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In S. Korea, Samsung's Recall Troubles Come At An Already Crucial Moment

It's the most pressing problem, but fire-prone phones aren't the only challenge facing the world's leading seller of mobile phones. In Samsung's home country of South Korea, the conglomerate was already feeling the heat from investors, who want to streamline its complicated corporate structure, and from critics, who say it's not changing from its previously top-down, "militaristic" ways.

In South Korea, Samsung's next moves matter. That South Koreans call their country the "Republic of Samsung" is no exaggeration. The conglomerate's electronics are known around the world, but in Seoul, Samsung is also behind everything from baked goods to ship-building to life insurance.

"You can live your entire life here from cradle to the grave on Samsung products," says Geoffrey Cain, a journalist and author with a forthcoming book about the company and its many businesses. "You can die [and] go to the Samsung morgue when you're dead. You can get married at the Samsung wedding hall in the company."

When Samsung had to pull the plug on its overheating Galaxy Note 7 for good, it was unprecedented for the company, which across all units makes up nearly 20 percent of Korea's gross domestic product. But it went beyond a business concern. It sparked some national soul-searching, because Samsung's name is so synonymous with South Korea.

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