SEOUL – Chung Se Yung, who helped found Hyundai Motor Co. and led the young automaker for more than 20 years, died here on May 29, of pneumonia at age 76. He had been weakened by lung cancer.
Born in 1928 in northern Korea, Chung studied diplomacy at Korea University and then got a masters degree in political science at University of Miami in the US state of Florida in 1957.
A warm and engaging man who smiled easily and had a quick mind, he wasnt afraid to be interviewed by American reporters in English, a second language.
After working in family companies, he helped launch Hyundai Motor Co. in 1967 and was named its president.
One of his most important early efforts was to turn Hyundai into an independent auto producer, rather than an assembler of other models.
In the early 1970s he hired Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to pen the small-segment Pony, which was Hyundais first proprietary design. The car debuted at the Turin auto show in 1974, and was followed by other Hyundai designs.
In 1987, Chung was named chairman of Hyundai Motor. In 1996, he stepped aside as chairman in favor of his son, Chung Mong Gyu, and was named honorary chairman.
His career had an unhappy end, however. In 1999, he and his son were both forced out amid differences among family shareholders.
Chung ended up trading his 8.3 percent stake in Hyundai Motor for a 37.7 percent stake in Hyundai Development Co., one of Koreas biggest construction concerns.
He became honorary chairman at Hyundai Development. He still held the post when he died the day after Hyundai Motor opened its first US plant in Alabama.