Economic Catch-up and Technological Leapfrogging
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Economic Catch-up and Technological Leapfrogging

The Path to Development and Macroeconomic Stability in Korea

Keun Lee

This book elaborates upon the dynamic changes to Korean firms and the economy from the perspective of catch-up theory. The central premise of the book is that a latecomer’s sustained catch-up is not possible by simply following the path of the forerunners but by creating a new path or ‘leapfrogging’. In this sense, the idea of catch-up distinguishes itself from traditional views that focus on the role of the market or the state in development.
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Chapter 11: Samsung, created in Korea and replicated overseas

Keun Lee


Chapter 11 explains the success by Korean business groups in the Chinese market, despite their late entry. It uses the concept called “project execution capability” of diversified business groups, which has led to another strategic capability of “vertical integration” (VI) among affiliates. It examines Samsung’s electronics businesses in China as an excellent case of resource sharing and coordination among affiliates in the execution of a project despite late entry into a new market. The chapter finds that the VI network was first created in the early 1970s in Korea and has since been replicated in many parts of the world such as Mexico, Malaysia, and, most recently, China. The VI network has three tiers consisting of Samsung Electronics at the top as the final assembler, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Samsung SDI in the middle, and finally, Samsung Corning at the bottom. In the rapidly changing display market, Samsung’s stable component sourcing among affiliates has played a critical role in developing new products at lower costs to meet changing market needs. This case shows that business groups can upgrade their capabilities rather than simply lose their advantages with the maturing of market mechanisms.

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