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Death of Brother.. Political Ordeal.. Difficult Times

Posted August. 04, 2003 21:57,   


When will the wheel of misfortune stop turning?

In the wake of Hyundai Asan Chairman Chung Mong-hun`s suicide, the brothers of the late-chairman are in a state of shock that has to do with a series of their brothers` deaths and unfortunate political affinity.

The family of Chung ju-young is often referred to as “the history of South Korean economic growth.” However, family members are saddened over repeatedly recurring misfortune in their family.

Among the sons of the deceased Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-young, three of them have either committed suicide or been killed in an accident, while another brother died early at the age of 32.

The first shadow of misfortune came the founder`s fifth son, Chung Shin-young, a former Donga Ilbo journalist, died of intestinal complications in April 1992 in Hamburg, Germany.

The founder was very proud of Shin-young, who was doing his Ph. D. work at the Post Graduate School at the University of Hamburg, and upon hearing of his son`s death he was said to suffer a great loss, sources close to the founder reported.

Following Shin-young`s death, Inchon Iron and Steel chief executive Chung Mong-pil, the eldest son, died in a traffic accident in 1982. The founder lamented over the death of Mong-pil whom he considered as a co-founder of the Hyundai Group.

In 1990, fourth son Mong-woo, who was suffering from a chronic disease, took his own life.

Political ordeals persisted thereafter. In 1992, the founder ran for the presidency. His defeat in the election, however, caused severe damage to the Hyundai Group. Last year, sixth son Chung Mong-jun also ran for the presidency, but to no avail.

The Hyundai Group, which was run by Chung Mong-hun, has been swept along in political turmoil since the details surrounding the 500 million dollar secret remittance to North Korea began to be disclosed in September last year.

The Halla Group, which was about to become a top 10 conglomerate in Korea but broke away in 1997, also shared in the misfortune of the Hyundai Group.

The Founder`s first younger brother, former Halla Group honorary chairman Chung In-young`s second son, Mong-won, was designated as his successor in 1994. He led the Halla Group until the conglomerate`s virtually collapse in 1997, when Halla Engineering & Heavy Industries went bankrupt.

Mong-won is now appealing after being released on bail. He was indicted over financing Halla Engineering & Heavy Industries through financially stable affiliates and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

“The power struggle between brothers that occurred from in 2000 from March to June resulted in the tragedy of Hyundai,” one senior executive of the Hyundai Group pointed out.

Chung Mong-hun, who led key affiliates such as Hyundai Engineering Construction,

Hyundai Electronics (now Hynix), and Hyundai Merchant Marine, seemed to have virtually secured the status as Hyundai Group`s successor.

However, when Chung Mong-gu succeeded in separating Hyundai Motor, the status of successor burst like a bubble.

As the key affiliate left, the Hyundai Group became a small conglomerate and made him a tiger without teeth.

As chairman of Hyundai Asan, Chung Mong-hun devoted himself to businesses in North Korea, but even this brought him harsh ordeal. The Mount Keumgang businesses staggered, relations between the two Koreas dramatically worsened over the North`s nuclear ambition, and an investigation over the remittance of hundreds of millions of dollars to North Korea also haunted him.

Chung Mong-hun stayed overseas for over four months after the remittance to the North issue created a stir last August. He was waiting for the country to calm down over the remittance issues.

He was repeatedly summoned by a special persecution team who was charged with investigating the remittance to North Korea issue right after his return to Korea. Commenting on this he once said, “it is tormenting me,” to a close friend.

Dong-Won Kim daviskim@donga.com