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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 19:23 GMT
Hyundai founder dies
Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung about to take cattle to North Korea
Mr Chung tried to reconcile the two Koreas
The founder of South Korea's Hyundai industrial empire and symbol of the country's post-war economic power, Chung Ju-yung, has died at the age of 86.

Mr Chung's rise from poverty to great wealth mirrored South Korea's economic transformation, but he also came to personify the cronyism that accompanied it.

There is no such thing as getting old in work

Chung Ju-yung
In recent years, his reputation as a business leader suffered as he failed to implement reforms aggressively within Hyundai, the country's largest conglomerate.

Mr Chung, who was born in what is now North Korea, also played a key role in Seoul's efforts to engage the communist north, once even herding cattle across the border for starving North Koreans.

Maintained control

Mr Chung died from respiratory failure caused by chronic illness, a hospital spokesman said.

Striking Hyundai workers
Restructuring led to strikes at Hyundai
He had retired from managing the 170,000 employee business, but retained considerable influence until recently.

''There is no such thing as getting old in work,'' he wrote in his autobiography. ''There is always new work for the best worker.''

Television stations interrupted their regular schedules to announce his death and broadcast special tribute programmes.

Humble beginnings

As a teenager, Mr Chung left poor a farming family to seek his fortune, reportedly selling his father's cow and keeping the money.

He earned his first wages as a rice delivery boy and his first business venture was a car repair company.

Hard work, creativity and a capacity to never give up - this is the essence of Chung's life

Biographer Richard Steers
After the Second World War, he branched out into the construction business, gradually building the Hyundai Group into a conglomerate making everything from cars to mobile phones.

Under Mr Chung, the $80bn global giant included the world's largest shipbuilder, second largest chip maker and Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's largest automaker.

''Hard work, creativity and a capacity to never give up - this is the essence of Chung's life,'' said his biographer, Richard Steers.


In recent years, the once proud Hyundai has been plagued by cash shortages, internal fighting and criticism from the government that it had not slimmed down its overextended, family-controlled portfolio.

Last year Hynundai began to sell off units, and in February an apartment building affiliate became the first within the group to collapse into bankruptcy.

In 1991, Mr Chung ran for president, but finished third. After the election he was convicted of election law violations and given a three-year suspended sentence because of his age.

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