Samsung CEO asks to be called by his initials in hopes of reforming Korean hierarchical work culture

samsung ceo
Image: Samsung Newsroom
  • The CEO of Samsung, Han Jong-hee, told staff to call him by his initials in an effort to reform hierarchical work culture and encourage “mutual respect.”
  • At his first meet-and-greet event with staff and executive members on Friday, Han asked to be called “JH” rather than “buhoejang-nim” and “daepyo-nim,” honorific expressions meaning vice chairman and CEO, respectively.
  • In Korean culture, the workplace typically follows a seniority-based hierarchy, and it is common practice to refer to higher ups by specific honorific expressions.
  • In 2016, Samsung revised its internal policy to abolish work position titles, such as “daeri” (assistant manager) and the use of “nim” (an honorific suffix showing respect) at the end of an employee’s name.

Samsung CEO Han Jong-hee has asked that staff call him by his initials rather than the traditional professional honorifics to encourage a culture of “mutual respect” among employees.

While at his first meet-and-greet event with employees at the Digital eXperience division on Friday, Han told staff and executives to call him “JH” instead of the Korean honorific expressions  “buhoejang-nim” and “daepyo-nim,” which mean vice chairman and CEO, respectively. The honorific suffix “nim” is a show of respect.

In Korean work culture, it is common for employees to practice a seniority-based hierarchy in which those in higher level positions are referred to by specific honorific expressions as a sign of respect. 

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As a vice chairman and CEO, Han hopes to reform South Korea’s work environment in a bid to encourage creativity and respect among employees in all positions. 

“Mutual respect to value everyone lays a foundation for a horizontal structure, which will again lay a basis for (our) work culture,” Han said, according to Korea Herald. “Addressing each other as ‘pro’ or ‘nim’ regardless of job position could be a start (to foster a horizontal work culture).”

This effort is one of many of the recent work culture changes that Samsung has made towards a “future-oriented work environment.”

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In November 2021, the company revealed it would no longer allow employees to track each other’s promotions and would remove certain requirements for employees to be promoted to new levels.

Samsung also modified its internal policy in 2016 to include the honorific suffix “nim” to every employee’s name and to remove titles like “daeri” (assistant manager) and “bujang” (team leader).

Han was promoted to the position of CEO for the company’s smartphone and TV products alongside Kyung Kye-hyun, CEO of Samsung’s chip business, in December last year.

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