Samsung steals acquires Japanese traitors talent

Yesterday’s Mainichi Daily had an article on a trend I’ve know has been happening for years, the recruitment and acquisition of Japanese engineering talent by Samsung.Β  In many cases this talent is directly from Samsung’s competition such as Sony, Panasonic or Sanyo.

Born in Osaka, [Mitsunori] Shishida started working at Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (now Panasonic Corp.) in 1986 after graduating from college…. Shishida, who knew what being at the top of the game felt like, grew increasingly frustrated. It was around this time that the company began encouraging its employees to take early retirement offers, and Shishida met a visiting Samsung executive who appealed to Shishida that together they work towards becoming number one. Shishida left his job to join Samsung, prepared to stay there until retirement.

Today there are approximately 200 Japanese employees at the Samsung Yokohama Research Institute. The number of employees in their 20s and 30s has been rising, and many young people nowadays barely differentiate between Samsung and major Japanese corporations as potential employers.

Shishida, however, feels that the pride of being a representative of his country is what has helped him through the years. As Samsung has taken in a lot of Japanese technology, the gap between Samsung products and Japanese counterparts has shrunk steadily….

Shishida says he couldn’t help admonishing a Japanese manufacturing executive. “Please boost the quality of your products,” he told the executive.

One of the reasons why Korean electronics manufacturers such as LG and Samsung have been able to catch up with their Japanese competitors in a relatively short period of time has been because of their ability to hire talent from their Japanese competition.Β  Ah, perhaps these Japanese recruits are a type of modern day β€œHang-wae”?

  • cm

    Oh please. The Chaebols, especially Samsung and Hyundai hire engineers from all over the world, not just Japan. That’s how Koreans have had a leg up on the Japanese. If anything, it’s probably the Russians, Americans including Gyopos who had more contributions made. The Japanese are making a big deal out of this, to make an excuse for their falling performance vies a vie Korean firms.

  • Koreansentry

    Just like Microsoft did to Apple, CA, Symantec etc.. Google is doing the same. Company bosses should know true resource is their people.

  • R. Elgin

    Talent poaching by headhunters is old news not extraordinary. This last year it was LG poaching Samsung people and more than a few talk about working for LG is like taking a break or vacation from work (Samsung).

    I posed the question some months back about just what Lee Kun-hee would make a pile of and burn as the current dross and apparently the answer is obsolete talent.

  • seouldout

    ‘Scuse me… how do think they gained all the DRAM know-how? Toshiba fellas coming over on the weekends for big paychecks. As Elgin wrote, it’s old news.

  • cm

    #4, that was back in the mid 1980’s. That’s so old.

  • cmm

    @cm 1 and 4

    With all due respect, from where I’m sitting, this is hardly a thing of the past or something to which one should take an apologetic or dismissive stance. It’s ongoing if not progressive, and it seems that the number of Japanese persons brought over that the Japanese newspaper stated drastically understates the phenomenon. Sheeyit, one of my coworkers literally had to learn Japanese in his previous position (in production) because he couldn’t communicate with his team. Think about that.

    I’ve talked about this before here several times. Sure, it’s the same everywhere in the world… poaching that is… but the extent of the poaching of Japanese (in particular) talent and more importantly the Japanese firms’ IP that comes with them, that I’ve seen, far exceeds that which would far exceed my expectations. Americans (gyopos included) and Russians might be intelligent laborers who work hard and bring expertise (and Russians at a discount), but they scarcely bring competitors’ IP along in their brains. Simply put, a lot of the company’s research and “breakthroughs” are indeed “funded” by Japanese companies.

  • cmm

    Of course, if you can get away with it (and they do, and my gyopo lawyer friend could tell you some doozies), it’s great for business and the country!

  • WangKon936

    Well… I think Korea and Japan have got to watch out for China. Can you imagine how many whores marriage prospective ladies one can afford to support on an engineer’s salary in China?

    Right cmm?… πŸ˜‰

    But in any case, at this point Japan is a lot more comfortable with sharing technology with Korea than they are with China. I can’t see Sony or Toshiba partnering at this level with any Chinese company at this point:

  • Japonymous

    CM, though you are right in citing that Korean companies are served well through their hiring of foreign talent, in general (and specifically Gyopo talent), you neglect to consider that the technologies which Samsung (and Korea Inc.) has excelled in the last 20 years are almost a direct mirror of the technologies which Japan has excelled in. Remember, no more US television manufacturers to speak of. No more US memory chip manufacturers to speak of. The cutting edge of consumer electronics has been in Japan for the past 30 years (also in battery technology). These are the technologies which Korea has chosen to excel in, and as they parallel Japan’s growth trajectory almost perfectly, it would make more sense that they are hiring/pilfering important talent from Japan to a dispropotionate (at least as far as yield is concerned) extent.

    Should Korea skip over the development ladder and start producing Intel-type CPU’s before Japan, then your argument about pilferring US talent may be more so on point.

    Great book written by a Korean Prof. comparing Sony and Samsung in which Prof. Kim states that Samsung has yet to make the jump to innovator. They are still predominately in the commodity electronics biz, and in teh emulating success biz. There rapid rise to technological sales dominance has much to do with their acquisition of foreign talent, and particularly key Japanese talent, when their turn to emulate emerges.

  • Japonymous

    and one more thing, the main issue is not with the Korean companies. they are doing exactly what they should be doing. The issue lies with Japanese companies that have lost their way, and expect loyalty from employees that, thoug, once deserved, is no longer earned. They are treating their retirees as has-beens who have nothing else to add. they are feeling the negative repurcusions of their short-sightedness now.

  • cmm

    @9 Dead. On. In addition to your examples of consumer electronics, secondary batteries, and memory, there are several other techs that aren’t consumer end products that perfectly fit this exact “Japanese company –> Korean company” pattern. Their production facilities have a mysteriously large portion of Japanese speakers.

    That the Korean company in question is not an innovator but just excellent at emulating is no secret. Have you seen their iPhone clone? It’s an excellent iPhone, in many ways better than the original.

    @8 WK — haha, I HAVE thought of that before. It would be a whole new world, in more ways than one. Haier–here I come! Just kidding.

    I read a piece a few years back about how China has been poaching Korean shipbuilding engineers (whose know-how probably was poached from Japan previously). I think I’ve commented about this here before too.

  • WangKon936


    I largely agree with you. I’d have to say that due to a number of factors, such as geographic distance, cultural similarities, that both were U.S. allies (and the U.S. actively encouraged Japan to help Korea develop via tech transfers, etc.), colonial history, the fact that most professional adults in 60’s and 70’s Korea spoke Japanese, particularly among the business elite (both the founder of Samsung and his sons went to Japanese universities) also had an effect on Korea following Japan’s development tract. Clearly, also due to these similarities Koreans found Japanese workers who were considered “washed-up” in Japan as attractive and vice versa.


    Personally, I think Samsung is still comfortable being the guy that lets others innovate then working furiously at creating an alternative. When it comes to innovation, I’ve heard people call Samsung a “systemic” innovator which is to take existing technology and make it better, faster, cheaper, etc. Essentially, Samsung doesn’t like to take market risk of “blazing a new trail.” They have seen Sony do it and they have seen Sony fail miserably at it. There are A LOT of costs associated with being the first market mover. There are R&D costs, marketing costs, capital costs to retool your manufacturing, etc. They would very much rather have someone else incur all those costs, blaze the trail first and prove that it’s a profitable market before diving in. When they do know that a market is profitable, I don’t know of another company on the planet that’s as good as Samsung at taking a successful idea and replicating a credible, if not better, version of it ASAP into the marketplace.

    Samsung has recognized that there is room in the marketplace for alternatives to blockbuster products. Apple can’t have it all. However, they will never enjoy Apple-like margins of around 30%. But they are happy with having 10% margins on hundreds of billions in sales.

    Haier? Isn’t it time to go home? Can’t you work for TI, Qualcomm or Intel? Maybe one of the defense companies? Don’t you miss the blonde, buxom farmer’s daughters? I bet that’s downright exotic to you now, huh?… πŸ˜‰ No wait… you get Russian girls over there, huh?