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Samsung in South Korea: Who owns this town?

Our mobile phone reviewer Andrew Lim was lucky enough to be invited to Samsung's HQ in South Korea. Here he talks about his first impressions

This week I was invited to visit Samsung's HQ in Seoul, South Korea. Unfortunately, I was so excited at the prospect of visiting the world's third-largest mobile phone manufacturer that I accidentally put my passport in the washing machine -- which makes a change from my usual money laundering.

After a frantic phone call to the UK Passport Service, I was told to try my luck. I got a few strange looks and the damp pages were thoroughly inspected, but in the end it all worked out and the bemused passport control person let me through, to the relief of Samsung UK's marketing manager. Eleven hours later we arrived at Incheon airport outside Seoul, slightly jetlagged but excited to see Samsung's home town.

Samsung dominates South Korea in a way you really have to see to believe. Apartment blocks sport Samsung's logo on their side, not just because they're advertising the Samsung brand but because Samsung built them. There were also Samsung cars: the division has actually been sold to Renault, but Korean people still call them Samsung cars.

Even our coach driver was using a Samsung mobile phone with navigation software to avoid traffic as we made our way to the Samsung Hotel. The sheer volume of Samsung products scattered around the place was a little overwhelming at times. From TVs to computers to fridges, you could barely walk for longer than five minutes in Seoul without seeing a Samsung logo.

The hotel we were staying at was built and owned by Samsung and in every room there was a Samsung LCD TV and mobile phone. Samsung doesn't have the market to itself: in fact it's one of a relatively small group of domestic companies who make up most of South Korea's economy, along with LG, Hyundai and Daewoo. However, Samsung alone generates 17 per cent of Korea's GDP. That's what I call a company town. Stay tuned for more from Samsung Land. -Andrew Lim