In the US, people associate Samsung with phones and televisions, confined to the electronic sphere. However, in Korea, Samsung is a vast company with products much broader than electronics – such as Samsung Bio Logistics, the first of today’s three company visits. Samsung Bio Logistics focuses on the development of biological drugs, a field that I was relatively unaware of before now. In contrast to chemical drugs, biological drugs are made from living organisms such as plants, animals, microorganisms or even humans. And compared to chemical drugs, they have much more complex structures and are therefore much costlier to produce. Despite this, biological drugs are becoming increasingly popular: in 2000, only a few of the top ten medical drugs were biological, while in 2016, 7 of the 10 were. Samsung Bio Logistics develops these drugs and sells them to various pharmaceutical companies.
After lunch, we headed to Seoul City Hall for a tour of the buildings. Yes, buildings – Seoul has both a new and old city hall. The old city hall was built in 1925 during the Japanese occupation and therefore is a pretty prominent reminder of a painful time in Korean history. Due to this, in 2012 a new city hall was built directly behind the old one. The building’s shape is extremely unique and at first glance it looks as if a massive wave is eclipsing the older building. I think it sends a powerful message about Korea’s ability to move on from its turbulent history – however, some Japanese people have found the design offensive because of its similarity to a tsunami.
During our tour, we learned about the environmentally-friendly aspects of the building, such as the numerous solar panels lining the roof, as well as the vast walls of plants that regulate air temperature. The sight of solar panels on top of buildings isn’t a rare sight in Seoul, and I think their presence on the top of a prominent government building sends a powerful message about the importance and value the South Korea places on sustainability.
Following city hall was a tour of the Seoul Global Startup Center. As an engineering major this wasn’t as applicable to me, but the visit did make me appreciate just how difficult it is to run a successful startup in a foreign country, without innate ties to the culture.
We wrapped up the day with a visit to Seoul Tower – from the top, the lights of the city seemed to stretch on forever.