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Korean Hidden Champions are Good at Globalization, but are Bad for Corporate Culture2016-08-31Hit:1239

Korean Hidden Champions are Good at Globalization, but are Bad for Corporate Culture

- Research Analysis from MBA students in KAIST-Tsinghua-Keio


“Korea hidden champions are distinctive from other Asian firms (in China or Japan) in terms of globalization.” “A change in the hierarchical corporate culture for young adults will make Korean hidden champions more attractive for job applicants.”


MBA students from Korea, Japan, and China gathered in KAIST College of Business, Seoul, Korea in order to present their recent business case analysis on Korean small-and -medium sized companies. Lee Min Jung (KAIST MBA, Korea), Jiaoying (Keio MBA, Japan), and Pengjing (Tsinghua MBA, China) visited five companies – Korea Kolmar, Inbody, Sees Global, SJ & S, and Crucialtec. These companies may not be well-known conglomerates, but their reputation in the market in terms of product quality rivals or is even superior compared to other global firms. That’s why they are called the hidden champions. The three MBA students shared their views and opinions on how Korean hidden champions can be more competitive.


Pengjing (Tsinghua MBA) said, “Korean hidden champions are more international than Chinese firms. As the Chinese market is already large, most Chinese firms do not necessarily think of globalization from the beginning.” Jiaoying (Keio MBA) also said, “A lot of Japanese firms focus on the domestic market by providing personalized service. However, Korean firms seem to be more dynamic, and they actively pursue globalization of their markets.” All three students said that Korean hidden champions are excellent in terms of technology.  Pengjing (Tsinghua MBA) noted that “Almost all Korean firms that I have visited seem to have strong competitiveness in advanced technology, which can be a high barrier for other firms to enter the same market.” According to Mr. Lee (KAIST MBA), “When I talk with foreign students about Korean firms, they know pretty much about family-owned conglomerate business style. It was even surprising for me, to learn that many Korean hidden champions are not family-owned conglomerates but they are global top No. 1 in their area of discipline.”


They also gave some constructive feedback to Korean hidden champions. Jiaoying (Keio MBA) pointed out that “Korean hidden champions may produce price competitive products when compared to Japanese firms, however, most of the Korean firms work closely with and form alignments and sometimes work for large conglomerates. This may jeopardize the business environment, as large firms can ask for a price-cuts.” Also, “Korean business culture is firmly rooted in traditional Koran philosophy. This can hamper the younger generation in speaking against the elder generation as the authoritarian hierarchy is important. It is important to change this kind of corporate culture, as the current younger generation is in favor of a new culture. ” Similarly, Pengjing (Tsinghua MBA) emphasized that “It seems like many job seekers know quite well about large conglomerates’ welfare and salary packages, however, they may know not much about the hidden champions. It is important to let them know about the hidden champions’ competitiveness, flexible working hours, and career development opportunities.”

Contact : Lee, Sohyun ( sohyun.c.lee@kaist.ac.kr )