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Executive reshuffles

Samsung promotes young executives to lead memory, foundry businesses

By Dec 02, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung announced a leadership reshuffle in its memory and foundry businesses on Dec. 2.
Samsung announced a leadership reshuffle in its memory and foundry businesses on Dec. 2.

Samsung Electronics Co. on Wednesday announced a leadership shuffle in its two key businesses – memory chips and foundry – as the South Korean tech giant aims to further expand its influence in the global chipmaking sector.

The executive reshuffle, characterized by the promotion of relatively young leaders, in their 50s, to the divisional top posts, reflects Samsung’s urgency to stay ahead of its global rivals in the increasingly competitive semiconductor industry.

Lee Jung-bae, who previously led Samsung’s DRAM product and technology unit, has been promoted to head its cash-cow memory business, which covers both DRAM and NAND flash chips.

Samsung said the 53-year-old, with a master’s degree in electronics from Seoul National University, is a DRAM expert who played a pivotal role in the company’s ascension to the global top place in the memory industry.

Samsung memory business chief Lee Jung-bae
Samsung memory business chief Lee Jung-bae

The company has also promoted Choi Si-young, 56, to take charge of its foundry business. Previously, he served as head of Samsung’s memory manufacturing technology center.

Choi, with a doctorate from Ohio State University, is an expert in chip manufacturing and processing solutions, according to Samsung.

Samsung is the world's largest memory chip producer with a 41.3% share in the DRAM market and a 33.1% share in the NAND flash sector as of the third quarter, according to market researcher TrendForce.

Samsung's leadership change in its key divisions comes as the company faces growing challenges from its global peers

CHALLENGED BY GLOBAL PEERS

Korea’s leading chipmakers are being challenged by smaller rivals, such as Micron Technology Inc., which last month surprised the market by announcing that it has developed 176-layer 3D NAND flash memory, the world’s highest-density chip. Most players, including Samsung and SK Hynix Inc., are currently focused on 128-layer NAND.

In response, Samsung recently said it will aggressively invest in its NAND business next year to strengthen its market leadership.

Samsung also faces tough competition in the foundry market, where the company is the No. 2 player with a 17.4% share, trailing far behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which leads the market with a 53.9% share.

Samsung foundry business chief Choi Si-young
Samsung foundry business chief Choi Si-young

Analysts said Samsung’s new foundry chief Choi will be asked to further narrow the gap in coming years.

Samsung is known to be spending 10 trillion won ($8.6 billion) a year to develop chip foundry technology and purchase related equipment to close in on its bigger rival TSMC. The Korean company was a latecomer to the foundry industry and initially lacked the extensive relationships with existing global fabless companies enjoyed by frontrunner TSMC.

On Wednesday, other Samsung Group affiliates also announced their senior executive reshuffles.

Samsung Display Co., the world's leading mobile display panel maker, has appointed Choi Joo-sun as its new CEO. The 57-year-old will be tasked with completing the display maker's transition to become a manufacturer of advanced quantum-dot (QD) displays.

Samsung SDS Co., an IT service unit of the group, named Hwang Sung-woo, chief of the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, as its new CEO.

Write to Hyung-Suk Song and Jeong-Soo Hwang at click@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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