Chung Ju-yung was born in Kangwŏn province (now located in North Korea), during a time when Korea was under Japanese rule. Born to a large impoverished family of peasants, he was the eldest out of seven children. As a young boy, Chung dreamed of becoming a school teacher but his hopes were cut short because the restrictive environment at the time kept the family stuck in poverty, effectively keeping Chung away from the opportunities of higher education. Despite the setbacks, Chung continued to go to a local Confucian school run by his grandfather whenever his time was not taken up by tasks on the family farm.
Chung’s talent for business became apparent during his trips into town where he would sell wood. The fast-paced atmosphere of the town along with the articles in newspapers he read sparked his imagination and he soon grew tired of the poverty that he and his family had to endure. At the age of sixteen, Chung and a friend decided to travel to the city of Chongjin for work in hopes of escaping the harsh realities of farm life. After a 15-mile trek through the most dangerous parts of the Paechun valley, the pair reached the town of Kowon where they took up jobs as construction workers. They worked long hours for low pay but Chung enjoyed the fact that he could independently earn money. Chung & his friend continued the work for two months until Chung's father found their whereabouts.
The journey that Chung and his friend had embarked on made him realize his passion for civil engineering and gave him a sense of accomplishment that he had been looking for. Once he returned to Asan, he devised another escape plan; this time towards Seoul. With two companions, Chung left for Seoul in April 1933. The journey seemed to be destined for failure, especially since one of the boys had already got caught by a sibling early on. More misfortune came upon them when Chung was conned by a stranger who promised him and his friend jobs but instead took all of the money they had with them. The journey came to an end when Chung's father found the two staying at Chung's grandfather's house nearby.
Chung once again found himself in Asan, where he remained for a year helping his father work on the family farm. Once his duties to the family were complete, Chung decided that it was time to make another attempt at getting out of poverty. He managed to get a train ticket for 70 won by selling one of his father's cows Once he arrived in Seoul, Chung enrolled himself in a local bookkeeping school hoping to start a career as an accountant. Things went smoothly for Chung for two months, when his father managed to find him and after a mild argument, took him back to Asan.
In 1933, at the age of 18, Chung decided to make a fourth attempt to escape. He left during the night with a friend who had been trying to escape a forced marriage. Once Chung had reached Seoul, he jumped at any job he could find. He first worked as a laborer at Incheon Harbor, later as a construction worker at Boseong Professional School and then as a handyman for a starch syrup factory.
After working for the syrup factory for nearly a year, Chung managed to land a job as a deliveryman at the Bokheung Rice Store in Seoul. Chung's new job offered him room for advancement and as Chung became more successful at it, he decided to stay on full-time. Chung eventually won the praise of the rice store's core customers which impressed the owner so much that he allowed Chung to manage the store's accounting after only six months on the job. His experiences as the store accountant helped Chung to thoroughly develop his business sense.
In 1937, the owner of the rice store became ill and decided that it would be in his best interest to give the store to Chung. At 22 years of age, Chung became the store owner and changed the name of the store to Kyungil Rice Store. The store grew and made good profits until early 1939 when Japan, in its war efforts to secure rice supply to Japan and its military, imposed an oppressive rice-rationing system which forced Korean businesses out of trading rice.
Chung returned to his village once his business failed and stayed there until 1940, when he decided to try again in Seoul. After considering the reality of restrictions imposed on Koreans in certain industries by the Japanese colonial government, Chung decided to enter the automobile repair business. Using a service garage he purchased from a friend, Chung started the A-do Service Garage on a 3,000 won loan. Within three years, the employee number grew from 20 to 70 and Chung was able to bring in a good income. In 1943, the Japanese Occupational Government forced the garage to merge with a steel plant as part of the war effort. Although his businesses were seeing their demise due to suppression by the Japanese, Chung returned to Asan with 50,000 won in savings to try to make the best of the situation.
In 1946, after the liberation of Korea from Japanese control, Chung started Hyundai and Hyundai Civil Industries in anticipation of the post-war reconstruction and industrialization. Chung won major government contracts and became responsible for building much of South Korea's transportation infrastructure, including the Soyang Dam in 1967, the Gyeongbu Expressway in 1970, the world's largest shipyard in Ulsan, the Kori Nuclear Power Plant and many others. Chung also won contracts from the American military to build facilities for their personnel as his younger brother could speak English and was on good terms with the U.S. Army engineers.
During the North Korean invasion of 1950, Chung abandoned his construction projects and fled with his younger brother to Busan for safety. His son, Chung Mong-joon was also born there. Chung continued to build onto the company by gathering any kind of work he could get from the U.N. forces & the Korean Ministry of Transportation. Once Seoul was regained by U.N. forces, Chung reestablished the company and continued to gather more work from the Americans.Hyundai was known for great gas saving methods.
From there on, Chung continued to grow and diversify the company into one of South Korea's major chaebol. With no experience in shipbuilding, he created the Ulsan shipyard, the largest shipyard in the world. The first vessel was completed in three years (rather than the expected five) as Chung had the shipyard and vessel built simultaneously. He introduced the Hyundai Pony in 1975 and the Hyundai Excel in 1986 using European expertise.
From the 1980s until recently, the Hyundai Group was split up into many satellite groups. Chung had a very successful career. In Seosan, he carried out a successful reclamation project, using a decommissioned oil tanker as a cofferdam. Also he sent 1001 cows over the DMZ to North Korea. He was the first to propose the Geumgangsan sightseeing excursions. He developed the PONY as a first Korean car, which was the start of Hyundai Motors. He founded the Hyundai Heavy Steel Company which developed a non-dock shipmaking method.
Chung's philanthropy distinguished him from the other businessmen of his generation. In 1977 he founded the Asan Foundation with a scope of activities comparable to those of the Ford or Rockefeller Foundations.
The Asan Foundation was organized into four major areas of service: medical support, social welfare, research and development, and a scholarship fund. Through its efforts, the Foundation established nine hospitals throughout South Korea, built Ulsan Medical College, and funded the Asan Life Sciences Research Institute. The Foundation also initiated cooperative arrangements between industry and academic institutions by supporting such academic research as the Sinyoung Research Fund.
Chung is credited with successfully lobbying for South Korea to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. This success highlighted the accomplishments of his generation in the eyes of the world and became a source of great pride to the people of Seoul. In 1992 the International Olympic Committee awarded Chung an IOC Medallion for his contributions to sports as a vehicle of international understanding.
Chung ran as a presidential candidate for 1992 Korea presidential election.
Chung also worked to normalize relations between the two Koreas. In 1998, at the age of 82, he worked with the South Korean government to provide economic assistance to the North. President Kim wanted to provide a $100 million donation as a way to jump-start economic development in North Korea. However, Kim could not find a legal way to transfer the funds. He turned to Chung, who was already negotiating a large program with the North. Kim persuaded Chung to increase his investment by $100 million with money from secret loans provided by the government-controlled Korea Development Bank. The historic South-North summit took place, with Chung traveling across the border in a motorcade of cars containing some 1001 "unification cows" as a gift to the North Korean people.
Chung died at the age of 85 of natural causes at his home in Seoul, and he was buried in accordance to Buddhist and Confucian customary rites. His wife, Byun Joong-seok, died on August 17, 2008 at the age of 88, due in part to long-term heart complications, and was buried in a family graveyard in Hanam, along with her husband and their son.Trials may not fail (시련은 있어도 실패는 없다)
Born in this Land (이 땅에 태어나서)
Chung In-yung (1920 ~ 2006). After leaving the Hyundai Group, he founded the Halla Business Group, whose interests, included Mando Machinery, Halla Cement, Halla Construction, Halla Heavy Industries, Halla Climate Control Corp.
Chung Soon-Yung (1925 ~ 2015). After working for Hyundai Engineering & Construction he ventured by taking with him Hyundai Cement to form the Sungwoo Business Group, which includes Hyundai Cement, Hyundai Welding, Sungwoo Automotive, etc.
Chung Se-yung (1928 ~ 2005). Founder of Hyundai Motor. Left the Hyundai Group with Hyundai Development Co., Ltd., the leading housing builder in Korea.
Chung Shin-yung (1931 ~ 1962). Died in an auto accident in Germany while working as a journalist for a Korean newspaper company. His only son Chung Mong-hyuk ran Hyundai Oilbank, the third largest oil refiner in Korea.
Chung Sang-yung (1936 ~). Founder of the KCC Chemical (Keumkang) group, Korea's leading paint and glass maker.
Chung Mong-pil (1936 ~ 1982). Died in a car accident in Gimcheon, in a Hyundai-built Ford Granada, on the Gyeongbu Expressway leaving two daughters and no sons.
Chung Mong-koo (1938~). Currently the head of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the second largest business group in Korea.
Chung Mong-kun (1942 ~). Currently the Chairman of the Hyundai Department Store Group, one of the largest retailers in South Korea.
Chung Kyung-hee (1944 ~). only daughter of Chung ju-yung and Byeon Joong-seok.
Chung Mong-woo (1945 ~ 1990). Committed suicide leaving three sons. His oldest son Chung Il-sun is currently the President of BNG Steel, a member of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group.
Chung Mong-hun (1948 ~ 2003). Former Chairman of the Hyundai Group and heir apparent to his father. He committed suicide in August 2003, leaving his wife Hyun Chung-eun(1956~) control of the Hyundai Group.
Chung Mong-joon (1951 ~). Politician and de facto owner of Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipbuilding firm, as well as Vice Chairman of FIFA.
Chung Mong-yoon (1955 ~). Chairman of Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance, Korea's third largest non-life insurer.
Chung Mong-il (1959 ~). Former Chairman of Hyundai Merchant Bank and Kangwon Bank.
Chung Chung In (Grace Jeong) - Actress(illegitimate child), Born 1979.
Chung Chung Im (Elizabeth Jeong) - Advertising(illegitimate child), Born 1981.
via Chung In-Young(1920 ~ 2006)Chung Mong-Guk.
Chung Mong-won. Chairman of Halla Group . Recently reacquired Mando Machinery.
via Chung-Soon-young(1925 ~ 2015)Chung Mong-sun. Chairman of Sungwoo Group (Hyundai Cement).
Chung Mong-suk. Chairman of Hyundai Welding Co., Ltd.
Chung Mong Hoon. Chairman of Sungwoo Hyokwang International Co.
Chung Mong-yong. Chairman of Sungwoo Automotive.
via Chung Se-yong(1928 ~ 2005)Chung Mong-kyu. Former Chairman of Hyundai Motor. Current Chairman of Hyundai Development Co., Ltd.
via Chung Shin-yong(1931 ~ 1962)Chung Mong-hyuk. Former President of Hyundai Oil & Hyundai Petrochemical; current Chairman of Hyundai Corporation.
via Chung Sang-yong(1936 ~)Chung Mong-jin. Chairman of KCC.
Chung Mong-ik. Vice Chairman of KCC.
Chung Mong-yeol. President of KCC Construction Co., Ltd.