Samsung Semiconductors

My life with Samsung was started with my first trip to Europe which was a series of troubles from the start to the last minute as described in the previous chapter. When I joined Samsung Semiconductors, 80% of products were manufactured in Kiheung Memory Products Plant though the Samsung Semiconductors was started with Boochun Non-memory Products Plant, which was founded several years earlier by Dr. Kidong Kang as the Hankook Semiconductors Co., who was my college classmate (1 year senior), one of founder of Korean Amateur Radio League together with me, went to U.S.A. right after the graduation of SNU, got PhD degree from University of Minnesota, joined Motorola and worked many years there, returned to Korea to establish Hankook Semiconductors, operated it a few years as the President but failed the business which was taken over by Samsung.

Semiconductor manufacturing has 3 steps of process, once new product is designed and passed QA Qualification Test for mass production. The first step is "Wafer Fabrication" or "Wafer Fab" in short, which is to print designed semiconductor patterns on 99.9999% pure (called six nine) thin silicon plate with similar process as photography. Since the distance between conductive aluminum lines are less than a micrometer (1/1,000,000 meter) in 1960s but a nanometer (1/1000 of micrometer) these days, it really requires extremely clean room and high technology, and this Wafer Fab process is the most difficult process in semiconductor process. (This is really the semiconductor manufacturing technology.)

The second step is the "Assembly" operation, which was the operation Fairchild Semikor or KMI have done. As each semiconductor chip is about the size of finger nail or even smaller, depending on product, each silicon plate called "Wafer" has hundreds of chips on it. "Assemly" operation starts to separate this each chip and assemble it into the package so that each unit will become a usable form on the printed circuit board. This requires very clean room also and high technology, but they are perhaps about 1/10 of "Wafer Fabrication" technology.

The last step is to "Test" (Called "Final Test") these assembled final products to screen any defective product. Since there are millions (billions today) of transistors in a chip, it takes quite a technology, time and very expensive (more than a million dollar per tester) computerized high speed tester to test them.

Since a chip contains millions or billions of transistors in it and distance between two conductive aluminum lines is less than a micro meter or a nano meter these days (which is called nano technology), you can see them only through the "Electron Microscope" and adjacent lines are so easy to be shorted by any process error or dust of nano meter size. This is why engineers or operators in Wafer Fab or Assembly rooms wear similar to space suits and you have to wait at least 10 min. and wash your mouth before you get in to the room, once you smoke cigrarettes. Otherwise, so small particle from your smoking could easily short the line destroying the product.

Therefore, the semiconductor manufacturing operation is always the "War against Dust" and even when you shut down the operation for a vacation, the airconditioner had to be continuously operated circulating air and maintaing temperature constantly at 24-25 degrees Celsius. Once there is an accident, it takes 3-4 days of air cleaning process before you restart the operation.

I wonder whether this would be enough to scare you. However, this not really a threat but the fact and semiconductor business is this much difficult high technology business. Therefore, whenever I trained engineers, supervisors or technicians, I said "We don't want any broad-minded people who are usually respected by others in this society. We need detailed people who pay so much attention to every detail and will never neglect any small detail, though he/she would not be respected in this society." Because of this kind of my life in semiconductor industry, probably I myself could not help but becoming a very detailed guy unintentionally.

Any way, when I saw the Kiheung Plant on the first day with Samsung, I was surprised by so many things. First of all, it was the largest semiconductor facility I have ever seen in my life with more than 10,000 people working. When I toured each office, since new Quality Director joined the company, every Dept. Managers came to me with their Section Managers and Sub-section Managers and greeted me. While I was looking at the papers, I heard someone shouting "Attention!!", just like a militqry camp, which really made me scared. It was a Dept. Manager with their people to greet me and salute military way.

I started to smoke and asked them to smoke too (There was no No-Smoking activity at that time and almost all adults smoked, but they were not supposed to smoke in front of seniors by Confucianism.) to make them relaxed with me and become closer friend rather than bureaucratic director. Now, it was their turn to be surprised, as they have never seen any director asking them to smoke together. It took several months to make them finally to smoke with me together and to become much closer each other.

On the other hand, as all 3 sons were already not living with us - Willy was in San Luis Obispo attending Cal-Poly, Charlie had been a part time employee of Hewlett Packard since 12th. Grade at high school and was attending University of Santa Clara which cost was paid by Hewlett Packard staying in dormitory of the university, and Johnny was in Hollywood, Los Angeles attending UCLA. – we sold the house, moved to Seoul in Jan. 1987, lived in Hyundae Apartement provided by Samsung for a few years and moved to Seocho Villa in 1990 which was built by Samsung for all directors from U.S.A. as myself where we lived until we returned to U.S.A. in 1996.

Though Boochun Plant of Samsung Semiconductors was started mucvh earlier, Kiheung Plant for DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) business was started only a few years before I joined Samsung and operated as almost a separate business. DRAM business was started by a great decision of Mr. Byung-Chul Lee, the founder of Samsung, in spite of a great risk of the nature of DRAM business and quite an amount of investment requirement.

Samsung established SSI (Samsung Semiconductors Inc.) in Silicon Valley, hired many experienced Korean PhD semiconductor expert engineers as Dr. Ilbok Lee to collect the latest information of semiconductor industry and do some research works there, brought some of them to Kiheung Plant as R&D directors to lead design works of many local engineering college graduates and PhD doctors majored electronics in Korea.

Any way, Samsung was so different from much smaller companies I had worked and I spent first few months just to understand the company and to think what to do in the future.

Meantime, I had found a few urgent jobs. The most urgent job was, while there were many customer visits to Kiheung Plant, we didn't have data to present. Rather than we didn't have it, we had too many data scattered here and there but none summarized nor organized to present to customers. Therefore, QA engineers had to create a presentation material working late until 11:00 PM or 12:00 midnight, every time they were told customer would visit Kiheung Plant. To make the situation worse, as the quality of the products were very poor, they could not present the fact as it was and had to adjust numbers presenting somewhat false numbers to customers always. And the lie created another lie next time and again and again and again endlessly.

I felt strongly that this had to be stopped and changed to be honest to customers and I had to brain wash Samsung people not only of QA but everybody. I emphasized,

"The greatest asset of the company is the "TRUST" of customers. No one buys products from a company they can not trust. A lie will create bigger lie next time and even bigger lie at the following time endlessly, which will be discovered by the customer sooner or later resulting the end of the business with the customer. Unless we are going to close this company within a few months or less than a year, but want to prosper for a long time, we have to establish customer's TRUST first though we might loose some business today."

As this was my philosophy of sales learned and experienced at Fairchild Semikor working as a Local Sales Manager, it was easy to explain them with actual true stories I had experienced myself.

It took few months to collect all available data from every engineer's drawers, summarize them and prepare a standard presentation material with actual true data, which could be presented to any customer any time. These data had been also always updated whenever new data were available which had totally eliminated all the hard works of QA engineers to prepare presentation materials for any customer visit including sudden visit without any advanced notice. And this was what I had been emphasized – the difference between hard workers and efficient workers.

The next long term project was "Operation Instructions". This was document describing what to do at the production lines – How the equipment had to be set-up, the procedure how to do the job at what sequence, how to handle materials etc. etc..

They had "Operation Instructions" already. However, none of them was detailed enough and so different from actual operation, as engineers instructed to change the procedures so often verbally without revision of document, whenever they had some kind of problem, just as the drawings in Gold Star Co.,

Well, the most important factor in mass production is the "Uniform Quality". Every product produced is supposed to be exactly same. The great benefit of automation is higher speed, lower cost and, most of all, uniform quality as machine repeats same motion exactly same every time as far as the machine is operating properly, which human can not do. Because human motion can not help doing slightly different every time, the "Operation Instructions" are the mean of minimizing these different motions. This is the standard of operation in American or Japanese companies, but it was not in Samsung. (Not Samsung only but practically all Korean companies.) There is no way to produce "Uniform Quality" without this "Standard Operation".

Therefore, I prepared a 3 years plan of quality improvement called QIP (Quality Innovation Project) and defined as -

First Year : Education and brain wash for "Uniform Quality" and "Standard Operation".
Second Year : Rewrite all Operation Instructions to make it reliable.
Third Year : Make every worker in the line to follow them faithfully.

And I established a new section called "Quality Innovation Section" asking several additional people to Personal Dept..

We started this new section with 5-6 people at first. I trained them "How to write Operation Instructions" first and then "How to audit lines as Line Auditors". Because Samsung had been well known as an aggressive company, they said they could do it in just a year. I said "It would be really great if we could accomplish this project in just a year but changing human mind could not be that easy. Let's see how long it would take."

Well, 3 years later, I think we could reach only 80% of my original target with our best efforts. I believe even 80% was possible because I had lived with "Standard Operation" for many years in American companies, had strong mind it is the best way of mass production and was stubborn enough not to give up regardless how hard it was. Especially in Samsung, they had a great pride as the best managed company in Korea and when I proposed and insisted the standard operation, the Plant Manager said "It might be the way of American company going down hill. Not the way Korean company needs." (At that time, the Japanese economy was at the peak and the pro-Japan company like Samsung had admired Japan very much, as they thought United States was going to fall in pieces by Japanese economic invasion.)  

I utilized the chances at the weekly "Quality Meeting" and monthly "R&D Meeting", both managed by Plant Manager and my frequent "Talkfests" with Dept. and Section Managers. (I called talkfests with Dept. and Sec. Managers few times a week or several hundreds of times while I was with Samsung just to brain wash them.)

At Quality Meeting and R&D Meeting, I made mostly short comments to get their attentions on problems and tried to change their way of thinking about the quality and, at talkfests, I made long lectures, listened to their opinions and responses and did my best to brain wash them about the philosophy of quality. At this time, the word I used frequently was "The Quality is not made by your finger tips but by your brains (though the products are made by finger tips)."

There was quite a strong reluctance at first, as they all had too strong pride of Samsung. However, they were changed slowly and unnoticeably and it took almost a year just to make them to think "Director Cho's word seems to be right. I think we have to implement real Standard Operation."

There was an unexpected advantage for me which was the "Respect Senior always" tradion of strong Confucianism in Korean society. Since I was the oldest among top management, only excluding Chairman Kang, all directors were several years at least or more than 10 years mostly younger than me including the president and they could not oppose me strongly face to face and they had to pretend as if they were following me at least, even though they didn't agree with me in their mind. I believe while they were pretending, they had been slowly brain washed by me and became to agree with me at last. On the other hand, R&D directors were very cooperative from the first as they were mostly from United States and familiar to American system.

When I joined Samsung, the President told me that there were daily 7 O'clock (PM) meetings and it would be the easiest way to become familiar to Samsung operation if I would attend all these daily meetings. What they were doing was – they work until 6:00 PM, go to cafeteria for dinner and start 7 O'clock meetings of "Production-Sales Meeting" on Monday, "Quality Meeting" on Tuesday, "Prodction Meeting" on Wednesday etc. etc. for all six working days (Mon. – Sat.) which lasted until 9:00 PM usually or even later some days. (I found no one knew or paid attention acturally about their official working hours except they knew they had to start to work at 8:00AM)

As a newcomer, I had no choice but to follow the suggestion of the President and attended all these meetings for a few weeks. However, it really made me too tired working so long hours every day which I had never done in my whole life. Therefore, I skipped one meeting and another one by one and attended only Tuesday's Quality Meeting in little more than a month.

In addition, they worked not only 6 days a week of normal working days but Sunday also without any holiday at all during whole year. Therefore, I declared form the start that "I had worked only 5 days a week in American companies  but will work 6 days a week. However, I am too old to work 7 days a week and have to take a rest on Sunday at least." I never worked on Sunday in Samsung.

In the evening also, since every director/manager went home at 9:00 PM at earliest, I couldn't leave my office at 5:00 PM sharp but left at 6:00 PM when they all went to cafeteria for dinner. I didn't know whether they were generous to old man due to Confucianism (though I was only early 50s), they didn't have too much interest on Quality or they just concluded "Director Cho" was that kind of person, I had heard no complaint from Samsung Group head office while I was told all directors' attendances were reported to the "Secretaries Office" of Samsung headquarters. Well, I had no interest on promotion in Samsung any way and I didn't care how they thought of me.

While I was trying to convert the mind of people, I started to visit major customers in United States and Europe . When I started the customer visits, wherever I went, there were plenty of quality complaints. But all I could do was to explain my 3 years plan (QIP) and ask them to give me more times to improve the quality. However, customers were still complaining as "We have immediate serious problems. How can we wait for 2-3 years?" I could understand their situation but had no answer. I had to just apologize and to say "You have many years of experience but we are just two three years old baby." I tried just to focus on immediate problem only as much as possible and discuss what to do next for the problem. It was extremely hard time for Samsung and for me too.

As my customer visit trips to U.S. and Europe became more and more frequent, it was not easy to fly for more than 10 hours frequently though Samsung gave business class tickets to directors. One day, after the directors' meeting, I asked Director of Administration, who was very friendly to me, whether I could take first class considering my frequent long flights, which was allowed only to Presidents or VPs. He replyed "OK" so easily and I took first class always thereafter.

In spite of poor quality, customers didn't have much choice but to buy DRAM from Samsung as the supply was tight. As the company paid attention to the Production and R&D for more and new products, all available fund was allocated to them mostly and QA didn't get much attention and QA testing equipment was not enough to function properly. I included additional equipment and man power into QIP and, by the strong support of the Director of Administration who was always the most powerful position in Samsung, we could gradually improve our testing capability. (Since QA still spent only very small portion of total company budget and I don't think it was a big deal for the Director of Administration any way.)

As QA got more and more equipment and engineers were more and more experienced noticeably, QA detected and picked up more and more defects and problems. These data was summarized and presented regularly to the management at various meetings. Now, R&D had to be far more careful designing new products.

One day, at a R&D Meeting, QA reported some minor problem and asked R&D to fix the problem first before we start the mass production. Since it was an urgent product for business, not only R&D but Sales also suggested to start the production first. I said "Well, since it is not a major problem, I can let you start the production. However, because I was complained same problem once from IBM, I can not allow you to ship them to IBM at least." I knew they need it for IBM. Finally, R&D accepted my suggestion to fix the problem first before they transfer the product to the Production, and Sales also expressed their appreciation to me later, though they really wanted to ship the product as soon as possible at first.

Meantime, I trained members of Quality Innovation Section for Standard Operation, how to prepare Operation Instructions and how to audit lines, myself for a few months and sent to the production lines to audit them. The result was just as expected. They found only 5-10% of the Operation Instructions were followed. When we sent out this audit result data to the management and lines, they didn't want to believe it and we received various kind of complaints from them. However, as the data was accumulated and they were explained about the data, gradually they had no choice but to believe the data and they voluntarily started to rewrite all Operation Instructions.

I made a rule that all newly rewritten Operation Instruction had to be reviewed and approved by Line QC and QA before to use them. Since they had never written perfect Operation Instructions, most of rewritten Operation Instructions were not good enough either for quite a long time and they had to be rewritten again and again many times until they were finally approved by QC and QA. It took more than a year, just to rewrite most of Operation Instructions making them barely usable. On the other hand, due to better Operation Instructions and more attention of everyone, the "Obedience Rate" of the Operation Instructions had been steadly improved upto about 40% from 5-10% initially but almost stopped there because of still poor quality of Operation Instructions and limit of attentions of line people including, operators, supervisors, technicians, mechanics and engineers.

To get their stronger attention, we distributed the audit data throughout whole plant every week, made each line to compete each other awarding best lines and talked a lot about the result of audit during regular talkfests with Dept. and Section Managers constantly to brain wash them. By endless effort of everyone in the plant and my stubborn personality, when I left Samsung Semiconductors, the Obedience Rate was improved to almost 80% though my target was 90%.

As the efforts of QIP progressed, atmosphere of Samsung Semiconductors had changed slowly to pay more and more attention to quality and quality data started to show improvement from a year later since we started QIP. After 3 years of QIP implementation, Samsung quality is recognized by our customers as almost same as Japanese DRAMs and, after 4 years, we were told from many of our top customers that our quality is even better than Japanese quality finally and the BEST in the WORLD !! From this time, my customer visits were not painful any more but rather pleasure for me. There were many interesting events at around this time.

One day, Hewlett Packard purchasing people visited Kiheung Plant with their engineers and told us they had about 1.5 million dollars worth of order to release but could not release because of the quality of Samsung DRAM. Sales people tried to convince them but they were too reluctant.

I met them at the conference room and made a presentation about our past, present and future quality trend. I said "In my understanding, I am confident our quality is at least same as the Japanese or even better than them according to our data as well as our top customers' comments. The only problem for me is we have had no chance to prove it to Hewlett Packard yet. I don't think I can ask you to release the order as far as you are not confident. All I can say is how much you can trust me."  

They asked a break, went next room for about 15 minutes, came back and said "Since you have never lied to us, we trust you. We will release the order based on your statement." I could prove to all Samsung people how important and valuable the mutual trust would be each other for mutual business, as I had always emphasized and prohibited to generate any false data any more.  

Another event was NCR case. One time, semiconductor business was booming and DRAM price shot up by 20-30% in a few months as supply was short. Samsung raised price as well not to miss this chance but raised price for the volume already booked before price increase. This was not the general practice of business and NCR was really mad and declared to stop the business with Samsung any more. NCR even notified to Samsung not to send any one to their office any more.

When I went to SSI in Silicon Valley, I heard this story. I decided to try my way and called NCR director myself whom I have met a few times.

I said "In my understanding too, Samsung did lousy job ignoring general business practice just because they are not experienced to international business too much yet, though it have been usual within Korea. I really feel guilty to NCR and would like to visit your office just to apologize and explain the situation little bit. Under the circumstances, I have no intention to ask you to buy our product. This will be the visit just for apology only and will buy a lunch for people there as a gesture of  apology."

Well, since Sr. Director of Samsung was proposing a visit of apology only, he said OK and asked me to come alone without any other salesman.

I went to a small town of Wichita, Kansas alone where NCR had purchasing office with product qualification testing facility. They might perhaps be curious or had nothing much to do. There were about 30-40 people in conference room to see this crazy Samsung Sr. Director.

I didn't say much but "This had happened because of the lack of experience of Samsung who is still only a few years old baby. All I came here to say is nothing but we are very sorry. I can not ask you to buy our product as I can understand your feeling about Samsung. All I would like to do is to show you where our product quality is and how it is going to be improved in the future just because my job is Quality Director in Samsung. I would like to visit here every quarter and report the progress which might interest you for some day in future. Would you allow me to do quarterly visit just for quality presentation only?"

I made very brief quality presentation and went for lunch with a few staff members. It seemed the NCR Director was little relaxed and said "We would like to buy Samsung products but the quality is still poor and Samsung's action against general business practice really made us mad." And he said OK to visit them quarterly.

After this event, I visited NCR every quarter for more than a year but never asked them to buy our products. About a year and an half later, the Director said "Your persitancy won. We now know where your product quality is according to your presentation. We just need to perform few tests to confirm whether your data is true or not. Send us some samples to test." Then on, NCR had been very friendly to us. They did very few simple tests only of our products and qualified us to their purchasing. Now, NCR business was reopen again after one and a half years of my persistent effort. 


We had few more occasions of this kind of episode and a Sales Dept. Manager said "About half of DRAM sales was made by Director Cho, not by salesmen. Thank you very much." Well, I knew there was some exaggeration but it was not a totally groundless statement, and I felt very good.

As Samsung DRAM quality is well recognized as the best in the world among American major customers, I proposed to Marketing to get in to Japanese Market. As there were few famous DRAM makers such as Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu, etc. in Japan, they had no reason to buy Korean DRAM. However, United States put the pressure on Japan and forced them to sign U.S.A.-Japan Semiconductor Treaty, which defined Japan to buy 20% of their semiconductor demand from outside of Japan. Of course, this was to sell U.S. semiconductors to Japan. However, why don't we take advantage of this treaty and sell our product to Japan? If they had to buy 20% of total semiconductor usage out of Japan , DRAM must be the easiest product to satisfy 20% requirement as it was a single product requiring largest volume for all computers.

However, Korea, Samsung and Hyundae, was the only country producing DRAM other than U.S. and Japan and Hyundae wouldn't dare to penetrate to quality sensitive Japan because of their very poor quality, which left only Samsung to try. My idea was to take advantage of this best chance as we wouldn't even need to sell at cheaper price either.

However, because Japanese product quality was very high on all products, they had been so quality sensitive and they had to buy products they didn't want to buy from foreign country, it had to be a tough challenge and the Sales hesitated to get in at first. My another intention was, though many world top customers have approved our DRAM as the best quality product in the world, I wanted to challenge these extremely quality sentive Japanese companies who would find lot more defects than American companies. As they find more defects, it would work as stronger pressure to our R&D and Production people, especially in Samsung which had been very pro-Japan company, and it would force our QA engineers to work harder and learn more, which should result even better quality. Any way, since there was no sale in Japan at all, there was nothing to loose other than small amount of sales expenses,  

Finally, the Sales agreed and we sent samples with our testing data to Samsung Tokyo office to distribute them to top Japanese computer makers who were also DRAM makers. And the result was – "No way. There are too many problems, none of them are interested and it is too early to penetrate Japanese market. Well, it was expected from the first already. I started to visit Japan frequently. I visited all Japanese potential customers myself and made presentations of our DRAM quality.

Because of Japanese occupation of Korea, I learned Japanese at elementary school (Actually, we were allowed to speak Japanese only. Speaking Korean was prohibited.) and I talked a lot with Japanese radio hams over the ham radio communications every day at home after ham radio was licensed in Korea when I was in College and thereafter until we moved to U.S.A. in 1973, my Japanese is still far better than my English. It is much easier language for me than English to speak and listen, almost same as Korean. Therefore, I could make all presentations and conversations with them in Japanese without any difficulty, almost same as a Japanese, which itself made them to be amazed.

However, the response was quite negative for a while. Especially Toshiba, the largest DRAM maker at the time, was the toughest and complained me that they could not accept one defect out of 1,000 samles in our Reliability Test data. What they were saying was there should be "Zero Defect".

I defended as "I have never heard any product in the world have ever achieved Zero Defect though it is the final goal and dream of our Quality people always. One defect out of 1,000 samoles means it could be zero if we were little luckier during sampling or could be two defects if we were little more unfortunate. I think it was nothing more than the matter of luck while we were sampling. We just wanted to be honest and showed one defect as we found dring the test. If you would like, I could submit you new data changing to zero defect. As it is within the tolerance of luck, I wouldn't feel too guilty even I change the data as you please."  

Well, they couldn't argue any more and Toshiba became the first Japanese customer to buy our DRAM after more than a half year of intensive testing of samples and other customers followed one by one. It took more than a year until all Japanese customers approved our DRAM finally

One day, we were reported that our product had a quality problem in Toshiba. I immediately flew to Japan and visited Toshiba. It was not a functional defect but a simple cosmetic defect of marking problem. The Samsung logo, product name and manufacturing date printed on top of the product was not clear enough but tarnish, making it little difficult to read. I said "This is not normal but they are still legible." The Toshiba guy said "Ya, it is true. However, if you are going to buy a girl paying same money, are you going to sleep with a beautiful girl? or a ugly girl?" We laughed so much and I promised them to replace the products.

During this time, I traveled to Japan almost every month. As Japan was just less than 2 hours of flight, it was much easier to travel and to communicate too. However, they were all so tough and more than 50% of customer problem reported to QA was from Japan while we were selling less than 10% of total sale to Japan. Therefore, QA spent lot more than 50% of customer service time for Japanese customers to analize the defect samples and prepare reports and action plan for them. On the other hand, this also helped a lot for our QA engineers to learn a lot, to develop their Failure Analysis technology and improve our quality. And it contributed a lot also working as a great pressure to R&D and Production just as I had originally expected.

It had been the story of Kiheung Plant Memory Products. However, I worked 2 days a week in Boochun Plant where I had another office. Not only the volume of Boochun Plant was far less than Kiheung Plant, they were mostly shipped to domestic customers who usually did not complain about Samsung products.

There were separate QA organization and Quality Innovation Section with several auditors who did same job as Kiheung Plant to implement Standard Operation through QIP there too. As Boochun Plant was also producing simple transistors and many cheap non-memory semiconductors which had been all discontinued in Japan, Boochun had quite a business with Japanese electronics companies.

One day, We were informed from Tokyo office that Boochun transistors, shipped to Sony of Japan and reshipped to Sony U.S.A. plant, caused a problem in U.S.A. plant. I was going to visit Tokyo any way very soon and flew to Tokyo immediately on very next day visiting Sony Purchasing office on the day. I just listened to the complaint, received defective samples and returned without any comment other than to say sorry.

The problem was we had no idea to pin point what had caused the problem in spite of our best efforts doing all kind of failure analysis as far as we know. It looked like it was just a simple operator mistake which would never be accepted by Sony as we had to explain them how we would totally eliminate the cause permanently. Just retraining of operators would never work with Sony as a corrective action.

We did all we can do for several days but there was no solution. Well, we had to create a story somehow and wrote a failure analysis as "We found one machine caused this problem and we have overhauled the machine. Therefore there will be no more same kind of problem in the future."

I submitted this failure analysis report to Sony visiting them again in less than a week. However, Sony Quality Section Manager smiled and said "We can not agree it. We think problem is such and such¡¦. Would you check again from our view point?"

I came back to Boochun and investigated from Sony's view point. However, we found nothing new. It was not a problem occurring frequently and not a serious problem either. Still, it looked like no more than a simple operator error. Well, what could we do? We had no choice but to write another fictional story again from the view point of Sony this time.

I visited Sony in less than a week again. A Sony Quality Section Manager looked at our Failure Analysis Report and smiled again, and said "We can not agree on this report either. However, I am really impressed on Samsung's effort to care customer this much. I have never seen any vender that Sr. Director visits us 3 times in less than 2 weeks himself and try to solve a problem. Since this is not such a serious problem, let's forget it this time. As I am impressed so much, we will buy a lunch for you."

Usually, Sony was well known as the toughest company on quality problems. However, afther this incident, Sony had been so friendly to us, never complained us and always asked us failure analysis only without asking corrective asctions sending failure samples. This was another event to show how the sincerity to customer is important for the business always. Thereafter, I just visited Sony almost every time I traveled to Tokyo and had lunches with them just as a friend regardless we had a problem or not and this was one example that "A problem turned to a friendship."

There was another episode with Japan. There was a quality problem with Kyushu Matsushita who sent samples for our failure analysis. As Boochun QA couldn't find right cause of the problem, they just delayed, delayed and delayed the response for more than a year which was not reported to me as they didn't think it was a serious problem. Now, the engineer of Kyushu Matsushita who waited, waited and waited the response of Samsung was mad finally and told Samsung Tokyo office that they will discontinue business with Samsung and asked to stop all shipment immediately.

Well, it became a serious problem now and Samsung Tokyo called me asking what to do. I called Boochun QA engineer and learned the history of this incident. It looked like it was 100% our fault not responding for more than a year and there could not be any excuse. I immediately flew to Kyushu and visited the customer with QA Dept. Manager and Samsung Tokyo office salesman.

During the visit, I didn't ask any excuse but just said "This is totally our fault and I can not find any excuse. It is fundamently my fault not supervising my people properly. I just came here soly to apologize, not to ask excuse."

The young engineer of Kyushu Matsushita was so mad and complained for an hour, while I repeated nothing but "Sumimasen (Sorry)" over and over. After more than an hour of scolding, we left the customer without any solution or agreement. When we came out of the meeting room, the Sales Section Manager of Tokyo office said "It was amazing how you old Samsung Sr. Director could possibly say nothing but Sumimasen only all the way to such a young engineer. I don't think myself much younger than you could do it." I said "Well. It was totally our fault. What can I say? If I defended ourselves, he will be more and more mad making the situation much worse. Let's wait and see. I believe the problem is solved with this visit." His face showed he was amazed again.  

Any way, the problem was not solved on the day. But very soon, we could start the shipment again to Kyushu Matsushita (There was no place to buy that product, as no one but Samsung was producing it any way.) and the engineer was not mad any more. I believe he felt very good after an hour of scolding to an old Samsung Sr. Director and, first of all, my sincerity and honesty have worked again.

There were many this kinds of event which I will finish here. It was my great fun to solve this kind of difficult problems and the Samsung Sales asked my help whenver/wherever there were serious problems, which made me very popular among worldwide sales people, though  I had to travel a lot all over the world. In 1990, I was out of town traveling foreign countries for 2/3 of the days. It was the time our quality was just started to be recognized by world major customers but not fully proven to them yet, which made my job still hard enough.


I talked about the fun part of the work. Of course, there was a hard part as well as fund part. I didn't like the bureaucracy and formalism of Samsung and told Jane "I will quit Samsung within a year" so many times which she didn't believe any more, as I repeated it for years and years. It was almost a miracle for myself how I could survive for more than 10 years in Samsung but I could do somhow, because I had a lot of fun solving this kind of difficult problems, making progress of quality slowly but steadly, which no one else could do, and enjoyed a lot of special benefits of Samsung for directors.

One of the key fact I could achieve this success was the president Kwang-Ho Kim, my boss, had never intervene my job but let me do my way always. I had never heard his praise but scolding neither. I didn't know whether he had totally trusted me, he was extremely patient for my work or he was not much interested in quality any way. At any rate, he had left me to work my way and just supported me at directors' meetings making a few comments in favor of me which was very helpful for me. And that was how I could do my job as I wanted always with fun and how I could accomplish all this success in Samsung.

One of the great benefits of Samsung directors, which was one of the major reason making me to stay in Samsung for more than 10 years, was unlimited expenses. Regardless it was a personal use or official expense, all I had to do was to give receipts to my secretary even without any explanation. No question was asked. Therefore I had entertained not only customers, but also my family, relatives and even friends very frequently at best restaurants always, though, still, I believe I spent far less than other directors who liked to drink while I didn't. I always traveled with first class air tickets, stayed at the best hotels, was entertained at the best restaurants by Samsung oversea sales office managers wherever I went, and played golf worldwide whenever time permits. Especially, when I traveled to U. S. A., I came to San Franciso first always, went best restaurants in Bay Area with not only our children but also many friends. And this was one of the reason I cound't quit Samsung earlier.

Just because of Korean customs perhaps, Samsung directors never took wives when they went official trips. Even though they took wives together, additional cost for the company would be meal cost for wives only which would be minimal. But there was no brave enough director to break this customary practice.

Well, I was not interested to be promoted in Samsung any way. I was already well recognized as a crazy guy company wide, not working on Sunday, going home early etc.. Why not to break this practice? In Septmber, 1990, when I travel to Europe to visit few customers, I took Jane together who had never been to Europe. I got a free first class KAL ticket for her using my KAL mileage already accumulated a lot as I always traveled first class. I planned to go to London first alone, spend about a week visiting customers there, fly to Paris where I would meet Jane arriving from Korea, visit few more customers there while Jane look around Paris and start about 2 weeks of Europe sightseeing tour together thereafter.

In Paris, Sang-Soo, the son of my eldest sister, lived there as a student working as a tour guide too as a side job and Jane could enjoy Paris tours guided by almost professional Sang-Soo while I was visiting customers. After my official work in Paris, we flew to Geneva, Switzerland, where our QA Section Manager Yoon-Shik Kim was waiting for us at the airport with his car. Y. S. Kim was stationed in Samsung Frankfurt office, dispatched by Kiheung QA to do customer service more efficiently in Europe for a few years, drove his car (company car) from Frankfurt to Geneva airport to meet us and traveled with us together for about a week driving around for us.

We drove beautiful Swiss roads to Interlaken through Zurich, where we stayed one night and took a train to Jungfrau of Alps. From there, we drove to Heidelberg, Germany, not too far from Frankfurt, looked around this famouse city which was a part of famous movie we saw when we were college students. Then, we drove to Frankfurt where we visited Lorelei, not too far from Franfurt, and flew to London together with Y. S. Kim, had a great sightseeing of London area, played a round of golf and flew to Milan, Italy. Meantime, Y. S. Kim always took care of us all the way. In Milan, local Italian salesman guided us driving around Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompei, Napoli etc. with his car for another week.

This fantastic and luxury trip was all paid by Samsung except very minimal pocket expenses. Everywhere we go, Samsung sales office managers entertained us very well. They were so surprised that I took Jane together for the trip and envious for the courage. No one showed any negative expression at all and I really appreciated for their great entertainments.


Another trip was in April, 1992. April 15, 1992 was our 30th. Aniversary and Jane had stopped by Tokyo few times on the way but never really saw Japan. I planned to take Jane to Japan and spend the Anniversay day in Tokyo, as I had a customer visit trip plan. (I actually adjusted the trip date.)

After the customer visits for a day or two, we had a Japanese traditional dinner at a Japanese restaurant called "Happoen" on 4/15 which was well known as the top class Japanese style restaurant. Next day, we visited famous Hakone and Kamakura and went to Kyoto on the following day. I had arranged the first class seats of bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto as it was our anniversary trip.

When I go to Japan, I usually stay in western hotels but prefer to stay in Japanese inn in Kyoto only as it is really a traditional city of Japan. It was the time of cherry blossom very fortunately and Kyoto had a Cherry Blossom Festival decorating whole city with cherry blossoms which is their national flower. I took a Japanese inn very next of Maruyama Park where the cherry blossom was really gorgeous.

We stayed in Kyoto for a few days visiting Osaka too and enjoying old tradition of Japanese culture including wonderful real Japanese sukiyaki. In Japan too, as he got a lot of help of me, the Samsung Tokyo office manager entertained us very well with another QA Sec. Manager stationed in Tokyo who took care of us all the way and this was another luxury trip in free of charge, as I got a first class free ticket for Jane from KAL again and all expenses were charged to Samsung as a customer visit trip expenses.


I worked for Samsung Semiconductors this way for about five and a half years. When I returned from trip to Japan in 1992, I was called by Chairman Jin-Koo Kang, who was my few years senior at Engineering College of Seoul National University. He worked in broadcasting field long time, joined Samsung when Samsung started the first commercial TV bradcsting station of "Dong-Yang TV" as the chief engineer and became a Chairman of Samsung Electronic Group later. I met him several times when I worked in Radio Seoul and he in Dong-Yang TV, both Samsung subsidiaries, but met a lot more frequently at directors' meetings after I joined the Samsung Semiconductors. I heard he praised Sr. Director Cho frequently at special lectures of Samsung Training Center but never parised me face to face, which was usual and very customery in Korean companies.

Any way, I went to his office at Samsung head office in Seoul and was proposed to work at Home Appliance Division of Samsung Electronics, as Semiconductors seemed to have good enough quality to compete in the world market but home appliances are still too much behind of Japan. He wanted me to go to Suwon Plant and improve all home appliance products quality to the level of Japanse companies.

I didn't accept the proposal at first as my specialty is in the semiconductor operation where I worked almost whole my life but know nothing about home appliances. However, he insisted as the home appliances quality had too many problems and Samsung had been facing too much difficulties competing with Japanese products not only in the world market but also in domestic market too, requiring very innovative change throughout the whole operations in Suwon Plant.

Since he was insisting so much to work in Suwon Plant, I had nothing to loose. I said "I worked for the Semiconductors for five and a half years but my salary had never been raised, as they say it is based on the initial contract. As the result, it was actually lowered by absolute value because of annual inflation. If you insist to work for Suwon Plant, don't you think my salary had to be readjusted for annual inflation at least at this chance to start new job? In addition, Suwon Plant is 3-4 times larger organization than Semiconductors which will be much harder to manage and I think it is fair to raise my salary by 30% at least."

I myself knew it would be ridiculous request as I believed Samsung never raised any salary by 30% at once. However, I was surprised when he instantly accepted my proposal. I could realize he valued me very highly but could not praise me face to face because of Korean tradition. Well, if the Chairman is backing me, what should I worry about? I finally accepted his proposal, left the Semiconductors at the end of May of 1992 after five and a half years and moved to the Home Appliances Division of Samsung Electronics. By that time, Samsung Semiconductors was a another division (Semiconductors Division) of Samsung Electronics Co. – SEC.