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Chung Ju-Yung’s Incredible Story: How He Built Hyundai From Scratch

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Chung Ju-Yung’s Incredible Story: How He Built Hyundai From Scratch

The incredible story of Chung Ju-Yung, the man who built Hyundai from the ground up and established it as one of the world’s leading car manufacturers.

In the business world, there are many companies that have truly amazing origins where their founders have worked hard for years to consolidate them in the market. This is the case of Hyundai and Chung Ju-Yung, the man who established the company in 1947 and made it one of the world’s leading car manufacturers.

The figure of the man who would end up being one of the most important businessmen in South Korea in general and in the automobile industry in particular, had humble origins in which he was forced to row against the current to achieve his objectives, objectives that Although they were not focused on the automobile, they brought significant benefits to him throughout his life.

Chung Ju-Yung’s Story: His Origins

Chung Ju-Yung was born in 1915 into a humble North Korean peasant family where he was the eldest of a total of seven siblings. Like many, he was unable to pursue higher education, despite the fact that he aspired to be a teacher, but he attended school while juggling studies with work on the family farm.

The Hyundai founder would attempt to leave the peasant life four times while he was still a teenager. The first took place at the age of 16, when Chung Ju-Yung ran away from the family farm with a friend to the North Korean port city, where he landed a construction job that would spark his interest in building.

His father found him and took him back to his family. However, he alone would need a few months to try to escape for the second time towards Seoul. On this occasion he would be scammed by the person who had supposedly promised him a job. This returned Chung Ju-Yung back to square one.

The third time was also unsuccessful. Young Chung Ju-Yung tried to sell his father’s cow to buy a ticket to Seoul in 1931 at the age of 17. Finally, the man who would found Hyundai would achieve his goal of reaching South Korea in 1933. In Seoul he would work in different trades until he began to occupy a position as a delivery man in a rice shop.

At the age of 22, he acquired the rice sales business, which was profitable, although the outbreak of World War II forced him to close the business. During the conflict, Chung Ju-Yung opened a car repair shop with a Japanese partner and this was his first contact with the automobile industry.

The Hyundai founder would manage to expand the workshop to employ 70 employees in three years. But in 1943 he suffered a new setback as a result of the war, when he was forced to merge the mechanical workshop with a steel plant. This severe setback and the end of World War II gave Chung Ju-Yung a new business idea.

How Hyundai built from the ground up

In 1947, Chung Ju-Yung, then 32 years old, founded the Hyundai company and laid the foundations for what would become the largest company in South Korea. Originally, the company was a construction company that would manage to work first for the military government of the United States and for the government of South Korea later, and it would do so as a conglomerate of companies.

With the solid foundation that was the Hyundai Group, Chung Ju-Yung decides to expand the company in the 1960s by adding new subsidiaries. In this way, the Hyundai Motor Company would arrive in 1967, a company dedicated to the manufacture of economic cars; and Hyundai Heavy Industries in 1971, which would be responsible for the construction of transport ships and other ships.

But it would not be until 1975 when Hyundai Motor Company began to manufacture its own cars. In the early years it had been dedicated to distributing Ford models in South Korea and it is eight years after its creation when the Hyundai Pony is presented, a vehicle with which it dominated the local market and achieved expansion to international markets.

The 1980s would be somewhat more rocky for Hyundai, with it posting losses and destroying jobs for the first time in its history. Even so, the company would survive this crisis. Chung Ju-Yung would leave the company in 1992 to pursue politics. At that time, he was already one of the richest businessmen in the country and one of the most influential in society.

However, the 1997 Asian financial crisis affected South Korea and Hyundai. A decade earlier, the company had more than 160,000 employees and was the largest company in the country. The situation was so unstable with the arrival of the new millennium that it even sold the construction and electronics companies, and focused on the branches that were still reporting benefits.

Chung Ju-Yung passed away in 2001, in the midst of an internal crisis at Hyundai that would force it to rethink the company even after the acquisition of Kia Motors. Thanks to models like the Hyundai Coupé, the company’s motor division would take flight and return to profit in the 2000s.

Today, Hyundai is one of the largest car manufacturers in the world and, although the company has lost some weight in South Korea, it remains an icon of prosperity and development for the Asian country.

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