An employees inspects a Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 10+ 5G smartphone at the company's Digital Plaza store in Seoul, South Korea. Image Credit: Bloomberg

South Korea: Samsung Electronics Co. has appointed Taemoon Roh the head of its smartphone division, tasking a veteran executive with oversight of the world’s largest mobile devices business.

Roh, who was formerly the unit’s No. 2 executive, will take over the top job from Koh Dong-Jin, Samsung announced Monday. Koh remains head of the Korean conglomerate’s IT and mobile communications division but hands the reins of smartphones over to a 52-year-old lieutenant credited with building up the marquee Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets globally.

Samsung, the largest maker of mobile phones, displays and memory chips, shakes up its executive ranks each year, with the extent of the changes often correlated to how its businesses are doing. This month, the company reported preliminary earnings that showed operating income declining by about a third from a year earlier.

Korea’s largest company is racing to secure an early lead in fifth-generation wireless smartphones as well as foldables, both of which will take centerstage during its annual Unpacked event in San Francisco in February. While it still sells more devices than any other brand, Samsung in recent years has come under assault from both long-time adversary Apple Inc. as well as aggressive new rivals from Huawei Technologies Co. to fellow Chinese names Oppo and Vivo.

Samsung is expected to unveil on February 11 a second foldable device that folds into a square. The company’s mainstream flagship device - whose name is rumored to be the Galaxy S20, a change in naming scheme - is also likely to be unveiled at that event.

Its devices accounted for 54% of the global 5G smartphone market as of November 2019, after it shipped more than 6.7 million Galaxy 5G smartphones last year, the company has said.

The chiefs of three key divisions - semiconductors, consumer appliances and electronics and IT services - remained the same. That ensures stability given vice chairman and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee is defending himself in court over graft allegations, raising the possibility of a potential leadership vacuum.

Samsung promoted several presidents in its latest restructuring including Kyungwhoon Cheun, who now heads networking. The reshuffle is effective on Monday.