When the news was reported that Jung Tae-sung, former vice president of Samsung Electronics, had moved to SK Hynix as a President early last year, the industry was shaken. Jung was the prime mover who brought Samsung Electronics’ NAND business of to the 'first class' by competing against Japan’s Toshiba, the originator of NAND flash.
Samsung’s former executive who heard about Jung’s departure at the time said, "SK Hynix strives to get the NAND business done properly."
President Jung led the development of charge trap flash (CTF) technology during his time as executive director, while Whang Chang-gyu, present chairman of KT was the general chief executive officer of Samsung Electronics semiconductor. The floating gate of conventional technology is likely to cause errors due to changes in resistance value of insulators when electrons are frequently inserted or removed. The CTF scheme for storing electrons in non-conductors is well suited for high-capacity products that store two bits per cell (MLC), three bits (TLC), and four bits (QLC). SK Hynix has been able to develop 96-stage 3D NAND flash based on CTF technology recently, which is known by the industry that President Jung’s experience and executive ability lie in the background.
Jung stepped out of Samsung Electronics in 2014 and served as an industry professor at Yonsei University. Samsung Electronics provides an opportunity to serve as an industry professor for a certain period of time when an executive leaves office. He joined SK Hynix, when the term of his assigned industry professor position was assumed to finish at the end of 2016.
In addition to Jung, there are many 'Samsung Men' who have moved to executive positions at SK Hynix. Many of them are specialized in the NAND flash sector, which might be due to the influence of President Jung. Choi J.D, present executive director of SK Hynix’s Future Technology Research Institute, received an “Award of Proud Samsung (technology division)” in recognition of his achievement of developing 32 gigabit (Gb) NAND flash by applying the CTF structure in January 2007 when he worked at Samsung Electronics. He was evaluated as a “Key-man” of the development field. Currently, he’s assumed to be developing future NAND flash for SK Hynix. Lee J.H., executive director of SK Hynix’s marketing and sales division is said to be in charge of planning the NAND flash field. After designing 64M DRAM and product-planning, he moved to Intel and then joined SK Hynix.
While President Jung Tae-sung, executive director Choi J.D., and executive director Lee J.H. are former Samsung men, executive director Kim N.S., executive director Ahn K.O., research fellow Cho M.K., and research fellow Yoo S.K. have never worked as Samsung Electronics’ executives, but they have moved to SK Hynix to become senior officers. Executive director Kim in charge of the package and test (P&T) department has moved to SK Hynix from Samsung Electronics and Seoul Semiconductor. Research fellow Yoo from Samsung Electronics and San Disk has a history of developing multiple numbers of 'World First' technologies in the field of NAND flash testing. Ahn and Yoo are exceptional experts in the NAND flash production process.
An industry observer said, "I know that SK Hynix has been involved in a wide range of career recruitment activities to boost the NAND flash business competitiveness," and "if you are from Samsung, there will be many chances for you to either raise your position or salary.”
In the relatively less competitive CMOS image sensor (CIS) field, there are many Samsung-related personnel as well. Executive director Kim, T.C. in charge of SK Hynix’s CIS business was listed as the “Master” of CIS algorithm circuit design at Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor business division in 2007. Samsung Master is a rank that is given to top experts in research and development (R&D). The person who received the award can concentrate solely on R&D without the burden of sales or organizational management. If someone holds this position, it’s considered to be evidence that he was recognized for his development capability. Director Lee S.B., working as a sales person in CIS business organization, is also a veteran of this field, who built up various experience at Samsung Electronics with executive director Kim.
An insider of SK Hynix said, "will nurture competent internal members and simultaneously strengthen our competitiveness by appropriately allocating talented personnel from global leading companies."
Samsung Electronics' semiconductor business is in an uneasy position as the numbers of former and present executives who move to SK Hynix are increasing. An official from Samsung said, "a lot of colleagues feel let-down because there are many cases of people of high acclaim left for SK Hynix.”