– Life in Taiwan
was the best years of AMI when we moved to California
and AMI started to worry about having all eggs in one basket. What if there
is a fire in KMI or any major accident in KMI or Korean society? AMI started
to think about the second assembly plant, looked around the best place to
build it and selected Taiwan.
just returned from the long trip around the
U. S. A.
and started to prepare to return to
. At this time, AMI proposed me to go to Taiwan as a General Manager for
about two years with my assembly experience, since AMI had assembly
operations in Tijuana, Mexico or Korea only, they could not find any
experienced assembly man in AMI, and told me they will get green cards for
our family so that we could either return to Korea or return to AMI to live
in the United States permanently, whichever we want at that time, after two
years assignment in Taiwan.,
this proposal, I thought over and over and concluded to accept the proposal,
as it was not a bad idea to work as a General Manager with full authority
and responsibility of an operation, as it was still a No. 2 man in KMI, even
though the General Manager of KMI listened to my idea quite well and I was
promoted to a Director of Plant Operation later, before we were proposed to
move to California. I wanted to operate a plant just as I want and prove my
way is still a right way to operate, and I thought kids would not have much
problem returning to
two years later.
I know my weak areas very well that I am not a social guy nor hard worker
focusing daily life more to "ENJOY TODAY", I had never wanted to
be a real president of a company who has to meet a lot of people, has to
take quite a risk of business and to take too much pressure including
responsibility of whole employee's lives too. However, a General Manager's
job had no this kind of hardship nor risk and it seemed to be a very good
job with rather easier life to experience once in a life. (I have always
liked VP position than president as it has far less responsibility but quite
an authority within a company.)
went to my boss, Mr. Charlie Isherwood, VP Manufacturing, and asked same
question I asked for KMI – "Are you going to send other
expateriates with me? Or send just me alone? If you send me alone, I will
people that I will return to AMI in two years and this plant has to be
operated by all your hands thereafter. Therefore, you have to learn from me
as much as possible in just two years to take over the operation, which will
encourage them to work and learn as hard as they can." Because he had
already experienced KMI case, he answered immediately this time "You
may go alone without any other expateriate, if you are confident."
applied permanent resident visas in April or May 1975 and I travelled quite
often to Taiwan
as soon as we returned from long trip around U. S. A.. We established a company in Taiwan called TMI – Taiwan Microsystems
Inc. and selected the plant site in Taichung, the 3rd. largest
city in Taiwan at the middle part of the island with AMI lawyer and
Manufacturing Engineering Manager together, and started to look for key
employees to start the operation, looked for a house to live for our family,
checked the school our kids to attend and learned about the Taiwan society
and customs etc. etc..
However, I had a hard time from the first day I landed in
Taiwan, most of business men speak English well generally and almost everyone has
English name, though he/she has no business with English speaking country
and can not speak English at all. In addition, they don't use English at all
in the society, even such common English words used evey country in the
world such as hotel, taxi, TV, elevator. These word are all translated to
Chinese language as elevator is a "Electric Ladder", TV is
a "Electric Viewer", hotel is a "Grand Restaurant" in
Chinese. In addition, Chinese hotel names are totally different from English
names as "Grand Hotel" in Taipaei is "Round Mountain Grand
Restaurant" in Chinese, which meaning has no relation to it's English
name of "Grand Hotel".
I travelled to
for the first time, I had no idea of this kind of Chinese names. Since I can
read a few thousands of Chinese characters, I thought it would be much
easier to communicate in Taiwan. When I arrived Taipei
Airport, I had no problem reading all the signs and ad boards at the airport.
the problem started when I took a taxi and asked to go to "Grand
Hotel". The taxi driver didn't speak English at all and had no idea
what the "Grand Hotel" meant. He kept just watching me and I kept
saying "Grand Hotel" repeatedly. I couldn't understand how the
taxi driver who could not understand the "Grand Hotel" would be
doing business in an international airport. Any way, after watching each
other for a while, it looked like he felt he needed a help. He went out,
brought a guy who could understand English little bit, and, finally, we
could leave the airport for the "Grand Hotel" or "Round
Mountain Grand Restaurant".
was much easier from the second visit and I started to hire key engineers
just as I had learned from Mr. Clevenger in Fairchild Semikor. I had
interviewed many candidates buying a lunch and talking all kinds of things
about Taiwan. I also learned a lot about the
during these interviews.
, all graduates of famouse universities wanted to join a large company.
However, I found it was quite different in
Taiwan. Regardless which universty he/she had graduated, he/she wanted his/her own
business regardless it is big or small rather than to work for some one. The
only guy to join a company as a salaried would be a guy who does not have
money to start own business, even a very small shop. (This is why the
majority of national GDP is produced by only a handful conglomerates in
while by so many small and medium sized enterprises in Taiwan.)
fact I found was they do not trust people easily taking quite a time to
understand others, but, once they got confidence on others, he/she is
trusted as a good friend absolutely and permanently, which is quite
different from most of Koreans.
of this nationality, very often, few friends get together and establish a
company investing same amount of money each other, one of them become the
president of the company and no other guy involves to the company trusing
him/her 100%. Once this company makes money, they form another company
making another guy to become a president and so on and so on, until
everybody becomes a president. No one will complain or accuse friend even
though a guy fails business and looses all the money. This was the Chinese
and that was how they had been tightly united, built the China
in foreign countries wherever they go and made a lot of money.
way, I learned a lot about Chinese and Chinese society during these
interviews just as Mr. Clevenger, the General Manager of Fairchild Semikor,
might have done in
when he was in Korea
for the first time.
met Mr. Jackson Wang as the candidate of Production Manager which was
supposed to be the No. 2 man position of TMI. He looked like a very smart
guy with good personality to lead many people, had a lot of production
experience and was very knowledgeble for semiconductors. After quite a long
talk with him, I asked him how much he wanted to be paid. He asked
$500/month which was relatively high level at Taiwan
at the time. I told him I would pay $1,000/month which surprised him so
Clevenger tried to reduce my salary asked by me but I proposed to double the
amount he wanted. What a stupid proposal? Absolutely not!! My claculation
was – I needed at least one leader in Taiwan who would do his best for
me for everything, officially or privately, as I had to work alone in a
totally strange country. Additional $500/month or $6,000/year would be
almost negligible amount compared to total operating cost of TMI and very
cheap price to buy his absolute loyalty for the company.
a matter of fact, not only he was paid very high salary but also he believed
he would be the successor of me after two years and he had been really loyal
to the company and myself too. As he was also most experienced senior
(oldest) manager in TMI, he demonstrated great loyalty and leadership to all
TMI employees later which made my job extremely easier and I had no doubt
$6,000/year was paid back to the company by several 10 times perhaps.
plant site was selected at the Taichung Export Zone (free trade zone) where
the building structures were already built by
government. All we had to do was the inside work of the building which made
the completion of the plant much faster.
the other hand, we got the permanent residentship of the
in summer of 1976 (It took about a year.) and, as the summer vacation was
started, whole family moved to
Taichung. Fortunately, there was an American mission school called
and kids could continue American education in English.
we knew a few thausands of Chinese characters most commonly used, I had
allowed to write all company documents other than to be sent to AMI in
Chinese characters which I could understand without any problem.
I thought it would be much more convenient and I could be much closer to
Chinese local people, if I could speak Chinese, as the pronounciation of
Chinese character in China was quite different from Korea, though the
meaning of each character is almost same in both countries. I hired a tuter
and both Jane and I started to learn Mandarin Chinese (Beijing
dialect and standard language of
) at home. We learned for 3 months but had to give up because of so called
"Four Tones". (Taiwanese is even worse with "Eight
Tones".) Depending on the different tone, same "tang" could
be expressed for "sugar" or "soup", which difference was
so hard not only to remember one by one but also just to differentiate it's
pronounciation for me. I gave up in 3 months this way but, though it was
just a little of Chinese knowledge, it was still very useful later days.
time, AMI started "Digital Watch" business for the first time in
the world. It was a simple single function watch which was even simpler than
the cheapest Casio watch sold at $10-$15 today, AMI's gold plated digital
watch was the first digital watch in the world and sold at more than $200.
AMI started this business at the
manufacturing LCD display itself also there. Though it is so easy to build
40 inches or even larger TV screen LCD today, it was the first LCD
production and 60-70% of LCD display, smaller than an inch for watch
display, built in Sunnyvale
plant were defective and had to be scrapped.
seemed there had been a lot of discussions in AMI whether TMI should build
semiconductors as originally planned or LCD displays expecting better
quality and higher yield in TMI. After we moved to
Taiwan, AMI changed mind so often and informed me to plan for semiconductors today
and for LCD display next day, switching back and forth so many times.
Therefore, I could not proceed the project to build the plant in
as the LCD display plant had to be quite different from semiconductor plant.
both plants required dust free clean room operation any way, though LCD
operation requires even cleaner operating room, we proceeded to build clean
room and office area while we were waiting final decision of AMI. After we
finished this basic work, whole project in
had to be halted.
was still sending different signals week by week switching between two
products. I fought with my boss in AMI almost everyday over the phone but he
didn't know what to do either. It was a terrible time for a few months with
a great mental stress to me. There was nothing much to do every day but I
could not leave
for vacation either, as it was totally unpredictable when the final decision
would be made in AMI. I didn't know what to say to a few Taiwanese key
engineers (who would be Dept. Managers once operation starts.) already hired
and working for the company. I had realized how the general manager or
president's job would be a lonely job, when you can not have any one around
you to talk with frankly.
we were working for basic clean room work, C. K. An in KMI sent a very
experienced section manager of KMI to TMI who was really helpful for me
working with local contractor. Also, the president of the contractor, little
older than me, spoke Japanese fluently, as Twaiwan was also occupied by
for 40 years, longer than
Korea. Since I speak Japanese as well as Korean, we spoke Japanese each other
between Korean and Taiwanese to communicate.
is a huge country, they didn't pay much attention to details. A door is
there just to make sure no one can see inside. It didn't matter to them
whether it was really square or tilted little bit. They didn't care about
gaps around the door too. There are so many beautiful buildings covered by
marble in Taipei
but, if you look at carefully close enough, you will find none of the
surface is really flat. It was really a hard work to build a clean room with
this type of people in Taiwan.
couldn't make mind between semiconductor and LCD display and switched
decision back and forth almost weekly for whole third quarter of 1975 making
my life very hard in Taiwan but, finally, made final decision to build LCD
display in TMI at the end of the year.
it was the first production in the world except AMI
plant, not only myself but all other Taiwan
engineers also didn't know what the LCD display is or any thing about LCD
technology. Therefore, we sent all 5 key engineers we had already hired for
semiconductors assembly to AMI
plant to learn about LCD display for two months and AMI sent a few
plant engineers to assist us to build LCD display assembly plant in
soon as TMI engineers returned to Taiwan after two months of training in
Sunnyvale, we started to install production equipment, hired first 20
operators (every 20 operators thereafter every week), and trained them for
initial operation. And, finally, a golbal company of TMI, invested by
American company with Korean General Manager in Taiwan, cut the tape of the plant on 4/15/1977, which date happened to be our
wedding annuversary date. It was two years after I was told about
project and almost one year after our family moved to Taiwan. It was amazing what a slow progress the American company was making!!.
started this way finally and what I did in TMI was almost same as what I did
in KMI – walked around operation area few times a day, checked whether
every one weared badge in vertical (not tilted), confirmed whether dry boxes
were in straight line and doors were all fully closed, any idling tool on
walking table?, any dust at the corner? etc. etc..
additional work for me compared to the work in KMI was, because I knew
nothing about LCD display, even the basic theory how the letter is displayed
on the glass panel, I had to spend quite a time at first for a while to
learn basic theory and technology of LCD display itself from the engineers
trained in Sunnyvale and to discuss why the defects were happening in the
production line with them.
I understood the basics, I depended mostly upon Jackson Wang to operate the
whole plant and did not involve any details, as usually I had done according
to my management philosophy trusting my people, relying on them and not
involving in too much details. Therefore, though many people asked me how
busy I was as an only expateriate from AMI, I was not busy at all working
only 5-6 hours a day practically, spending quite a time just talking with
supervisors and engineers who could speak English, as operators could not
speak English, at cafeteria, and even taking a nap in my office often. The
only thing I did myself always was the telephone conversation with AMI
it was the first LCD display assembly operation for every one including
myself, there were many difficulties too. First of all, even though
semiconductor assembly also required very clean environment, LCD display
assembly required far cleaner environment, as one tiny particle in the
display would show up as 10-20 times larger spot on the display falling to
difective product to be scrapped. Therefore, TMI operation was practically
the war against particles in the air of operating room every day. (I am
talking so small particles you can not see with your naked eyes.)
make the situation worse, Chinese are usually careless people to cleanliness
and they were not used to this kind of ridiculous cleanliness requirement at
all. (There is a joke in
that Chinese takes bath only 3 times in whole life – when they are
born, when they marry and after they have died.) Therefore, it was quite a
work to change their concept about the cleanliness through training classes
and daily conversations.
Jackson Wang really did a great job leading all Chinese employees extremely
well and we could reduce the defect rate to half of what Sunnyvale plant had
in just about 6 months saving again a lot of material cost which surprised
AMI management again.
had been another management philosophy of mine that "Working more than
8 hous a day would make people too tired and would be more harmful rather
than beneficial, reducing the efficiency of the people, except just a day or
so in case of accident or emergency" I was repeatedly telling KMI
people in Korea "The company does not give work load to finish within 8
hours. If you can not finish your job in 8 hours a day, you are incapable
guy. Review how you have spent every day carefully. You might have waisted a
lot of working hours doing so many unneccessary things for your job and that
might be the major cause of overtime requirement, if it is your daily
routine. We want efficient worker, not hard worker. As a matter of fact, I
hate hard worker who can not be an efficient worker because of exccessive
fatigue every day."
we started TMI operation, I found there again that
people were used to work until 7-8 o'clock in the evening not finishing the
work by 5 PM. I believed it was just a habbit rather than inevitable work. I
said samething as I did in KMI many times but the habbit could not be
changed so easily.
asked one day all office employees come to the cafeteria and said "I
will not go home until all of you are gone home. Please let me go home early
at 5 PM." Then, every day from 5 PM, I was standing at the exit of
office waiting every one were gone home. It took about a month to change
this habbit and every one went home by 5:10 or 5:20 PM at latest in about a
month. However, I had not seen any work delayed due to this shortend working
hours and confirmed again that longer working hours would just postpone what
you could do now as more hours were left for you to do it, just delaying the
work rather than doing more work.
Chang Kai-Shek government had been so corrupted while they were in mainland
fighting with comminist red army, their soldiers were also killed by weapons
supplied by the United States
but sold to red army by his government officers. Therefore, when Chang
government moved to
, he executed several generals and cabinet members, including a close
relative of Song Mi-Ryung, Chang's wife, openly in
Taipei. Since then, Taiwan
government had been really clean and the government officers at Taichung
Export Zone didn't even accept any lunch invitation from us. (I complained it to
the chief officer of the Zone and he joked "we don't accept lunch
invitation just because Chinese lunch takes to long time.") During my
for about a year, all we gave to government officers was a bottle of Johnny
Walker whisky to the chief officer of the Zone on Lunar New Year
Holiday. (Though, TMI Administration Manager told me they were pretending much more
because TMI is a foreign company.)
office was also very clean and cooperative very much. However, just once, a
General Manager of Hong Kong company had a trouble with customs, as he made
customes officer very unhappy as he demonstrated as if he came from much
more developed country of
. This company were assembling core memory for computer (No one uses it
today.) using tiny magnetic memory rings with diameter of 1mm or so. Because
they imported this core momories by billions at a time, customs had never
counted the quantity and cleared them by paper only.
just once, because of General Manager's problem, customs requested to count
a shipment of this core memory. It took a few days for all employees of the
company to count it shutting down whole operation. As it started by
themselves and customs were asking legal procedure, they couldn't even
complain about this unusual order of customs.
difficulty working in
for me was the conflict between Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese. Taiwanese didn't
consider themselves as Chinese while they are all Chinese for Mainland
Chinese. Taiwanese considered themselves as invaded and occupied people by
Mainland Chinese. (There were 25% of Mainland Chinese and 75% of Taiwanese
at that time.) When I talked with both of them mixed, I called them Chinese.
But when there were Taiwaneses only, I had to call them as Taiwanese not to
hurt their feeling.
Chang government fleed to
and established "The Republic of
Taiwan, there was a strong opposition of
people and a lot them were jailed or executed. Not only them, there family
members were also restricted to get jobs at government offices or, even they
got the jobs, their promotions were very much limited.
Chinese were all strong anti-communists but Taiwanese who had never
experienced communists didn't care much about communism. All they were
interested was to make money doing business with any country regardless it
was a communist country or not. Under this kind of situation, I had to be
very careful talking to them always.
Taiwan, no body cared much to speak Japanese or sing Japanese songs in
public, while they were taboo in Korea, and I talked in Japanese whenever it
was more convenient each other, as Japanese was much easier language to talk
than English for me too. Though Taiwan
was occupied by
for 40 years, longer than
didn't try to convert Taiwan
as a part of
as they did in Korea.
convert Korea as a part of Japan, Japan forced Koreans to change their
family names to Japanese family names, to speak Japanese language only,
drafted young Koreans to their army just as Japanese, took Korean girls as
sexual entertainer of their soldiers during the World War II, etc. etc.
under the slogan of "Mainland (means Japan) and Korea is one body"
and "100 millions of same mind" (80 millions of Japanese and 20
millions of Korean together). But none of these had happened in
was just one of these internationally occupied nations with their own
Mainland Chinese "occupied" Taiwan, there was nothing much different for
people from Japanese occupation which feelings seems to had diluted the
feelings against Japanese. Therefore, there was no strong anti-Japanese
fellings like in Korea
and, for them, the today's anti-Chinese feelings were greater concern.
I was there,
was the only country in United Nations who recognized
government to represent
and every body loved
as the brother country. In a taxi, when they thought me as one of Japanese
and recognized me as a Korean later, they were so glad and welcomed me to Taiwan. However, after I left
changed to recognize Beiging regime as the Chinese government and I heard
as a traitor and hated Koreans too.
we had a wonderful life in Taiwan with Taiwan people there demonstrating
such a great success of TMI to AMI management, AMI made a deal with Motorola
to sell all LCD watch business in less than a year of TMI oeration at the
end of 1977 and TMI was sold to Motorola as a part of watch business deal in
Feb. 1978. At this time, I didn't know what the Motorola guy who came to TMI
for a survey reported to his boss but Motorola proposed me to join Motorola
and continue the job in TMI and asked me to visit their Phoenix, Arizona,
office for an interview as they were going to pay all trip expenses.
I was treated very well with easy life in AMI and I, as a practrically lazy
guy to enjoy today only not thinking about the future too much, was not too
much interested to join a new large company and familiarize with strange
people and system there which must be quite a hard work for a while at
since I was invited and was curious about Motorola, I travelled to
. It was my first visit to
and I was not familiar to the road in
Phoenix. To make it worse, I found the freeway exit I had to take to visit Motorola
office was closed for road work and I was lost for a while. I looked at the
map again and found the way to Motorola, but I was about 30 minutes late
when I arrived at Motorola.
various talks, they asked me how much I want to be paid. Well, since I
didn't have much interest in Motorola any way, I asked two times of slalary
of what AMI was paying to me. Of course, no agreement could be made and I
to hand over TMI to Motorola.
TMI became a part of Motorola and I was so sorry to all my TMI friends. All
of them had been really good friends of me, really loyal employees to the
company and made such a wonderful and amazing achievement for AMI. I had to
sincerely appologize to all of them about the sale of TMI and they also felt
so sorry that I had to leave them earlier.
had arrnged three farewell parties – first by Dept. Managers, second
time by line supervisors, engineers, mechanics and technicians, and by
operators at last. I had so many farewell parties in Korea
because I moved from one company to another so many times in my life.
However, I had never experienced this kind of really heartfelt fairwell
parties in my life. I could feel from my heart how nice friends all of them
are and could not help having tears in my eyes. On every party, they gave me
a plaque of appreciation with such a wonderful and heartfelt wording, which
are still kept well in my room and will be forever as far as I live. And
that was the eternal friendship of Chinese people, once it was established!!
the plant was handed over to Motorola and operated by Motorola managers. AMI
informed me it will take more than 3 months to close the escrow and the
final payment from Motorola would be transferred to TMI account about 3
months later. Since I had to stay in Taiwan untill all payments were
received and TMI makes all payments to venders, AMI asked me to make a
survey trip to Southeast Asia to find another best country to build next
semiconductor assembly plant mean time, utilizing this mostly idling time.
family moved to a hotel in Taichung, and asked Jackson Wang, Sammy Yao,
former TMI Administration Manager, and Christina Shao, my former secretary,
to take care of our children during our trip and Jane and I went to a month
long Southeast Asia trip. Of course, I was supposed to go the trip alone.
However, since hotel expense of the trip will be same any way regardless I
stay alone or stay with Jane together and Jane's meal cost would be paid by
AMI any way regardless where she was, I proposed AMI that I would go the
trip together and will pay her airefare myself and got OK very easily.
trip was to visit every country in Southeast Asia for 3 days each mostly,
meet governement officers on the first day, meets expateriates of American
companies on the second day and taking sightseeing group bus tour of the
country on the third day to understand the country better, which was such a
good trip for Jane.
was just one problem to start this trip. How are we going to handle TMI bank
account, which had around half a million dollars balance usually, and TMI
had to continue to make payments every day to here and there, while I am
gone for the trip. The account had been arranged to issue a check with two
signatures out of three guys – myself, Jackson Wang and the TMI
Accounting Manager. AMI expressed great concern as two local guys were not
AMI employees any more but working for Motorola.
replyed "You guys don't understand orientals. In orient, the most
imprtant is the face and honor. I can trust these two guys more than any
body in the world regardless for whom they work and I gurantee you there
would be no problem. If, by any chance, there would be any accident, I will
pay you back working free for AMI until it is all paid back."
seemed to be still cautious but said OK as I was too strong and there was no
any better idea. There was actually no problem during our trip and it only
made our friendship much stronger as all TMI people were so impressed on my
response to AMI and grateful to me trusing them that much. And, I was 100%
confident because I knew the Chinese friendship once it had been
way, Jane and I left Taiwan
and visited Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia,
Mauritius, a small island in western
which name I had never even heard about before myself. As the whole trip
took more than a month and we left children in a hotel in
Taichung, Jane returned to Taichung
from Tailand after 3 weeks of travelling and I went to
the trip, we had great dinners almost every evening with American
expateriates tasting strange but wonderful local foods, had a very
interesting sightseengs at every city, met Young-Il Lee, with whom we worked
together at Fairchild Semikor in Seoul but working at Fairchild Indonesia at
the time, and met also Chuck Hamrick who was former AMI consultant to KMI
but working as a General Manager of Intel plant in Penang, Malaysia.
was really a luxurious trip for Jane staying at top class hotel in every
city and having great food every day. And when she returned to
Taichung, what she found was our children had been so well taken care of by Jackson,
Samy and Christina, and they had no incovenience what so ever. They sent our
children to school every morning and took them back to hotel with company
car (my car previously), took them to good restaurants for dinner often and
many interesting places during week ends. I really appreciated for their
kindness but they said it was no more than to return for my trust and
kindness to them.
it will be a book to tell you about all my trips to
, I will not describe the trip story here,
the return from
which was my last destination, we still had to stay in Taichung
hotel for two more months until Motorola made the final payment. Children
loved room services at the hotel and many good foods at various restaurants
at first, but whole family was really tired taking hotel or restaurant food
for more than three months.
in June, as soon as the school year was over and summer vacation started, we
to take a vacation for a week in Seoul. Then, we returned to Silicon Valley after 2 years of very enjoyable life
leaving wonderful friends behind us.
I went to president's office to say hello on the first day returning to AMI,
Mr. Glenn Pennisten, the President of AMI, told me "We would not be
able to make a deal with Motorola without TMI. Motorola wanted TMI only but
we refused to sell TMI only. We insisted to take whole business as a package
or none and Motorola had to take it to buy TMI." And when he also said
"You made the greatest amount of profit for AMI as a single individual
employee this year and I really appreciate to you.", I didn't know what
to the United States
this way, we had to think over and over to make a decision whether we should
or live in the United States
permanently. It looked like not only children might face much harder life
than originally thought before we moved to Taiwan, if we return to Korea
after 4 years of American education, as Korean schools were teaching at much
faster pace than American school, we were also much more used to American
life which seemed to fit more to me who is very liberal and logical hating
oriental bureaucratic society. In addition, there were too many beautiful
places like many national parks to travel around for the guy thinking
"ENJOY TODAY" first always.
we decided to stay in the
rather than to return to Korea.