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Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun Humiliated by North Korean Border Control Agent

Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun Humiliated by North Korean Border Control Agent

Posted September. 03, 2005 08:34,   


On the day of the groundbreaking ceremonies for a reunion center for divided families from North and South Korea, Hyun Jeong-eun, 50, the chairman of Hyundai Group, was not happy.

She is currently leading the project following the initiative of Chung Joo-young, the late honorary chairman of Hyundai and her father-in-law, and Chung Mong-hun, the late head of the board of directors at Hyundai Asan.

“Open Your Purse”-

At 7:30 a.m. on August 31 in front of the North’s immigration office. Hyun received unexpected treatment.

She had hurried early in the morning to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Onjeonggak reunion center scheduled for 10:00 a.m., but the North did not seem to be so welcoming.

The North carried out an even stricter entry screening on her than other regular travelers. The executives at Hyundai Group were puzzled.

“How could they do this to none other than the one who has been sustaining Mt. Geumgang?” they asked.

However, nobody could stop Pyongyang from their brusque treatment.

The staff of the immigration office demanded Hyun open her purse.

It was the first time she was treated like this after several previous visits to the North. One executive of Hyundai Asan who accompanied Hyun failed even to set foot on North Korean territory because of a North Korean denial of entry.

One official who participated in the event hinted, “It seems to be Pyongyang’s revenge for dismissing the vice president of Hyundai Asan, Kim Yun-gyu.”

Secret Talks in a Car-

This cold treatment by the North against Hyun continued even at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Hyun was seated third from left among a total of 15 seats on the first row, followed by Chairman of Hyundai Asan Yoon Man-jun and the president of Hyundai Engineering and Construction Lee Ji-song, after all the years of being “at the helm” of Hyundai’s North Korea project.

Hyun was heading to Mt. Geumgang Hotel where she was staying after finishing the ceremonial blast and shoveling, but North Korean Red Cross chairman Jang Jae Oen stopped her.

As reporters started approaching, the two rode Hyun’s car, an Equus, to the entrance of Yongcheon Village, 200 meters away from the place. The confidential talks previously not on schedule went on for more than 10 minutes in the car.

No one knows what went between the two. It just gave the impression that things were becoming somewhat urgent. Hyun refused to talk when a reporter asked her what she had said in the car.

A Visit to Shing-gye Temple Where Her Husband’s Remains Are-

On August 31 at night. Hyun had drinks with major executives of Hyundai Group at the sky lounge of the Mt. Geumgang Hotel on the 12th floor, including the president of Hyundai Elevator Choi Yong-mook (Hyundai’s chief manager for restructuring dept.)

She drank a glass of water with ice because she doesn`t drink well. Her aides praised her as a great leader. However, all seemed to feel bittersweet about what had happened to her in the morning.

In the morning of September 1, late summer rain soaked Mt. Geumgang as Hyun headed to Shin-gye Temple on Mt. Geumgang to where her husband’s remains were sprinkled. She may have asked her husband, “Dear, how should I go through this trouble?”

Heaven may have noticed her frustration. The rain poured very heavily from 11:00 a.m. when the opening ceremony of the second Onjeonggak was held. Beside the venue stood the monument to the memory of Chung Mong-hun written by Kim Yong-ok, also known by his pen name, Do-ol.

One senior official on the way back to Seoul said with frustration, “It’s difficult to understand what the North is doing regarding corporate management control.”

Young-Hae Choi yhchoi65@donga.com