by Steve Theunissen
The forerunner of what was to become Kumho Tires was established in September, 1960 in Yang-dong, Kwangju City, South Korea. The company was called the Samyang Tire Co. Ltd. Utilizing backyard technology this small, primitive company produced about 20 tires per day. In April, 1963, Samyang produced a compact passenger car tire, the first to be made in South Korea. Towards the end of the 1960’s the company began exporting to South East Asia. It also acquired two important tire industry marks – the KS Mark and the DOT (U.S Department of Transportation) Mark.
In the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s the Korean government led a phase of national reconstruction with an accent on an export strong business sector. The company now known as Kumho Tires worked hard to fit in with its Government’s objectives. Kumho developed a huge manufacturing plant at Songjung (today it is known as the Kwangju Plant). This new facility allowed Kumho Tires to emerge from the back blocks and become a player on the world tire stage.
Soaring in the 70’s
Kumho Tires enjoyed rapid growth in the 1970’s. This was achieved despite the 1974 oil crisis and a scarcity of raw materials. In 1976 Kumho Tires were listed on the Korean stock exchange. A year later a second manufacturing plant (Songjung 2) was opened. A number of other notable achievements occurred in 1976, including the development and test driving of the first aircraft tire, the production of one million tires in a year and the winning of the gold trophy on the 13th Korea export day. . In 1979, Kumho Tires won the grand prize at the Korean Quality Control awards.
The Troubled 80’s
The 1980’s were a difficult period for Kumho Tires, largely due to the political instability Korea was experiencing, which worsened the business environment. The company also faced ongoing labor- management struggles. Still, the company ironed out it’s issues and continue receiving national accolades including the $100 Million Export Trophy in December, 1980. In 1984, Park Incheon, the founder president died. Ground was broken for the Koksung Plant in 1985.
The 90’s and Beyond
The 1990’s saw Kumho Tires going from strength to strength as a dominant player in the world tire market. Along the way it’s corporate culture was refreshed. In December, 1990 total tire output exceeded 100 million tires. In August, 1990 Kumho Tires began manufacturing golf balls. A year later the innovative Izen snow tire was released. In April 1995 ground was broken for Nanjing’s Kumho Tire Plant in China. In 1999 Kumho Tires released the run flat tire.
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