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Samsung mobile chief keeps job despite sour smartphone sales

But the head of sales and marketing for Samsung's mobile unit is leaving his role, says The Wall Street Journal.

Samsung mobile chief J.K. Shin Stephen Shankland/CNET

Samsung's J.K. Shin is still in charge of the mobile division despite earlier rumors that he could be forced to take the fall for the company's weak smartphone sales, The Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

Shin, who runs Samsung's mobile business, will maintain his position, the Journal said, based on information from Samsung. B.K. Yoon, head of Samsung's consumer electronics unit, and Kwon Oh-hyun, the chief executive for the component business, will also remain in their jobs.

One of Shin's top executives, though, is leaving the company. Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Journal said D.J. Lee, head of sales and marketing at Samsung's mobile unit, will leave his current position as a matter of "taking responsibility for lackluster smartphone sales."

In October, Samsung reported a 74 percent year-over-year sales decline in its mobile business for its third quarter. The company has been hit by greater competition from smaller smartphone vendors in China and elsewhere that have stolen customers by offering lower- and mid-range-priced smartphones. Such competition has eaten into sales of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S5 phone.

Samsung hasn't revealed actual sales numbers for the S5. But a report out a week ago from the Journal said the company sold 12 million S5 units during the latest quarter, down from the 16 million Galaxy S4 units sold during the same period a year ago.

Samsung was considering making Shin a fall guy for the drop in mobile sales, according to the Journal, and replacing Shin with Yoon. Now both men are staying put. But other mobile executives may be facing job cuts, one of the Journal's sources said. Further, local news reports said that two other president-level executives in the mobile business were let go, along with Lee.

"J.K. Shin has made big contributions in making Samsung Electronics the No. 1 maker of mobile phones," June Lee, the head of corporate communications at Samsung's Corporate Strategy Office, told a group of reporters. "The scope of personnel reshuffling is narrower than it has been before."

Though Samsung may see a need for further management reshuffling in its mobile unit, the company might have to wait to take any further action. Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who is usually involved in such key personnel decisions, according to the Journal, has been ill since suffering a heart attack in May.

A Samsung spokeswoman declined CNET's request for comment on the management situation.