Restructuring at Korea's Daewoo

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Daewoo was founded in 1967 by its hardworking, relentlessly driven chairman Kim Woo-Choong. After its initial success in exporting textiles, the company expanded into trade, autos, machinery, consumer electronics, construction, heavy shipping, computers, telephones, and financial services, becoming Korea's fourth largest business group. it became a textile supplier for Sears, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, and London Fog. it also engaged in a joint venture with General Motors (GM) to build the Le Mans car. However, labor and other problems limited car shipments. Chairman Kim's philosophy of hard work and the value placed in people were important factors in the firm's success. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company faced several problems. For one, Kim was concerned that, with the increasing prosperity of Koreans, the work force might lose the spirit of hard work. Moreover, there was growing discontent among younger workers and decreasing motivation. Through Kim's hands-off approach to managing, some of the companies in the Daewoo group went out of control. For example, in the unprofitable heavy shipping unit, he noticed many unnecessary expenses. The elimination of company-sponsored barbershops saved the company $8 million a year. In general, Daewoo's work force was young and well educated. In contrast to similar positions in many other Korean companies, top positions at Daewoo were occupied by managers with no family ties. Although Daewoo was a major company with its 91,000 employees, it was not dominant in any one industry. The strategy of being a supplier for major companies, such as Caterpillar, GM, and Boeing, may have led to opportunities being bypassed for becoming a major marketer of its own brands. Now in the 1990s, Kim was also looking at opportunities in Europe; for example, he formed a joint venture with a distribution company in France. The massive restructuring had already shown some positive effects. Kim sole some steel, financial,...
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