■To restore the pride of a ‘famous family’
Lee Kun-hee’s 1993 ‘New Management Declaration’
Foundation for growth as a global Samsung
The decision to found the same year… rise to prominence
The humiliation of being ‘delegated to the second division’ due to incompetence and indifference.
The will to rebuild is needed… “It takes a group to step forward”
Kempinski Hotel near Frankfurt, Germany on June 7, 1993. Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee at the time gathered hundreds of Samsung executives from around the world and declared, “If we do not change in the era of globalization, we will forever be second-rate or 2.5-rate,” and “Change everything except your wife and children.”
Chairman Lee promoted large-scale innovation throughout the group, and his words became the foundation for Samsung to grow into a global company. However, this year, the 30th anniversary of the ‘New Management Declaration (Frankfurt Declaration)’, the professional soccer team Suwon Samsung Football Team (hereinafter referred to as Suwon), which Chairman Lee himself ordered to be founded, finished the season in last place in K League 1 and was relegated to the second division (K League 2). I experienced the humiliation of being
The founding of Suwon is also in line with the New Management Declaration. Under the direction of Chairman Lee, who decided to found a soccer team in 1993, Suwon was born two years later in 1995. With the active support of Samsung, which advocates ‘first-classism’, the team has grown into a prestigious club by collecting numerous championship trophies, including 4 league championships, 5 FA (Football Association) Cup wins, and 2 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League wins.
Until the early 2000s, they were envious and jealous of other clubs, earning them the nicknames ‘Real Suwon’ and ‘Donseong’, but they gradually lost power after Chairman Lee stepped down from the front line of management. Since 2014, the management of the club has been transferred to Cheil Worldwide, a marketing company under Samsung, and its ranking has gradually fallen as it has lost interest from the parent company. In the end, Suwon was unable to avoid the humiliation of being relegated to the second division 28 years after its founding.
The fall of Suwon did not happen in an instant. The cause is not simply the parent company’s indifference and budget cuts. There are many reasons to point out, including the incompetence and irresponsibility of the leadership that failed to use the limited budget efficiently, the working staff not learning from last year’s relegation playoff experience, and the disgraceful behavior of some players who disrupted the team atmosphere even in the face of relegation.
Relegation has become a reality and a thing of the past. Now, at a time when it is important to decide what to do in the future, there are constant voices saying that we need a strong word from Chairman Lee 30 years ago. A coach who coached Suwon in the past said, “Everything needs to change,” and argued, “Not only does the leadership need to take responsibility and resign, but the performance of department managers needs to be closely analyzed and changes need to be made, whether it’s demotion or a change in position.” Another coach said, “We need to refer to the decision SK Group made when Jeju United was relegated four years ago.”
Jeju, which was relegated in 2019, made unprecedented personnel changes under the instructions of SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won at the time. Breaking the custom of having a managing director as the CEO of the soccer team, Han Joong-gil, executive director of the head office, was appointed as the CEO. Not only did they demote those who held key positions in the previous system, but they also recruited general manager Kim Hyun-hee, who had extensive experience in professional soccer, and began a full-fledged reform. Jeju, which literally changed everything by appointing former coach Ki-il Nam, who had experience of being promoted twice, was able to return to K-League 1 after a year of relegation.
However, there are still no signs of change in Suwon. An official in the soccer world pointed out, “It is ironic,” saying, “The CEO and general manager have expressed their resignation, but under the current system, they are appointing a new coach and preparing for the new season.” He continued, “First of all, an accurate management diagnosis is needed at the group level,” and expressed regret, “Unless there is a will to change everything within the club along with the diagnosis, we will not be able to see Suwon in K-League 1 again.”
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