The Korea Herald


Samsung executives on thin ice before year-end reshuffle

By 김영원

Published : Oct. 21, 2016 - 14:52

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[THE INVESTOR] Prior to Samsung Electronics’ annual reshuffle of its top brass and executives in December, a sense of anxiety has descended upon the world’s largest smartphone maker, which has been hit hard by the recent Galaxy Note 7 crisis, according to sources on Oct. 21.

One of the focal points of this year’s reshuffle is whether Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who is now practically at the helm of the firm, would dismiss some of the top executives in the firm’s mobile business division, including President Koh Dong-jin and his aides, to hold them accountable for the Note fiasco, which will likely wipe more than 3 trillion won (US$2.65 billion) off from its earnings in the coming months.

In this year’s personnel changes, Samsung reportedly plans to sack around 200 executives among the total 1,080.

Samsung Electronics' mobile business division chief Koh Dong-jin Samsung Electronics' mobile business division chief Koh Dong-jin

A Samsung insider was quoted by local broadcaster MBC as saying that “Samsung, which has launched the performance assessment of its executives from this month, plans to cut up to 20 percent of the entire executive strength.”

Samsung laid off 129 executives last year and this year the company is expected to apply stricter rules to evaluate their performance.

Koh, the mobile chief, has been in charge of the flagship division since late last year and is credited with playing an integral role in developing the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series.

Before he became chief of the mobile business, Koh served as a leader of the mobile R&D division, leading projects including those to develop a stylus pen for the Note series and most recently the iris scanner, a signature feature of the short-lived Note 7.

Some of his key aides at the mobile development division include Rhee In-jong and Roh Tae-moon, who respectively lead the software and hardware units of the mobile R&D division.

The two Samsung executives have been often referred to as candidates to be the next mobile chief of Samsung, but their future is now murky with the latest Note fiasco.

Although Samsung would likely reprimand the top executives in some way, some insiders said conducting a dramatic reshuffle of the top brass would not be an easy decision to make.

“It is just one year since Koh started leading the mobile business, and dismissing him could undermine the morale of other executives and put too much pressure on his successor,” said a Samsung source on condition of anonymity.

By Kim Young-won (