including Bergmann, Weber, Albert Weber

Young Chang North America, Inc.
19060 South Dominguez Hills Drive
Rancho Dominguez, California 90220

Pianos made by: Young Chang Akki Co., Ltd., Inchon, South Korea; and Tianjin, China

In 1956 three brothers—Young-Sup, Chang-Sup, and Jai-Sup Kim—founded Young Chang and began selling Yamaha pianos in Korea under an agreement with that Japanese firm. Korea was recovering from a devastating war, and only the wealthy could afford pianos. But the prospects were bright for economic development, and as a symbol of cultural refinement the piano was much coveted. In 1962 the brothers incorporated as Young Chang Akki Co., Ltd.

In 1964 Yamaha and Young Chang entered into an agreement in which Yamaha helped Young Chang set up a full-fledged manufacturing operation. Yamaha shipped partially completed Yamaha pianos from Japan to the Young Chang factory in Inchon, South Korea, where Young Chang would perform final assembly work such as cabinet assembly, stringing, and action installation. This arrangement reduced high import duties. As time went by, Young Chang built more of the components, to the point where they were making virtually the entire piano. In 1975 the arrangement with Yamaha ended when Young Chang decided to expand domestically and internationally under its own brand name, thus becoming a competitor. Young Chang began exporting to the U.S. in the late 1970s. In addition to making pianos under its own name, it also made pianos for a time for Baldwin under the Wurlitzer name, for Samsung under the Weber name, and private-label names for large dealer chains and distributors worldwide.

In 1995, in response to rising Korean wages and to supply a growing Chinese domestic market, Young Chang built a 750,000-square-foot factory in Tianjin, China, and gradually began to move manufacturing operations there for some of its models.

In 2004, Young Chang's Korean rival Samick acquired a controlling interest in the company and began to consolidate the two companies' administrative and distribution functions in North America. A few months later, however, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ruled that the purchase violated Korean anti-monopoly laws and ordered Samick to sell its interest. Naturally, Samick stopped making payments to creditors on Young Chang's behalf, forcing Young Chang into bankruptcy. For a couple of years, while these issues wound their way through the courts, there was a question of which of the two companies was entitled to distribute Young Chang pianos in North America, but the courts finally ruled that Young Chang was a separate entity entitled to distribute its own pianos.

Hyundai Development Company purchased Young Chang in 2006 and is in the process of reestablishing Young Chang's presence in North America. Hyundai Development is a Korean civil-engineering and construction company that helped create Hyundai Motor Company. The company says that Hyundai Development has brought the necessary capital for factory renovations and has instituted new quality-control systems on a par with those in automobile manufacturing. Young Chang also owns Kurzweil Music Systems, a manufacturer of professional keyboards and digital pianos.

In 1995 Young Chang employed the services of Joseph Pramberger, a highly respected piano-design engineer who had spent much of his professional career as an engineer and manufacturing executive at Steinway & Sons, to evaluate its piano designs and make improvements. Two lines of upgraded Young Chang pianos bearing the Pramberger name resulted from this process. After Mr. Pramberger died, in 2003, his estate terminated its relationship with Young Chang and signed up with Samick, which now uses the Pramberger name on a different piano design (see Samick).


SPRING 2010 -- page 211

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