Korean government. So it was a great deal of money
for Gold Star. It was also the time that black and white television
broadcasting was just started in
and people just began to purchase B/W TV sets.
Star arranged the contract with Ziemens that 90% of the money should be used
for purchasing various equipment from Ziemens but 10% may be used for
purchasing from other companies. With this 10% or $120,000. fund, Gold Star
made another technology contract with
TV sets in Gold Star. (confidentially and unofficially to Ziemens and Korean
government, of course)
engineers were chosen at Gold Star to go to
to be trained at
and I was chosen as a member of the team responsible of TV design. I was
released from radios design and started to process passport to travel to
Japan which took more than 6 months due to various government red tapes at
that time. It was the time that only those who were in high positions could
travel abroad and it was more like a dream for fresh college graduate like
me would go abroad. When I was going to get my passport, I kept dreaming of
getting on the airplane every night but I woke up before I could get into
airplane by some reason always.
last, I left
on 1/3/63 and was trained at
TV Plant in Totsuka, south of
. While I stayed in
, everything was new to me and color film was just introduced in the market
only few years ago which was still very expensive. I took so many color
pictures there spending more than half of my monthly travel allowance for
such expensive color films.
was a really funny story of this trip.
One of our fellow engineer saw latest beautiful lady¡¯s brief at a
shop in Japan, wanted to give it to his wife as a trip gift as that kind of
brief was not available in Korea and bought a few of it. However, he was
shamed to show them to custom inspectors in
. Therefore he wore all of these lady's briefs on his underwear when we
. Later he accidentally talked about it and we all couldn¡¯t stop laughing.
we returned to
, $120,000 worth TV manufacturing equipment from
arrived as the contract we made. However, we had to clear all these
equipment as watt-hour-meter manufacturing equipment through Korean customs
and had to change all descriptions of the equipment on custom papers. We
really had hard time to come up various ideas making up names of TV
manufacturing equipment as if they are watt-hour-meter equipment.
it was the first time that Gold Star had that kind of fancy electronic
measuring equipment and I had a great fun time for a while to play with
these wonderful new equipment. However, very soon, the government suddenly
announced there was no foreign currency in
to import TV components from other countries and TV manufacturing project
had to be suspended indefinitely. All other five engineers trained in
went back to their original works at the radio departments but I was
assigned to remain at the TV project alone and take care of all these
started to install new equipment and learned how to use them everyday which
was a great fun for me. However, in about a month, I really didn¡¯t have
much to do. I took even naps in a dark room called the Shield Room which was
one of the imported equipment, all wrapped up in metal without even a window
to prevent any radio wave to penetrate to inside and to be used for
measurement of radio or TV set. It was completely dark when the light was
turned off and was the best place to take a nap.
However, I began to get bored and I couldn¡¯t even take a nap in
about a week. Every morning when I was ready to go to work, I began to worry
about what I was going to do today at the office. I really learned well how
hard it is to spend a day at office doing nothing but paid. I felt like time
had stopped since I didn¡¯t have work to do.
last, I came up with the idea that I could measure and create specifications
of all radio models on sale, which Gold Star never even dreamed of.
Since we had the equipment to do it now, I decided to sample all
models from warehouse, measure all specifications and confirm their
performances such as sensitivity (how much weak signal it can catch),
selectivity (how well it can receive desired signal only without
interference of other signals near by) and audio quality etc.. As a matter
of fact, that kind of process should be the first thing to be done after all
of the electric products are made. In other words, before the products are
sold, they should have these kind of specifications attached to the radio
set. But since consumers at that time did not know about the specifications,
Gold Star had no problem selling radios without specifications. And, that
was the first attempt at Gold Star and the beginning of the modernization of
Gold Star radio manufacturing.
day, I found a rusty radio out of samples I took from plant warehouse, when
I looked at inside of the cabinet. It looked like it was made a long time
ago. I took them to the plant manager and asked whether we should ship them
or scrap them. He said, ¡°Gold Star is the only company producing radios in
. Who would care about rust as far as it is working OK. Just ship them.
People will buy them.¡± Gold Star was that kind of company at the time.
project to create specifications was over for all models in a few months and
there was nothing more to do again. I think TV manufacturing project had
been delayed for more than 2 years as Gold Star had not been able to produce
TV sets while I was there. Therefore, the next project I came up was Drawing
Control System of Gold Star. At that time, the drawings were called blue
prints developed using Ammonia gas. However, the problem was they were all
in different sizes. Some were as big as a palm, some were twice as big as a
newspaper. They had never been controlled and had no drawing number. Once
the drawing was made and sent by designer to manufacturing, the
manufacturing fixed the problem under the verbal instruction of designer,
whenever there was a problem, without changing the drawing. In addition,
many die sets were worn out producing different parts from the original
drawings. That was the reality of Gold Star in those days. While I was
, I saw all the drawings were standardized in six sizes and well controlled
with control numbers.
was the time when Xerox started copy machines in United States earlier and
¡°Ricoh¡± of Japan introduced ¡°Recopy¡± machine in Japan market not too
long ago, which was just imported by Shindo Ricoh to Korean market.
finally persuaded the plant manager to buy a copy machine and assign two
draft men to me, so that I could redraw all drawings scattered here and
there in the company. I reviewed all drawings to confirm each drawing was
exactly same as the actual component, measuring each component with caliper
and micro-meter which can measure 1/100 of 1 mm accuracy. If I found any
discrepancy, I had to discuss with the designer to find which one was right
dimension or had to make own judgment sometimes which one to be corrected
– drawing? or component?. This way, I had redrawn 100% of Gold Star
drawings in 5 different standard sizes (A1 - A5 sizes) to correspond exactly
to each component and numbered each drawing with the new numbering system I
have established, to enable the control of all drawings at one control
center. And, this was the first standardization of the Gold Star Drawing
System and also the first effort of modernization of Gold Star manufacturing
took almost one full year to fix and standardize all drawings in Gold Star,
correcting either dimension figures in the drawing or actual die sets in
machine shop to make the component, which was my job until I quit Gold Star
in 1964. Some Gold Star engineers in later days told me that they wondered
who the person would be after they saw the signature of Dong-In Cho in all
early Gold Star drawings. And, when they found out it was me, they praised
me saying ¡°You are the person who has established the foundation of modern
manufacturing of Gold Star.¡± which made me very proud of myself for what I
had done for Gold Star. During this period, my job was rather easier, as it
took more time of two draft men to draw all the new drawings than I was
checking the actual dimensions and discussed with engineers which dimensions
would be correct.
it was the time Koreans were generally too poor, especially at operator
level, it was not unusual they took some small components to home and sell
them at market to make extra money. (labor cost was so cheap¡¦ maybe a few
cents an hour, cheaper than
today perhaps). To prevent this kind of stealing, most companies checked not
only female operator¡¯s personal belongings but also did a body search when
they pass through the gate after the work and the Gold Star was no
day, a guard asked us to open our lunch box for checking when we go home
through the gate, which drove us crazy because we all had our pride as
college graduated engineers. It was understandable for so many girls but how
could this possible to small number of engineers? If they can not trust even
a few engineers, whom are they going to trust to run the company? All the
engineers were so mad and excited on this company action and got together
immediately at a restaurant in nearby Dongnae to talk about crazy and stupid
company policy in the evening.
blamed the management team harshly for their stupid poor policy, who had
damaged their pride so much and some extreme guys called for immediate total
resignation of all engineers. It might not be such a big deal perhaps, if we
could be calm and think objectively. However, these young mad engineers
could not accept the matter at all. Finally, however, we could calm down
little after excited discussion for 2-3 hours and decided every one would
not work at office for next one week.
we didn¡¯t say anything but didn¡¯t do anything either. We drew a line on
design paper, erased it, killed time for a while, drew a line again, erased
again¡¦ for whole day. We goofed around for a whole week this way. It was
OK for a day or two. However, it was not easy thing to do for a week, but
very hard one week. Finally, I could not be patient enough and decided to
quit the company, though I felt very sorry to
, the brother of my brother-in-law and who hired me to Gold Star.
are the stories about my work in Gold Star for three and half years. I will
just add one more episode I had to finish the story at Gold Star.
day, there were visitors from
and we entertained them at a fancy restaurant in Dongnae, where Mr. Jung-Hoi
Koo, the president of Gold Star had attended too. As usual, I sat at a
corner of the table, so that the host will not see me easily as I can not
drink any alcohol at all.
President Koo found me not drinking and said, "Hey, what are you doing
there in the corner not drinking?
How can I believe that you are a good engineer if you don¡¯t drink?
Hand in your resignation.¡±
I knew he was joking of course, however, what the hell the drinking
had to do with my job. I was so mad instantly and almost lost my temper but
I could barely hold it down thinking of
I learned from that event was that people in high positions should never
say, ¡°Hand in your resignation,¡± even if it was just a joke. One more
very important lesson I had learned at Gold Star was that if there is
nothing to do at work, it is better just to send him/her home.
Never make your employee kill his/her time at work.
Of course, to be too busy at work is not too good making him/her to
tired. However, it is even worse to let him/her idled at the company doing
nothing, as it would cause him/her to think about more complains about the
in your people always. Trust not only the honesty to prevent theft of
company property, but also trust their ability. They might not be as capable
as you are now but think about yourself as you might not have been as
capable as they are today, when you were at their age. Your absolute trust
in your people will return to you as their absolute respect and trust in
you. There are many people who have to do everything by himself/herself,
because they can not rely on his/her people, which will result nothing but
your busy life and untrained people to work for you, and, most of all, they
will not trust you either.