It's a brave company that throws its good name away, tries to reinvent itself and becomes a world leader in just a few years. That's just what the company you probably know as Goldstar has done. From now on you won't see much of that old name, as the giant Korean manufacturer is now known around the world as the LG Group. In particular, Australians will be interested in the LG Electronics division, which produces a wide range of computer and consumer electronics and whitegoods products.
The manufacturing sector in Korea consists mainly of a handful of giant corporations known as Chaebols. Until a few years ago LG was the largest of these, but slipped to number three position as rivals Samsung and Daewoo underwent radical internal restructuring and "rediscovery". Since the saturation of the domestic Korean market, it became obvious that these corporations had to either rapidly expand into overseas markets or stagnate.
Just about anywhere you look in Korea you'll see the unmistakable new LG "smiling face" logo. It's on everything from petrol stations, toothpaste, and drinks to air conditioners. The domestic catalogue for home electronics devices alone is huge. LG has a bold plan to become one of the world's top 10 companies by 2005, with annual sales of $A100 billion.
Ask most Australians what they know about LG (or more particularly, Goldstar) and they'll probably say "Oh, they make cheap VCRs". Or they may remember that a lot of Goldstar products were sold here under the Kambrook label. That illustrates two of the problems LG faced when it decided to relaunch itself. The first was that the brand-name was often associated with budget-priced products and couldn't be taken seriously on prestige products. The second was that most of the LG products we saw in Australia were OEM products like monitors and CD-drives.
You'd probably be surprised to know how many Australian and Japanese (and even US) brands sold in Australia came straight from a Korean LG factory. For instance, take a close look at an IBM ThinkPad computer and see where it's made.
In the Australian computer market, LG is best known for its monitors. It's one of the world's top manufacturers, (one of the top two suppliers in Australia) and thanks to a heavy investment in LCD technology, we'll soon see a wide range of ultra-thin computer monitors on the market.
Covering all bases
And if you want to stay with conventional picture tubes, LG will soon release a new flat-screen monitor that's so flat it even seems to be concave (though it isn't).
Another product soon to be launched here is LG's version of the Windows CE handheld computer. It looks very similar to the Casio/Compaq model, and will probably sell here for under $1000, though possibly through vertical markets only. The company is also heavily into the mobile phone market, manufacturing models for companies like Nokia. Within the next year expect to see LG models that are halfway between a phone and a hand-held computer. There's even a good chance that LG Semiconductor made the RAM in the PCs you're selling this week.
One area where the Goldstar name might be slower to disappear is CD and DVD drives. The name is extremely well thought of in the OEM and add-on kit market, and most of the big PC manufacturers use Goldstar drives.
At present the main products of interest to the Australian IT channel are the monitors and CD drives. These are available both as OEM and end-user products. For example, the LG 5D multimedia monitor is a 15in model with stereo speakers built into the case for RRP $610. For more details contact LG Australia's IT products sales manager Peter Atton at:
LG Electronics Australia
Tel (02) 9888 1311
Fax (02) 9888 1994
Some people call Korea the "Italy of Asia" due partly to the nature of the Korean people, and partly to their flair in design. This can be seen in the rounded lines and unconventional design of its consumer products.
For instance, LG uses artificial intelligence to run many devices. Its high-end fridges don't just cool the food, they are capable of detecting hot food placed in them, and directing a cold airstream just at that location.
The fridges also have infra-red bulbs that are claimed to delay food spoilage. LG air conditioners have a "chaos wind" feature which randomly changes intensity and direction of the airflow to simulate a cooling tropical breeze.