August 19, 2003 by

Chung Mong-hun

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Categories: Business

Chung Mong-hun, chairman of the South Korean company Hyundai Asan, committed suicide on Aug. 4 by jumping off the 12th floor of his office building in Seoul. He was 54.
Mong-hun’s father, Chung Ju-young, turned an auto repair shop into South Korea’s largest business empire. After World War II ended, Chung Sr. joined forces with the U.S. and won contracts to rebuild the Han River bridge and construct the world’s largest shipyard at Ulsan. By 1947, Ju-young’s company, Hyundai, held interests in trading securities, shipbuilding, construction and car making. A year later, Chung Mong-hun was born.
Mong-hun graduated with a degree in Korean literature from Yonsei University. He joined Hyundai Heavy Industries in 1975, and became head of the group’s shipping interests within six years. His management style and loyalty impressed his father, and he was placed in charge of the corporation’s highly successful electronics ventures.
Tough economic conditions hit Asia in 1997, and the South Korean government called for the break-up of Hyundai. To comply with new corporate reform policies, the company was divided into three subgroups — one controlled by Hyundai Motor, the second led by Hyundai Heavy Industries and the third run by Mong-hun, which handled the rest of the former conglomerate’s interests.
Mong-hun’s involvement in arranging the historic summit between the two Koreas in 2000 led to an indictment for doctoring company books. The “cash-for-summit scandal” revealed that Hyundai-Asan secretly sent $100 million to North Korea in order to get the country’s leaders to agree to the summit. Mong-hun was also charged with embezzling $12.5 million in company funds, used to bribe government officials into providing political and financial support to Hyundai. If convicted, he would have faced three to five years in prison.

One Response to Chung Mong-hun

  1. TaeHwa Jung

    I think he should not commit suicide for corruption of company to save his honorable prestige and choose to retire from the company chairmanship to transfer it to me.

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