C.On the noodles… According to the World Instant Noodles Association (yes, such an organization exists), Koreans are one of the largest consumers of instant noodles, consuming 79.7 servings per person per year. Given that our population is just over her 51 million, this equates to about 4.1 billion servings of instant noodles per year. That’s a lot of noodles.

Just like they turn all vegetables into kimchi, Koreans turn almost all carbohydrate-rich grains and potatoes into kimchi. guksu – Wheat, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, cassava, acorns, arrowroot, rice and most recently barley. However, when it comes to shape, there are basically only two types of Korean noodles – strips or strings.

Imagine your surprise when you first visited Italy in the late 1980s and learned that spaghetti and macaroni weren’t the only noodles and pastas you could eat in Italy. Italy’s obsession with pasta shapes began in the early 1980s when Barilla’s Premium His Voiello brand, the world’s largest pasta maker, asked renowned industrial designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to create the ultimate pasta shape. I even asked him to come up with it. Not too absorbing, decorative or even “architectural”.

Giugiaro literally “designed” a beautiful, futuristic pasta shape that combines tubes and waves. Unfortunately it was a complete failure. Due to its complex shape, it was difficult to cook evenly.Given the Italian passion for pasta dishes al dentethe unevenly cooked pasta was (almost) a cardinal sin.

Giugiaro clearly hasn’t lost his sleep over the failure. He has been the world’s most successful and influential car designer over the past half century. He has designed over 100 cars, from trusty classics like the Volkswagen Golf and Fiat Panda to luxury cars like his Maserati Ghibli and Lotus his Esprit. Unknown to most people, one of the earliest cars designed by this noodle-obsessed super-designer from Italy was a tiny hatchback launched by the Hyundai Motor Company in 1975. It was a pony, a car. Noodle powerhouse, South Korea.

Hyundai Group’s main business was originally the construction industry, but in the late 1960s it began to move into highly productive industries. Automobiles was the first company in a joint venture with Ford to assemble the Cortina car developed by Ford UK using mostly imported parts. But in 1973, Hyundai announced that it would cut ties with Ford and produce its own locally designed car, the Pony.In his first year of production, in 1976, HMC sold his 10,000-plus Pony car. produced. That’s his 0.5% of what Ford produced that year. South Korea was overjoyed when Ecuador imported his June 1976 Hyundai vehicle. The fact that Ecuador only bought five pony cars was dismissed as trivial. Importantly, foreigners wanted to buy cars from Koreans, who at the time were famous for producing wigs, sewn clothes, stuffed animals, and other things that required cheap labor. was.

Despite this ominous beginning, Hyundai has grown at an incredible pace in the years that followed. In 1986, he entered the U.S. market with a bang, with an Excel model (an upgraded version of the Pony) that was named one of the 10 most notable products of the year by U.S. Business Magazine. luckIn 2009 Hyundai produced more cars than Ford.

How was this possible? When people hear about the success of these kinds of incredible companies, they immediately think of the visionary entrepreneurs behind them: Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and others.

Jang Ha Jun taken at Borough Market in London.
Jang Ha Jun taken at Borough Market in London. Photo: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

In fact, there were not just one, but two visionary entrepreneurs behind Hyundai’s success. Hyundai Group founder Jeong Joo-young and his younger brother Jeong Se-young, who headed his HMC from 1967 to his 1996. The person who commissioned Gijarro to design a pony. The leaders of these companies were important, but upon closer inspection, Hyundai’s successhis story isn’t just about the heroic entrepreneur’s individual talents. Firstly, production line workers, engineers, research scientists and professional managers worked long hours and mastered imported advanced technology.

And then there was the government. By banning all car imports until 1988 and banning Japanese cars until 1998, the South Korean government created space for Hyundai and other automakers to ‘grow’. But without that protection, Korean automakers would not have been able to survive and grow. Until the early 1990s, the South Korean government allowed Hyundai Motor and other strategic high-tech industries, especially export-oriented companies, access to heavily subsidized loans. This was achieved through strict banking regulations that mandated the prioritization of lending to productive businesses (over mortgages and consumer loans) and national ownership of the banking sector. The South Korean government also uses its regulatory and financial power to encourage Hyundai and other companies (both foreign and domestic) to increase “local sourcing” of their products so that the domestic auto parts industry can develop. put explicit and implicit pressure on

But isn’t the Hyundai story an exception in the world of heroic entrepreneurs?

Even the United States, a country so proud of its “free enterprise” system, was no exception to the collective nature of modern entrepreneurship. From the 19th century to his early 20th century, he devised the theory of “infant industry protection”, erecting high walls of protectionism to create room for young firms to grow and protect them from foreign, especially British, superior producers. country. More importantly, during the post-World War II period, the U.S. government critically supported corporations by developing foundational technologies through public funding. Through the National Institutes of Health, the United States government has conducted and funded pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. Computers, semiconductors, the Internet, GPS systems, touchscreens, and many other foundational technologies of the information age were first developed through the US military’s “Defense Research” program. Without these technologies, there would be no IBM, no Intel, no Apple, no Silicon Valley.

In the modern economy, entrepreneurship is a collective endeavor, as the intertwined tales of two nations obsessed with noodles, South Korea and Italy, demonstrate.

  • This is an edited excerpt Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World By Ha-Joon Chang, published by Allen Lane (£20).to support Guardian When Observer Order your copy at Guardianbookshop.com.Shipping charges may apply

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