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[News Focus] Chung Mong-koo: The man who made Hyundai Motor global

A look back on the honorary chairman’s 20-year legacy

Chung Mong-koo (Yonhap)
Chung Mong-koo (Yonhap)
Chung Mong-koo led Hyundai Motor Group for two decades as chairman and CEO before stepping down Wednesday.

As his only son, Chung Euisun, takes over the world’s fifth-largest automaker, the elder Chung, who has now become an honorary chairman of the automotive company, is leaving behind a legacy.

As the son of the late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, Chung Mong-koo joined Hyundai Motor Company in 1970 as an auto parts manager at its Seoul office. He became the chairman of Hyundai Motor Group in September 2000.

One of his biggest achievements during his tenure is global growth, as he built an automobile empire in a country that was considered a latecomer to the industry.

When Hyundai Motor Company was founded in 1967, it only had a repair shop for cars imported from countries like the US and Japan.

By late 2000, the automotive manufacturer had a total of 10 affiliates with assets worth some 34 trillion won ($29.7 billion). As of late last year, the group boasted 54 affiliates with assets of more than 234 trillion won.

Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors, the group’s core companies, became some of the biggest automakers in the world and came to boast final assembly lines in 10 countries in an “unprecedented period of time.” They now produce over 7 million vehicles each year.

Chung Mong-koo is also known for focusing on quality and on-site management which remained on top of his agenda during his time.

Achievements under his leadership included the standard factory construction system, which was established to maintain the quality of the company’s global production lines, as well as a large-scale research and development center, and its 10-year and 100,000-mile warranty program.

The warranty program was introduced in the US in 1998 at a time when other carmakers such as GM, Ford and Toyota offered fewer years and miles, which the automaker says helped lay the groundwork for Hyundai and Kia to grow into global automotive powerhouses in the years to come.

Hyundai Motor Group’s success also helped South Korean auto parts companies as Chung innovated the automaker’s supply chains and helped them branch out into the international market when his company built new manufacturing plants.

Last year Hyundai and Kia sold 7.4 million cars, enabling the group to retain its position as the world’s fifth-largest automaker.

The group is composed of affiliates spanning across automobiles, steel, construction, parts and finance. They include Hyundai Steel, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Capital, Hyundai Card, Hyundai Glovis and Hyundai Rotem.

Chung Mong-koo is leaving his legacy behind with the industry’s top honor. Earlier this year, he became the first Korean to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1939 and has honored nearly 800 business leaders from around the world since.

“Through Chung’s leadership and direct efforts, he took a struggling 20-year-old car company and made Hyundai Motor Group the world’s fifth-largest car maker while Hyundai Motor Company alone ranks as the world’s sixth largest,” the American museum said.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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