Surprisingly, Samsung Electronics, one of the global heavyweights in consumer electronics and computer chips, has replaced the top management.

With the change in personnel, the company is also merging the areas of consumer electronics and mobile devices.

The decisions are seen as a signal that Samsung Electronics wants to put even more emphasis on the company's other major pillar, the business with components such as semiconductors and memory chips.

At the same time, the generation change in management demonstrates that the vice chairman, Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, is increasingly making his mark on the company.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

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For the most important South Korean company, it was the first change in leadership in four years. In the past few years, Samsung placed emphasis on continuity in management because Lee, the grandson of the Samsung founder, had to deal with the judiciary. In August, 53-year-old Lee was paroled from prison. He has been convicted of bribery in connection with the former President Park Gyun-hee scandal.

Jong-Hee Han will head the new SET department, which combines the consumer electronics and mobiles departments.

The 59-year-old manager is a veteran of the television business.

Han takes over from Koh Dong-jin and Kim Hyunsuk.

As head of the department for smartphones and other mobile devices, Koh had achieved a certain level of recognition internationally.

Han is also being promoted to vice chairman.

New focus

From now on, 58-year-old Kyung Kye-hyun will manage the components business, including mainly semiconductors.

In this segment, Samsung also supplies rivals such as Apple with screens for smartphones.

Samsung describes Kyung as an expert in computer chip design.

Most recently, he headed a group company that manufactured other components.

From now on, Samsung will only have two instead of three CEOs. The company founded the merger of consumer and mobile business with synergies that should be strengthened. This could indicate that Samsung Electronics, like its big competitor Apple, would like to combine its smartphones and tablet computers with televisions and household appliances in a software-based "ecosystem".

The focus on two major businesses, consumers and components, reflects the growing importance of semiconductors to the company.

Samsung Electronics is already the largest manufacturer of electronic memory components for computers and smartphones.

At the same time, the Koreans want to compete with the leading company Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) in the production of logic chips.

Televisions drove Samsung's business around 20 years ago, followed by smartphones in the past decade.

Semiconductors are now gaining in weight, similar to their Japanese competitor Sony, which is strong in the field of image sensors.

In the first three quarters of the fiscal year, semiconductors contributed a third to sales and more than half to Samsung's operating profit.

Samsung is investing heavily in chips and robots

Vice Chairman Lee wants to strengthen this area.

In August, days after Lee was released from prison, the company announced that it would invest 240 trillion won over the next three years in semiconductors, robotics, artificial intelligence and biopharma.

Samsung had previously announced that it would invest around 171 trillion won in expanding the production of computer chips by 2030.

Lee visited the United States last month on his first trip abroad after his release from prison.

There Samsung will build a new factory for the production of semiconductors in Texas for 17 billion dollars.

The legal troubles for the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics are not over.

There are still proceedings pending against Lee in South Korea for manipulating stock prices.

It is about the merger of two companies of the Samsung group, which, according to observers in Seoul, served, among other things, to strengthen the influence of the founding family on the Samsung group by transferring the inheritance to Lee Jae-yong.

Lee retained the title of Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics on Thursday.

He has held the position since December 2012. The position of chairman of Samsung Electronics remains vacant after Lee's father, Lee Kun-hee, died in October after years of hospitalization.

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