There’s a third generation of the Chung family at the helm of Hyundai Heavy Industries, South Korea’s largest shipbuilder.
Chung Ki-sun, 39, the eldest son of Chung Mong-joon, has been appointed joint CEO of Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings and Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, a subholding company of the group.
The younger Chung had previously headed up HHI’s ship repair unit, Hyundai Global Service. He will operate as CEO in tandem with the group’s current chief executive, Kwon Oh-gap.
Chung is the grandson of Chung Ju-Yung, HHI’s founder. 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.