In Conversation with former Samsung Africa CEO, Sung Yoon

There is a quote that says ‘behind every successful man, there is a strong woman’. This is most likely something Sung Hyuck Yoon, the former Samsung Africa president and CEO would ascribe to. During a 45-minute chat with Yoon, he mentioned several times his wife’s support throughout his career and with the writing of the book. Yoon was in South Africa to promote his book, The Samsung Man’s Path to Success: Turning crisis into breakthrough

In December 2020, Yoon left South Africa after resigning as CEO and president of Samsung Africa. He had worked for Samsung for many years starting at the bottom in South Korea before moving to America. Yoon was instrumental in building the brand globally. Yoon said he never thought he would ever write a book about his life and experiences. 

However, on the day he was leaving South Africa, he got the idea for the book. There wasn’t supposed to be any get-togethers as it was the pandemic. But a few of the employees from Samsung came to the hotel he was staying at before his departure to say goodbye to him. They brought for him little gifts including a pair of socks which he was wearing to the interview. 

They asked me, “Hey, please write your book and tell outside of South Africa because you are kind of a unique CEO from Samsung Korea,” Yoon said the employees told him. He gave them a half commitment and promise but then after the long flight and 14 days of quarantine, Yoon grew more attached to the idea. 

And thus the idea for the book was born. The book is a memoir of kinds with short, funny, moving and memorable anecdotes from Yoon’s career. He talks about his start with Samsung and the valuable advice he got from his seniors. Yoon manages to provide lots of behind the scenes takes on how deals are made and how product development happens. The book goes on to his time in the United States and how he helped propel Samsung TV to the top of the game. The book ends with his time as head of Samsung Electronics Africa. 

It was in the drafting of the book that Yoon’s wife really helped him. She is a university professor who made many sacrifices in her own career to allow his career to flourish. While he was writing the book, she would help correct him and ensure he got all his facts correct. 

Yoon said he wanted to put her name alongside his on the book cover but the publisher advised him against it. 

The book was first published in Korean and then later into English. The title had to be adapted for English as it wouldn’t have been able to translate well. However, Yoon said the meaning and connotation of the titles are similar. 

The book has been out for awhile in South Korea and Yoon had gotten a number of positive responses including from the people living in his community. He has also given talks about the book which have been greatly received in-person and online. 

Another story Yoon related about his wife was related to when he got the promotion to CEO of Samsung Africa. He said he got called in by his senior at the company and had initially thought it was bad news. However, the senior told him that he was getting the CEO position. He said he was in a bit of a dilemma because his wife had just gotten a job at that point. During their time in the States she wasn’t able to get a job because of their laws but also because she was looking after their sons. But at that point, his sons were at university so he felt bad to ask her to make another sacrifice. However, his wife told him to take the job and they came to South Africa for his next adventure. 

Yoon is currently on the board of Telkom and has returned to South Africa several times since 2020. In April, he was here for the book launch. He said he also wanted to use the time to catch up with some old friends. 

Lastly, Yoon gave some advice for young people in South Africa. He said risks and challenges will always and that sometimes people give up without confronting them. Yoon said South Africa can become a top-tier country if the challenges are confronted and dealt with instead of people just giving up. 

Published by NB Publishers, the book is available online and at all good bookstores.