After the Korean war (1950-53), South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, less than thirty years later, it became the world’s 15th largest economy. This success can be partly explained by chaebols – huge conglomerates supported by dictator Park Chung-Hee between 1962 and 1979.
Established in 1938 by M. Lee Byung-Chul in the city of Daegu, Samsung (which means “Three Stars”) is the largest of those chaebols, and the largest group in South Korea. It represents, directly or indirectly, one-fifth of the GDP. With its growth from a small import-export shop to the flagship of the nation, Samsung embodies Korean economic success.
Through its 79 subsidiaries, Samsung can be seen everywhere – from every layer of the society to every aspect of daily life. You can be born in a Samsung Hospital, study in a Samsung university and live inside a Samsung apartment on a Samsung block. You can take the subway built by Samsung and walk in the street guarded by Samsung surveillance cameras. If you want to escape from routine you can even enjoy the biggest amusement park in Korea, Everland, a key company for Samsung’s financial structure. If that is not enough, you can choose a Samsung life insurance and wear Samsung clothes. From the cradle to the grave.
This extreme form of capitalism, which brings wealth to an entire society but also creates a dangerous dependency towards a single entity, is a fascinating paradox. This project attempts to reveal it through photographs.
This work also reveals the collateral damage behind the power and wealth. For 75 years, the Samsung Group has forbidden trade unions in all of its subsidiaries and denied the relationship between leukemia and the semi-conductor working environment. I wanted to show those women and men who fight against the giant for their rights to build a trade union and have work-related illnesses recognised.
After Film Editing studies, Romain Champalaune decided to focus on photography. He graduated from the French National School of Photography Louis-Lumière in 2012. After graduation he focused on the Iranian society for two years. He depicted the daily life of a Mollah, photographed the plastic surgery boom and the absurd censorship of women’s bodies in Hollywood movies. Today he explores the intricate relations between states and big corporations. The first chapter of this work is about the Samsung Empire in South Korea.
His photographs are published in national and international publications (Le Monde, La Croix, Medipart, Grazia, Courrier Japon and more). His work has been exhibited in festivals such as Prix Bayeux-Calvados, Festival des Nuits Photographiques and Fetart School Factory.