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Cheil Industries and Lee Byung-chull

Posted April. 01, 2014 07:49,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00


Samsung Group Founder Lee Byung-chull established Cheil Industries in 1954. When Lee said, “I’ll produce decent wool products in three years,” an executive of a U.S. textile company laughed at him, saying, “If he can do so, I’ll fly in the sky.” Cheil Industries, however, started production in 1956, and made its first profit in 1958, opening a new chapter in the Korean textile industry.

Until Cheil Industries produce clothing for suits, Koreans had to import expensive British woolen fabric smuggled from Macao. This is why the term a “Macao gentleman” was coined. When the then South Korean President Rhee Syng-man visited the factory of Cheil, he was deeply touched and said, “It’s patriotic. Now, all Koreans can wear made-in-Korea suits of good quality thanks to Cheil Industries.” Lee`s affection to the company was so special that it was one of the few Samsung affiliates that he served as a CEO.

Since its start as a textile company, Cheil Industries has continued innovation by launching fashion, chemical, and materials businesses. Though the company was established later than Samsung C&T Corporation (1948) and CheilJedang (1953), it has been recognized as the matrix of the Samsung Group. By calling as “Samsung’s talent training school,” Cheil produced many top leaders of Samsung Group, including former Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo of Samsung Electronics, former Vice Chairman Kim Jing-wan of Samsung Heavy Industries, former President Lee Sang-hyun of Samsung Electronics, former President Song Yong-ro of Samsung Corning, former President Yoo Seok-ryeol of Samsung Life Insurance, and Samsung Futures President Kim In-joo.

On July 1, Samsung SDI will merge Cheil Industries. The merge mainly aims at increasing synergy between parts and material businesses, but is somewhat related to the move to inherit the conglomerate to the third generation of the Lee family. The merged entity`s name will be Samsung SDI, and Cheil Industries ends its life as a corporation on the 60th anniversary. As Cheil Industries has a huge symbolic meaning in the Samsung Group, Samsung Everland, which took over the fashion business unit of Cheil Industries in December last year, is considering changing its name to Cheil Industries. Given the company`s contributions to the industrialization of Korea and fostering talents for the past three decades, it would be a good idea to keep the name.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)