SEOUL -- A frail Chung Mong Koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Co., completed his first week back at work Friday, July 21, after a 61-day absence. But it has hardly been a gentle easing back into corporate life. Korea's biggest automaker has a raft of delayed projects to reignite.
Chung, known for his top-down leadership style, was arrested April 28 on charges of embezzlement. He was freed last week on bail of $1.05 million. His case is pending. His next court appearance is scheduled for August.
"Among chief and vice presidential-level executives, regular meetings on a host of major strategic issues were delayed until his return," said spokesman Oles Gadacz. "What was missing was the conductor of the orchestra."
During the leadership vacuum, major projects were delayed. The development of Hyundai's new luxury SUV, the EN, is expected to launch early next year. Its new luxury sedan, the BH, also will get back on track, Gadacz said. The BH is scheduled to enter production in late 2007.
Chung's absence also caused delays at affiliate Kia Motors Corp. And the groundbreaking for Kia's Georgia plant remains indefinitely postponed.
"As you can imagine, he has quite a few issues on the table, so it is difficult to say when a groundbreaking will take place," said Kia spokesman Michael Choo. "But in terms of checking items off his list, I expect things to proceed faster than prior to his release."
Choo said he expected an announcement soon.
Because of blood-pressure problems, Chung is working full days but keeping light agendas and only focusing on big issues, Gadacz said.
Chung's energy is likely focused on the strike at the automaker. The union has been in a partial walkout since June 26. Negotiations are under way over pay.
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