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Inspiring Biography of Chung Ju-yung

Chung Ju-yung is the founder of Hyundai Group.

Hyundai Motor Company is one of the world’s most valuable and well recognised brands and is the third largest car manufacturer in the world only behind Toyota and Volkswagen Group.


Chung Ju-yung was born on November 25, 1915 in Tongchon, Kogendo, Japanese Korea (now North Korea).

During that time, Korea was under the rule of Japan.

Chung was born into a very poor family and was the eldest of the seven children.

His family used to toil hard to make ends meet.

Chung’s father worked as a farmer and since a very young age, Chung used to help his father in farming.

During his childhood, he dreamed of becoming a school teacher but his dream never got realised as his family could not afford him good education because of the severe poverty.

Chung used to attend a local Confucian school whenever he used to find some free time in between the farm work.

He used to sell wood in the town to financially support his family.

The birth of an entrepreneur-

During these visits to the town, Chung got influenced to become an entrepreneur by the atmosphere of the town and by reading some newspaper articles.

Eventually, he became very upset about the poverty that he and his family had to endure.

So, in order to escape from poverty, Chung decided to flee from his home.

At the age of sixteen, in the hope of finding greener pastures, Chung and his friend escaped from their homes in Asan village to the Kowon town.

These young boys trekked 15 miles through the dangerous Paechun valley to reach the Kowon town.

In this town, they began to work as construction workers and were paid very little even though both of them worked for long hours.

This low pay could not make Chung unhappy because he was contended on becoming financially independent.

During this period, he developed a passion for civil engineering (a discipline of engineering which deals with design, construction and maintenance of structures like buildings, roads, bridges, canals, etc.).

Two months later, Chung’s father discovered his whereabouts and took him home.

Escaping from home for the second time-

Once Chung returned home, he started planning to escape from his home for the second time.

He was very determined to run away from his home and work in a city because he believed that only by doing so he can liberate himself and his family from the pangs of poverty.

In April 1933, Chung along with his two friends escaped from their homes to the city of Seoul (the capital of South Korea).

This escape plan was not well executed as one of Chung’s friends got caught by his sibling.

This failure could not break the determination of Chung as he finally reached Seoul with another friend.

Unfortunately, these friends got cheated by a man who took all their money by promising to offer them jobs.

Once again, Chung’s father discovered their whereabouts while they were staying near Chung’s grandfather’s house and took Chung home located in the village of Asan.

This time, he stayed at home for one year and helped his father in farming and worked on the family farm.

Trying for the third time-

Chung was always thinking of escaping from the home even while working on the family farm in Asan.

This time, he decided to escape to Seoul by the train.

But Chung did not have the money to buy a train ticket and so he sold one of his father’s cows by which he got 70 won (won is the official currency of South Korea) and this was enough for him to purchase a train ticket to Seoul.

After arriving in Seoul, he wanted to become an accountant, so he admitted himself in a local bookkeeping school.

Everything was going fine, until two months later, Chung’s father found him and took him back to the home.

The fourth and final attempt-

Chung hated to stay at home and so he decided to escape from his home for the fourth time.

In 1933, Chung and his friend escaped to Seoul in the darkness of the night.

He wasted no time and did whatever job he could find and utilised all the opportunities which life provided him.

Initially, Chung started to work as a labourer at Incheon Harbor and later he did many odd jobs like working as a construction worker at Boseong Professional School and also as a handyman at a starch syrup factory.

The next year, he began to work as a deliveryman at the Bokheung Rice Store and his job included delivering rice to the customers.

Chung excelled at his work and was praised by the customers of Bokheung Rice Store.

Becoming store accountant-

The owner of the Bokheung Rice Store was very impressed by his work, so he promoted him to the position of store accountant within a period of six months.

Chung learned the tricks of the trade while working as a store accountant and was made the owner of the Bokheung Rice Store in 1937 by the previous owner as his health deteriorated.

Later, he renamed the Bokheung Rice Store to Kyungil Rice Store.

Chung was reaping huge profits by selling rice and everything was going fine until the year 1939, when Japanese colonial government enforced a rice-rationing system in order to divert rice to Japan and its army.

This forced Kyungil Rice Store to shut down and Chung to dejectedly return his home in Asan.

He stayed at the home for a year and in 1940; he decided to move to Seoul to try his luck in a new business.

Entering into automobile business-

Chung learned that the Japanese government imposed restrictions only on certain businesses and so; he chose to enter into the automobile repair business because the Japanese government did not impose any restrictions on the automobile repair business.

He purchased a service garage from his friend and took a loan of 3,000 won from a bank to start a service garage (an automobile repair shop).

Initially, Chung employed 20 mechanics in his service garage.

His business was running very profitably and within a period of three years, he was able to employ 70 people in his service garage.

Unfortunately, in 1943, during the period of war, the Japanese Occupational Government forcefully merged Chung’s service garage with a steel plant.

Because of this, his service garage got closed down and he returned to his village.

Even though Chung lost his business, a silver lining was that he made 50,000 won in savings, thanks to his hard work.

Beginning of the better times-

During the 1940s, a war erupted between Japan and Korea, by which Korea gained independence from Japan on August 15, 1945.

As the war ended, most of South Korea got destroyed, so the South Korean government was searching for the people who could re-build and develop South Korea.

This was the best time for the South Korean entrepreneurs to do business because the government of South Korea backed them.

The birth of Hyundai-

Chung seized this golden opportunity and in 1947, he established Hyundai and Hyundai Civil Industries.

Hyundai received government contracts to build port facilities, roads and military camps.

Later, Hyundai led South Korea’s economic development for many years.

In 1950, a war erupted between North Korea and South Korea when North Korea invaded South Korea.

Hyundai survived the war and resumed operations after this war ended.

Hyundai Engineering and Construction is the oldest business run by the Hyundai group and has carried out many wide range of ambitious construction projects.

Landmark projects-

Hyundai Civil Industries (Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co.) built many landmark projects like Soyang Dam in 1967, the Gyeongbu Expressway in 1970, the world’s third largest shipyard in Ulsan, the Kori Nuclear Power Plant, etc.

Hyundai gained a reputation for carrying out ambitious projects which involved risks.

By the year 1965, Hyundai started to expand globally.

Hyundai undertook many projects in the Middle East, like Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard in Bahrain in 1975 and Jubail Industrial Harbour in Saudi Arabia in 1976.

Eventually, Hyundai expanded into several businesses like shipping, real estate, construction, defence, petroleum refinery, department store chain, chip manufacturing, etc.

Hyundai also owns Kia Motors.

Although there are a myriad number of businesses run by the Hyundai group, the Hyundai Motor Company brings the most profit.

In 2000, the Hyundai group was partitioned into different groups and most of them are run by the relatives of the founder, Chung.

On March 21, 2001, Chung passed away at the age of 85 years.

The famous Hyundai Motor Company-

Hyundai Motor Company was established on 29 December 1967 in Seoul, South Korea.

A year later, Hyundai released its first ever car, Cortina with the help of Ford Motor Company.

In February 1974, Hyundai hired George Turnbull, the former Managing Director of Austin Morris at British Leyland.

Later, George Turnbull hired five talented British engineers, namely Kenneth Barnett, John Simpson, Edward Chapman, John Crosthwaite and Peter Slater into Hyundai.

By the year 1974, Hyundai was able to produce its own vehicle, Hyundai Pony with the help of Mitsubishi.

In October 1974, Hyundai Pony was first displayed at Turin Auto Show held in Turin, Italy and this car was released a year later.

Later, in 1983 Hyundai Pony was exported to Canada and it became one of the top selling models in Canada.

Hyundai Pony could not be launched in the United States because it failed to meet the federal emissions standards there.

Hyundai Excel became the first Hyundai car to be launched in the United States.

With new thinking come new possibilities-

In 1985, Hyundai Sonata was released with many innovative features like cruise control, trip computer, headlamp washers, power seats, etc.

By the year 1988, Hyundai was confident enough to produce its own technology. 

Thanks to the exclusive features and capabilities of the Hyundai cars, their sales sky-rocketed and by the year 1990, Hyundai produced a whopping four million vehicles.

In 1993, Hyundai succeeded to produce its own engine, the four-cylinder Alpha which had its own transmission.

The Alpha engine was first included in Hyundai Scoupe.

One of the very few in the world-

Hyundai is one of the very few automotive manufacturers in the world capable of completely manufacturing each and every part of their vehicles.

In 1990, Hyundai established the Hyundai Design Center in Fountain Valley, California and in 2003, this center was moved to Irvine, California.

Hyundai Motor India Limited was established in 1996 at Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Hyundai runs one of the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facilities in the Ulsan city of South Korea.

This plant has the capacity to produce 1.6 million units annually.

Now, Hyundai is one of the biggest companies in the world and the second single biggest company of South Korea and it employs more than 75,000 people globally.

Chung’s huge success can be attributed to his ability to dream big because it all started when he dreamed of freeing himself and his family from poverty by becoming rich.

The qualities of determination, working hard and persistence also played a pivotal role in his success.


An infographic on biography of Chung Ju-yung
An infographic on biography of Chung Ju-yung

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the story of Chung Ju-yung?

The story of Chung Ju-yung is very inspiring.
Even though he was born into a very poor family which couldn’t even afford to educate him, he went on to establish Hyundai, a very successful conglomerate.
Chung Ju-yung’s persistence and never give up attitude made him the richest man in South Korea.

How did Chung Ju-yung become an entrepreneur?

Chung Ju-yung was inspired to become an entrepreneur from a young age.
As a boy, he would travel to town and sell wood.
The atmosphere of the town and some newspaper articles motivated him to become an entrepreneur.
In 1940, Chung Ju-yung started his first ever business venture by starting a service garage.

What are the educational qualifications of Chung Ju-yung?

Chung Ju-yung couldn’t afford to study higher education because of the severe poverty of his family.
But he used to occasionally attend a local Confucian school.

How did Hyundai start?

Chung Ju-yung started Hyundai and Hyundai Civil Industries in 1947 and the South Korean government also supported him.
During that time, Hyundai built port facilities, roads and military camps for the government.
After a period of 20 years, on 29 December 1967 Hyundai Motor Company was started.

How Hyundai became successful?

Hyundai Motor Company is one of the world’s most successful automotive manufacturers.
The reasons for its success are as follows-
• Affordability. One of the main reasons for the success of Hyundai is offering high quality reliable cars at affordable prices.
• Collaboration. In 1968, Hyundai collaborated with the Ford Motor Company to release its first car, Cortina. Hyundai also joined hands with Mitsubishi.
• Hiring talented people. In 1974, Hyundai hired many talented people like George Turnbull, Kenneth Barnett, John Simpson, Edward Chapman, John Crosthwaite and Peter Slater.

Are Hyundai and Kia the same company?

Before 1998, Hyundai and Kia were separate companies.
Kia Corporation was founded in December 1944 much before Hyundai.
In 1998, thanks to the Asian financial crisis, Hyundai acquired the majority of Kia Motors and now Hyundai owns 33.88% of Kia.

Is Hyundai a Chinese company?

No, Hyundai isn’t a Chinese company but it has a manufacturing plant in China.
Hyundai is a South Korean company because it was founded and is headquartered in South Korea.

Which religion did Chung Ju-yung follow?

Chung Ju-yung followed Confucianism (Ruism).
Please note that there isn’t enough literature on the religion of Chung Ju-yung but as his grandfather ran a Confucian school, Chung Ju-yung should have also followed Confucianism.

Featured image credit- TSGT Renee` Sitler/Wikimedia Commons

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