Samick was founded in 1958 by Hyo Ick Lee. Facing an immense challenge in impoverished and war-torn South Korea, Lee began to build and sell a few vertical pianos a week from a small converted shop front. It wasn’t long before the company started manufacturing upright pianos on a large scale. In 1964 Samick became the first Korean company to export pianos and by the early 1970s, the company had become a large-scale manufacturer with over 3,000 employees building pianos and guitars.
In the years following, Samick focused on global expansion. In 1978 they opened a branch office in Los Angeles, California USA, followed by establishment of an office in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1980. Sales of Samick products in the United States grew exponentially and Samick soon announced the development of their American subsidiary, Samick Music Corporation (SMC) in 1982.
Samick has always been dedicated to developing new products and quality, starting in 1983 with a technical cooperation with Klaus Fenner, a piano designer and technician from Germany. Fenner is renowned for designing the German Imperial Scale that continues to characterise the pianos of leading international manufacturers.
In the early 1990s Samick boasted separate plants for upright, grand and digital pianos in Korea, Indonesia and China. Regrettably, Hyo Ick Lee did not live to see or ensure Samick’s success. He passed away after a battle with cancer in 1990. Unfortunately, the company suffered from lack of leadership and many management errors occurred after this time.
Combined with the Asian currency crash in 1996 that devastated Korean domestic sales, Samick was pushed into debt of nearly $US300 million. The company was one of thousands of mid-sized Korean businesses that filed for bankruptcy in 1998.
Sadly, Samick remained under court control for a number of years, with a lack of leadership or effective strategy. It was in danger of losing market share to aggressive new competitors from China.
Korean business mogul, Jong-Sup Kim appeared just in time with a burst of much needed capital and leadership. JS Kim is one of the most successful and respected businessmen in Asia, owning twelve companies in varying industries. In June 2002 his investment consortium purchased Samick for $US100 million, outbidding other leading music companies.
Kim proved many skeptics wrong, successfully transferring strategies from other industries to the music business. One of his first decisions in December 2002 involved looking abroad and investing in C.Bechstein, a renowned piano manufacturer in Germany with the aim of working in partnership to build Samick’s expertise and manufacturing prowess. A technical consultancy was established over two and a half years (2003-2005). As a result of their involvement, Samick invested in the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) system, the same program used by C.Bechstein in Germany and now used in the manufacture of the NSG series.
Not only did JS Kim steer Samick out of bankruptcy, he made unprecedented history in 2005 when he announced the company was entirely debt-free, its share price had quintupled and that he had turned the company into one of the world’s few profitable piano makers within the space of just three years.
Samick Musical Instruments Co., Ltd., today is the oldest and largest piano manufacturer in Korea and ranked third in world piano sales. Despite its short history, it has grown from a small workshop manufacturing a little more than a hundred pianos a year, into a network of modern and highly sophisticated manufacturing facilities producing more than 30,000 pianos annually and exporting to the Asia-Pacific, European, American and other markets around the world.
The word Samick means “Three Benefits” in Korean, symbolising how Samick provide benefits not only within the company itself, but also to external stakeholders and the overall South Korean economy. This epitomises how Korean people think of the collective before self, wish to create harmony between parties and aim to develop time-honoured relationships that are mutually beneficial.