Hyundai founder’s grandsons coming to fore

Hyundai founder’s grandsons coming to fore

Following is the second in a three-part story featuring the late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung’s leadership and his management philosophy on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. ― Ed.

The late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung stood ahead of others in terms of family size in the community of Korean chaebols.

Chung and his wife Byun Joong-suk had eight sons and a daughter. Most of the sons grew up to be businessmen, influenced by his entrepreneurial spirit.

With so many sons, a family feud was inevitable and it was initiated by two of Chung’s six surviving sons in a clash that resulted in the breakup of Hyundai Group in 2000. Hyundai was the nation’s largest conglomerate from 1977 to 2000. Sales of the industrial giant reached 90.6 trillion won ($78.5 billion) in 1998.

The surviving eldest son Mong-koo, the cochairman of Hyundai Group, left the group with the auto business and launched Hyundai Motor Group in 2000.

His younger brother Mong-hun, the group’s heir apparent, retained his chairmanship at Hyundai Group ― with key affiliates including Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Hyundai Merchant Marine and Hyundai Asan for the inter-Korean economic projects. Hyundai E&C was sold to Hyundai Motor in 2010.

The power of the chairmanship of Hyundai Group was transferred to Chung’s wife Hyun Jeong-eun after he committed suicide following an investigation about a slush fund by prosecutors.

In 2002, the group also spun off its shipbuilding business to Mong-joon, the sixth son of the Hyundai founder.

Three other surviving sons set up a different business group with the help of their father, while keeping the Hyundai name. The surviving second son Mong-keun set up Hyundai Department Store in 1971. Seventh son Mong-yoon and the youngest Mong-il took control of Hyundai Marine and Fire Insurance and Hyundai Finance, respectively.

On a broader scale, the pan-Hyundai business group has included firms established by the group founder’s brothers. Chung came from a big family himself. As the eldest son in a poor and rural family, he had four younger brothers and one younger sister. His brothers created Halla Group, Sungwoo Group, Hyundai Development Group and KCC. The founder’s brothers have all died except KCC honorary chairman and youngest brother Chung Sang-young, 79.

With the second generation of Hyundai Group nearing their retirement, a growing number of the pan-Hyundai firms face the issue of a generational shift in power. Hyundai Motor Group is one such case.

Chung Eui-sun, 45, a grandson of the Hyundai founder and the only son of the automotive group chairman, took the podium early this month to announce he would lead the “Genesis” project to launch a new beginning for Hyundai Motor.

The third generation has raised the exposure at Hyundai Heavy Industries as well. Chung Ki-sun, 33, senior vice president of the shipbuilder, secured a deal with Saudi Aramco for collaborations on business development in Saudi Arabia on Nov 11.


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