Top critical review
Brilliant 1/2 of the story
Reviewed in the United States on April 25, 2020
This is a great read. It opens with the famous case in 2016 of Galaxy phones that kept catching fire while Samsung tried to suppress the truth. From this launching pad the author exposes many issues with the militaristic culture of Samsung. He also weaves in the "Republic of Samsung" theme to expose the corrupt nature of the relationship of government and big business in South Korea. All of it rings true. In no case did I feel the author overplayed any of the issues. In fact in his nice review of Samsung's history, he left drastically underplayed one ugly part. It is well known in the industry that Samsung's early rise was aided and abetted by a massive industrial espionage operation conducted with the cooperation of the Korean government. Besides Samsung, the story is useful and relevant in another way. Look behind Huawei, DJI and other Chinese giants and you will find similar stories.
Hopefully this story will cause some introspection on the part of Samsung as well as the many in Korea who have looked the other way for decades. I have my doubts. It is still the case that the proudest Korean parents are those whose children get jobs at Samsung. As long as Samsung continues to succeed I suspect this will continue.
That brings me to the missing part of the book. For all of its many faults, Samsung has been a huge success. Their market cap has doubled since the case of the burning phones. Clearly some things have worked very well for Samsung. The fact that this success has occurred over a period of decades rules out an explanation of short term tricks. I wish the author had explored this half of the story with equal diligence. If Samsung is to evolve it can't just be by fixing a broken culture, it has to be by building on what has worked.