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Digital Archive International History Declassified

Biographies

Jeong Ju-yeong

James E. Hoare

Jeong Ju-yeong was a leading businessman in the Republic of Korea and a proponent of the Sunshine Policy.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

JEONG JU-YEONG (1915-2001). Also commonly spelled as Chung Ju Yung. A leading businessman in the Republic of Korea (ROK), Jeong Ju-yeong was originally from the northern half of the peninsula. In 1946 he started a company called Hyundai Auto Services that eventually became the basis of the ROK’s biggest conglomerate until the early 2000s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Hyundai group worked closely with the government of Park Chung Hee in bringing about the economic transformation of the ROK. After Park’s death in 1979, Jeong and Hyundai were less in favor with the government, which eventually led Jeong to an unsuccessful attempt to enter politics.

When that failed, Jeong tried to establish links with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Concerned about the famine in the mid-1990s, in 1998, Jeong took 501 head of cattle with him to the DPRK (he had taken the family cow with him when he left home and was now returning with it). He repeated this gesture later in the year. This approach fit in with President Kim Dae-jung’s “Sunshine Policy,” and from it would eventually emerge Hyundai Asan (Asan was Jeong’s home village), a company that developed tourist links with the DPRK in the Geumgang Mountain tourist resort in the DPRK. Hyundai Asan also transmitted funds that helped to pave the way for the June 2000 Inter-Korean Summit. Jeong was also interested in the development of the border city of Gaeseong as a tourist resort and in the nearby Gaeseong Industrial Zone.

Jeong died in March 2001. His death prompted the breakup of the Hyundai conglomerate. Revelations about payments and undercover transactions seems to have led his son Jeong Mong-heon, then head of Hyundai Asan, to commit suicide in August 2003. Relations between the two Koreas deteriorated in the wake of the election of the conservative Lee Myung-bak as ROK president in 2007, and the tourist visits to the Geumgang Mountains ceased in 2008 after a woman visitor was shot dead. The DPRK threatened to take over Hyundai Asan’s assets at the resort unless the tours resumed, and began to implement this policy in 2011.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).