Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Samsung's Radical Shakeup

It's 6:45 a.m. in Seoul, bitter cold, and still dark. But phalanxes of office workers pour into the lobby of Samsung Group's headquarters. Most Koreans are just beginning to stir, but virtually all of Samsung's 120,000 employees are arriving at work. Riding up a headquarters elevator, a fortysomething executive spots a 31-year-old named Kim who's sporting a light blue suit, blue-and-white-striped shirt, and tulip-patterned tie. "You're lucky," says the executive. "When I was your age, I wouldn't have dared to dress like that."

Had Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee been aboard that elevator, he would have been proud. Getting his employees to work earlier hours and encouraging greater individuality are two small signs that the revolution he's fomenting within Asia's largest non-Japanese conglomerate is taking hold.