Image: Samsung

Samsung said on Tuesday it replaced the head of its chip division __ a move that reflects the company’s anxiety over its dominance in the semiconductor market.

The South Korean tech giant said it has appointed Jun Young-hyun as the head of the Device Solutions (DS) division. The move was a “preemptive measure” to strengthen the future competitiveness of its semiconductors, Samsung explained.

Jun, a former CEO of battery maker Samsung SDI and a senior executive at Samsung’s memory business, is expected to use his expertise to overcome the “semiconductor crisis”, the company added.

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Outgoing head Kyung Kye-hyun, who led the DS division for two years prior, will continue to head Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), a post that is traditionally reserved for former CEOs and division heads.

Samsung’s replacement of such a key post in May is highly unusual as it conventionality announces its executive reshuffle near the end of the year. Though the company didn’t elaborate on what the semiconductor crisis was, it likely refers to the stiff competition its memory business, its highest profit-generating unit, is facing.

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Samsung is still the world’s largest maker of memory chips by a wide margin to rivals SK Hynix and Micron. However, it has fallen behind domestic rival SK Hynix in high-bandwidth memory (HBM), a chip that saw a demand surge in the past two years from the artificial intelligence (AI) boom. The chip is considered to be the new growth generator for memory makers. SK Hynix is currently the largest supplier of HBM3E to Nvidia for their AI chips. 

Samsung reported a 900% jump in operating profit for the first quarter this year, but this must have been hardly comforting as the surge had more to do with the cyclical nature of the memory chip market and signals the start of the upcycle after two years of downturn.

A long-time Samsung veteran, Jun is known as a technology specialist within the South Korean tech giant and was responsible for key breakthroughs in DRAM and NAND for the company. His appointment can be seen as a back to the basics of focusing on technology advancements to reliable hands.

HBM is comprised of multiple DRAM dies stacked vertically, so Jun’s primary focus will be to narrow the gap in the product category to SK Hynix and down the years possibly upend them. Samsung announced that it developed a 12-stack HBM3E in February ahead of rivals.


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