Ki Young Yun

“Zoomers search for meaningful innovation”

Text: Martina Hošková and M. Zisso; Photo: Archive

Being one of Samsung’s top managers means still being a Korean at heart, but with the company’s enormous growth and global ambitions, it also means being a real world citizen.

Introducing Ki Young Yun, President of Samsung Electronics Czech and Slovak. The distinguished 48-year-old professional has worked in the Czech Republic for more than two years, and he recently sat down with us to talk about his 20 years of experience in various world markets.

Samsung is a real giant in consumer electronics, but times are changing fast. Is there a danger that you could miss an important trend?

We constantly focus our efforts on understanding and connecting with younger generations and those setting the new trends. As a company, we also invest heavily in R&D in order to lead the changes in consumer electronics. Rather than missing trends, we are the ones that drive them forward.

So, what are the trends? What do zoomers and millennials long for?

Recent reports by several global market researchers indicate that especially younger generations are more likely to be belief-driven buyers. This means that they make purchase decisions based on brands that they believe improve society. They also prefer a personalized experience that provides meaning and purpose.

At Samsung, creating a one-of-a-kind customer value and customized experience is one of our top priorities.

What do meaningful consumer electronics look like today?

Above all, they should be sustainable. We all want fewer batteries and unnecessary chargers in our drawers. We want products made from recycled or recyclable materials, and we want to help reduce the energy consumption of household appliances. Another trend is customization, where we want things tailored to us and our needs. The third thing is inter- connectivity. For example, people want their cell phones, smartwatches, earbuds, and TVs to connect seamlessly and effortlessly. In other words, it means giving users a holistic experience that is customized and connected across every product touchpoint, delivering meaningful and high-value experiences that enrich users’ lives.

You talked about Samsung as a keen innovator. What innovations can we look forward to in the near future?

You know, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint one particular area of innovation. Samsung sells 500 million devices a year. That’s half a billion mobile phones, tablets, wearables, TVs, monitors, refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and so on. We have ground-breaking solutions in virtually every product segment. But I’d like to emphasize that the biggest innovation awaiting us will be in the way that all these devices interconnect. We can look forward to a much more immersive ecosystem, a truly multi-device experience.

At Samsung, we also research and develop various robots that can help consumers in their daily lives. We look forward to announcing exciting new experiences to our customers in the near future.

However, if you still had to choose a specific innovation, a product with the greatest potential to change our lives?

Let me give you a few examples of Samsung’s product innovations that have already changed consumers’ lives. For smartphones, we were the first to introduce foldable phones to the market at full scale, and now we have the third generation with Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3, which are a real blockbuster with thousands of them sold each month in the Czech Republic alone. Our lifestyle TVs are unlike anything else in the market. These include the smart portable LED projector The Freestyle and the super-successful The Frame, which looks like a picture on the wall and will be even thinner this year and will feature an all-new display surface. As far as televisions are concerned, we’ve been number one in the world market for 16 years, and in order to maintain that status, we’ll continue to invest in development. Recently we’ve been putting a lot of focus on the revolutionary Neo QLED technology. Then there are our The Bespoke refrigerators, which you can assemble like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to get the right colours and fridge/freezer configuration for you. I talked about customization, and it’s our Bespoke concept, where you can configure the product to suit your lifestyle. The Bespoke concept has permeated to other categories, from vacuum cleaners and washing machines to mobile phones.

During your career, you have overseen different markets, such as Latin America and Spain, and now you are here. Is the Czech market exceptional in any way?

The Czech Republic has an extremely developed e-commerce market. So, when we develop our local e-stores with colleagues from other European countries, we always look to the experience of the Czech Republic for best practices. The Czech people love technology and love to look for the best products to enrich their lives.

The past two years have been marked by the pandemic. What effect did it have on your business?

The pandemic has accelerated the trend of remote working, so it has changed the way people live and how they organize their homes. People have been looking for tech to help them make the most of their lives, whether that’s with our flagship S21 and S22 mobile phones, our Neo QLED 8K TVs, or our latest Smart Monitors.

I believe this will become the starting point for opening new possibilities in the era of the New Normal. We’ll solidify our market leadership by accelerating innovation and offering a differentiated experience for our customers.

Success brings along responsibility. How is Samsung doing with CSR activities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia?

One example is lending a hand in times of global crises, such as the onset of COVID-19, the devastating tornado in Moravia last year, or the current aid to Ukraine and its refugees. In all of these cases, we’ve been able to provide urgent material assistance. I’m also pleased that we’re building on our heritage by educating young people. Last year, our successful project for high school students called “Tvoje šance” received the Czech CSR award (Top Responsible Company Helping the Surroundings). This year, four years after it was established, the project has been transformed into a student innovation competition called “Solve For Tomorrow”. In the area of sustainability, especially in the environment, Samsung strives to incorporate environmental sustainability into everything we do.

You have been living and working in Prague for almost three years now. As a Korean, how do you perceive the Czech Republic? How is life different here and what did you have to adjust to?

Unfortunately, shortly after I arrived here, the pandemic broke, so I was only able to start travelling more and meeting people last fall, after my second vaccination.

I discovered that the Czech Republic is a really beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty.

And at work? Is the local work culture different from Korea or Spain, where you spent six years?

You could say that Koreans of my generation are somewhat career driven. But as far as younger generations are concerned, I think they already see things differently. I’d say that the attitude towards the work-life balance is similar for young Koreans today as it is for Czechs. I feel quite lucky to have had the chance to experience so many different cultures across Europe.

If you wanted to personally invite Czech job-seekers to your team, would you say they will have a good time at Samsung?

My Czech colleagues would attest to the fact that the overall office atmosphere at Samsung is quite dynamic and energetic. Samsung was named the World’s Best Employer by Forbes in 2020 and 2021. So, if I wanted to recruit someone, I’d probably ask: “Do you want to work for a good company, or for the best employer in the world that breaks new ground every day in both technology and the consumer experience?”

We’re a company full of diverse and talented people, and I’m so proud to work with them. I look forward to welcoming new professionals, as well as young talent, to our Samsung family.

One more personal question. Your resume says you spent several years in the military. Did the experience give you anything?

Yes, like many young Koreans, I spent three years in the military. In my case, it was with the Air Force. It was a pretty unique time, and I remember one main feeling: that anything is possible, that I can handle any challenge. I think it strengthened me and gave me an inner discipline that has helped me stay focused.

Now, you are the president of the Czech and Slovak branches of Samsung electronics, and you manage several hundred people. Do you find time for other personal activities?

It’s true that there’s not a lot of personal time during the week. But on the weekends, I like to spend time wit my family, which means my wife. We enjoy travelling to interesting small towns in the Czech Republic and treating ourselves to the local cuisine. And then there are the small but important activities like reading newspapers and books and jogging or exercising at least two times a week. I try to spend as much time in the open air as I do in the digital world.