SAMSUNG – light and shadow

My Samsung camera, my Samsung app, my Samsung laptop, my … the list goes on.  An enterprising company with creative energy bristling, but behind the bustling surface, there is a history of light and shadow.

A Samsung customer with his camera

A Samsung customer with his camera

Samsung as a company was founded in the late-1930s with  Korea different to what it is today.  The Japanese had back in 1905 begun negotiations with the Korean government and by 1910 the Korean authorities signed away their independence – an industrialized nation had come to “help” an agrarian nation, one known in its isolation as “The Hermit Kingdom”.

Within the first decade, resistance to the occupation began and with it, the first martyrs.  The resistance went underground, increasingly influenced by the rising ideology of communism.

Samsung was established by Korean enterprise and money, supported by the Japanese.  The Koreans involved were considered by the resistance as collaborationist and denounced as capitalists, to be overthrown.  The resistance was inspired by Mao Tse Tung’s march to power, as well as the apparent successes in Stalinist Russia.

Propaganda painting of the new world icon

Propaganda painting of the new world icon

The Second World War intensified the resistance to the Japanese, especially too, after thousands of Korean women were taken to be “comfort women” for the Japanese soldiers.  In August, 1945, the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought unconditional surrender from the Japanese, and Korea’s colonial masters were banished.

The division in the society, however, had solidified, and the resistance derived impetus from the victory of Mao Tse Tung in 1949.  In 1950, with military support from China and Russia, the communists declared war on the Korean government and invaded from the northern territory.

Montage of Korean War

Montage of Korean War

A Country Divided

A Country Divided

The Korean civil war was one of the worst of its kind.  One million two hundred thousand lives were lost within three years. (Compare Iraq war: 500,000 deaths from 2003 – 2011).  Twenty-four nations, including South Africa, supported the Korean government in pushing back the communists who had taken the entire peninsula with the exception of Pusan, the coastal city in the south.  The Americans would play the biggest role. In 1953, a ceasefire was agreed upon between the two regions, north and south, but a formal peace treaty has never been brokered.

War Memorial, Ichon, West Seoul: the names, the names

War Memorial, Ichon, West Seoul: the names, the names …

Samsung survived.  In the south, that is.  In the West we know that.  Many of us have had a Samsung product.  The Japanese know it – the drop in their profits might well reek of a distant  revenge, ironically.   This company, the biggest of its kind in the country, is one of the main reasons why South Korea has been so successful in the world, placing them, in 2010, 13th amongst wealthy nations.

Samsung Town, Seoul

Samsung Town, Seoul

The Chinese and Russians have now developed Samsungs of their own, so to speak, and abandoned North Korea, the new “Hermit Kingdom”, a medieval serfdom, the most closed society on earth.

When does healing come?

                       When does healing come?

How inanimate objects – a fridge, a microwave oven, a cell phone – have grown out of a history of light and shadow!

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, France  

November, 2016


Andrew C. Nahm:  Tradition and Transformation. A History of the Korean People.

Wikipedia:  History of the Korean civil war (1950 – 1953)  

Statistics on deaths in Iraq war:  PLOS Medicine Survey, quoted by Wikipedia.  The reader is cautioned that such statistics come amidst controversy.


Samsung customer wcamera and Will  –  Will

War Memorial, Ichon, Seoul – Will

Mao  –  source lost

War montage  –  Wikiwand

Map  –

Samsung Town –

Dangerous Border –

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