Samsung Names Dongjin Koh President Of Mobile Division

Big changes are afoot in Samsung’s mobile division.

J.K. Shin, co-CEO and mobile division chief of Samsung Electronics, will be handing over day-to-day operations of the division to Dongjin Koh.

Koh, until now, was the head of Samsung’s mobile R&D and is widely credited with the creation of the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6. Shin will still be the “ranking officer” in the firm’s mobile division, but his focus will be on long-term strategy and new business.

Samsung’s mobile line has faced sharp challenges this year, with a middling consumer response to the flagship Galaxy phone — causing a markdown in price — and increasing pressure on the high end from Apple and on the affordable end from Huawei Technologies and Xiaomi Inc.

“While it’s true that Shin delivered remarkable performance in the past, it’s indisputable that the Galaxy S6’s results fell short of expectations, so a new leader was needed,” Hansung University economics professor Kim Sang-jo said in an interview with Reuters.

“Today’s appointments appear to acknowledge the need to develop a management system that can more proactively respond to challenges from Xiaomi and other Chinese companies.”

This is the most major personnel shift in what is starting to look like a series of them under the “conglomerate’s heir-apparent,” Jay Y. Lee. TV and Appliances Division Chief Yoon Boo-keun shifted out of the day-to-day operations of the appliances business recently — also to focus on more strategic decisions.

And while analysts do take the changes as a sign that Samsung knows it is time to think a little differently about how it engages the mobile market, few are expecting much in the way of big changes to come from this latest staffing shakeup.

“Koh is basically the same person as Shin,” Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology business professor Chang Sea-jin said.

And that many not be a good thing, since the consensus is that Samsung needs to step up its software and service products, but Koh, like Shin, is an engineer, not a programmer.

“There is no real change, and Samsung appears to be continuing on the hardware-centric path,” Chang said.

Shin has been in charge of the mobile business for about five years and was the driving force behind the initial run of record-breaking profits for the Galaxy line. However, as those earnings have receded in the last year, so has Shin’s standing, and some in the media have been snarking for the last year that Shin was on his way out. And while he is staying around, some commentators believe the writing is on the wall.

“This is basically a retirement for Shin,” Chang said.

Others, however, said that Shin could still exert influence through his role as mobile division chief.