Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Founder of South Korea's Daewoo, a symbol of its rise and fall, dies

Stock MarketsDec 10, 2019 12:56AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - The founder of the defunct Daewoo Group, Kim Woo-choong, has died after watching the conglomerate he built into a symbol of South Korea's manufacturing prowess become one of its biggest corporate failures, crushed by debt.

Kim, who died on Monday at 83 after battling chronic illness, had led what was once the nation's second-largest conglomerate, symbolizing South Korea's meteoric rise from the ashes of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

"We have never forgotten his expansive vision that if we get out of this small land, there is hope in the world," said Huh Chang-soo, chairman of conglomerate GS Group and the head of a lobby group, the Federation of Korean Industries.

But Kim leaves a mixed legacy that underscores the activities of the conglomerates or chaebol dominating the economy, said Park Sang-in, a specialist in corporate governance at Seoul National University.

"The late Kim epitomizes the good and bad sides of South Korean chaebols," said Park.

The country's conglomerates grew through cozy relationships with authoritarian governments, focused on growth over profitability, and made excessive investments that resulted in the Asian financial crisis, he added.

Kim began as a fabric salesman who invested about $5,000 in a textiles company to start Daewoo in 1967.

Pouring in enormous energy and exploiting close ties to South Korea’s leaders, he parlayed it into a behemoth that employed more than 300,000 people in 110 countries at its peak, with interests ranging from automobiles to construction, shipbuilding, trading and securities.

In 1989, Kim published a book that galvanized a new generation of South Koreans with bright dreams for the future. Titled "The World is Wide and There is a Lot to Do," its English version was called "Every Street is Paved With Gold".

But Kim's aggressive leveraged expansion, which swelled the group to 41 affiliate companies, helped push South Korea to the brink of national default during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.

Once admired as a hero, Kim fled South Korea in 1999 when Daewoo collapsed with debts of more than $75 billion, forcing the government to step in and take control, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

Daewoo Motor, part of Daewoo Group, was acquired by U.S. automaker General Motors (N:GM) in the early 2000s.

In 2005 Kim returned home from years in exile, only to be arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail for embezzlement and fraud for covering up the debt.

But in 2007, an appeals court cut 1-1/2 years off the term, saying Kim had done South Korea a service by forming the group. That year he also received a presidential pardon.

Business groups regretted Kim's death.

"What he started bore fruit," said Huh of the business lobby group. "We now stand as a nation with global trade that makes its way through oceans and continents."

Founder of South Korea's Daewoo, a symbol of its rise and fall, dies

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email