From Groceries to Gadgets
Mention the name ‘Samsung’ and you most likely think of the latest in smartphone technology or possibly any of the conglomerate’s subsidiaries that sell anything from
insurance to ships. What many don’t know is the company’s quaint beginnings as a neighborhood grocery store and trading post.
The original building is gone, demolished in 1997 because of unsafe conditions, but visitors to Daegu can still visit the small memorial on the site where it all began. The founder of Samsung, Lee Byung-Chull started Samsung Company(Sanghoe) in 1938 in a stately wooden structure proud against the neighboring stalls of Seomun market. 40 employees worked the front office, made noodles, and procured goods for export.
Lee, while taking care of his business, didn’t neglect the welfare of neighbors. He decided to serve his community once his business began to stabilize. He tried to provide work for financially stressed merchants or vendors in and around Seomun Market. Lee planned meals for the merchants and vendors, recalling his own experience of being hungry on cold days while traveling in foreign countries. In the meantime, he also decided to serve noodles to people living in the area. He installed flour mill and noodle-making machines and launched a noodle named “Star Noodles”. Responses from the people were surprising. Star Noodles was in business until the late 1960s, serving merchants who visited Daegu and area residents.
Located near the Seoul-Busan rail line, Samsung Company was able to expand rapidly into new ventures and moved to Seoul after seven years of booming business in Daegu’s Ingyo-dong district. Lee on September 15, 1954, inaugurated Cheil
Woolen Fabrics Industries with his dreams and stood at the forefront of the industry. This became the cornerstone of Daegu textile industry. Lee endeavored to make his dream come true; his dream was to make his company like a home. He wanted his workers to lead good lives. He completed the dream by opening “Garden Factory” which had dormitories for woman employees. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the original site is an inspiration to the entrepreneur in all of us. The location is easy to find: just steps from the Dalseong Park bus stop and a new monorail station.
An outdoor memorial includes a small replica of the building, as well as an impression of the facade carved into a large wall. A series of informative plaques chronicles the transformative early years of the company while headquartered at the humble location. It’s a good place to gain perspective on the company’s, and the country’s, story of meteoric rise to riches.
Samsung’s legacy in Daegu continues as the company is partnering with the city to construct the Daegu Samsung Creative Economy Cluster. Scheduled to be complete in late 2016, the cluster will serve as an incubator for small businesses in the area as well as a larger memorial for the company and its’ founder. In addition, a statue of Lee was erected in front of the Daegu Opera House in 2010, which has already inspired a tradition of touching the statue for financial success.