Chung Ki-sun, the 40-year-old grandson of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-young, was named CEO of Hyundai Heavy Industries Group and its subholding company Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering yesterday as the giant conglomerate gets ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Along with Chung, current CEO Ka Sam-hyun was renamed as co-CEO at South Korea’s largest shipbuilder.
Top management will now have to quickly fix wage agreements with its workforce with unions this week rejecting proposed salaries for 2022 and threatening a strike.
Hyundai Heavy has also said it will also change its name to HD Hyundai. The shipbuilder has many subsidiary yards including Hyundai Samho, Hyundai Mipo and the soon to reopen Hyundai Gunsan.
“The name change is aimed at shifting away from the image of a traditional manufacturer to an investment company exploring new growth engines,” the company explained.
Exhibiting earlier this year in Las Vegas at CES, a high profile tech event, Hyundai Heavy pitched itself as a “future builder”, displaying its Avikus’ autonomous navigation technology as well as its liquid hydrogen transport designs, new propulsion system technology, and intelligent robotics.
Chung Ju-Yung, HHI’s founder, was born in 1915 to an impoverished family, Chung was the eldest of eight, hailing from Asan in what would become the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
After a tough upbringing Chung fled the rural poverty of the north for the burgeoning commercial city of Seoul aged just 16. He financed his 200 km trek by selling one of his father’s cows. That life-long guilt would prompt him to send 1,500 cattle to North Korea as a humanitarian gesture in 1998.
By 1937 he had saved enough cash to set up a rice shop. However, Korea’s colonial masters, the Japanese, shut this business down. Undeterred, he became a truck driver, running a delivery service before establishing a car repair garage. After the end of World War II and Korea’s liberation, aged 31, he founded the Hyundai empire, which would encompass construction, engineering and cars by the end of the 1960s.
Then in 1972 Chung took a gamble. He booked an order for a VLCC for C.T. Tung, one of Hong Kong’s preeminent shipowners, before he had even built his own shipyard. Despite this the vessel delivered on time. The shipbuilding division of HHI was born and South Korea was on track to overhaul Japan as the world’s top shipbuilding nation less than three decades later.
When Chung, the patriarch, died in 2001 there followed a bitter squabble among family members for control of disparate parts of the huge business empire – or chaebol – that he had created.