Online backlash after Samsung executives seen kowtowing to distributors in China

Samsung executives kowtowing to express their gratitude to phone distributors at a sales meeting in China.
Samsung executives kowtowing to express their gratitude to phone distributors at a sales meeting in China. PHOTO: WEIBO

South Korean electronics giant Samsung is reportedly facing another crisis - this time on social media - after a photo of its executives in China kneeling before phone distributors was circulated online.

The gesture, which was meant to convey Samsung's appreciation for the distributors' continued support, was performed at a recent sales meeting in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province.

But it backfired spectacularly as netizens criticised Samsung for humiliating its staff, local media reported.

Debate also raged over whether staff were forced to kowtow.

Some pointed out that while the gesture might have been deemed acceptable in South Korea, the act of going down on one's knees in China is usually reserved as a sign of respect for senior family members or during religious ceremonies.

 

In response to the backlash, a Samsung spokesman said its South Korean executives were "deeply touched" that its distributors had placed lots of orders during the meeting despite the company's recent woes with its Note7 device.

"They were really touched and knelt to show their gratitude. Many of the Chinese staff were also touched and followed suit," said the spokesman.

Samsung's defective Note7 - its most profitable phone model - saw the company record a 17 per cent slump in third-quarter profit amid scores of reports about battery fires and explosions.

Described as its worst corporate crisis to date, the debacle could ultimately cost Samsung more than US$6 billion (S$8.34 billion).