Kim Woo-choong

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Kim Woo-choong
Born(1936-12-19)December 19, 1936
DiedDecember 9, 2019(2019-12-09) (aged 82)
Known forFounder of Daewoo
Criminal statusDeceased
Criminal chargeFraud
Penalty10 years in prison
Kim Woo-choong
Revised RomanizationGim U-Jung
McCune–ReischauerKim U-Chung

Kim Woo-Choong (December 19, 1936 – December 9, 2019)[1] was a South Korean businessman who was the founder and chairman of Daewoo Group until its collapse in 1999.


Born in Daegu, he was the son of the provincial governor. He was a newspaper delivery boy when he was a youngster, helping a family that depended almost solely on him during a brief period. He graduated from the prestigious Kyunggi High School, then finished with an Economics Degree at Yonsei University in Seoul. His father was the teacher or mentor of future President, Park Chung Hee, who in turn supported Kim to a great degree both financially and business-wise.


After graduating from Yonsei, he entered into a small trading corporation, later specialising in textiles and clothing. He broke off and created Daewoo Industries with five other associates. Using his connections in the alumni of the Yonsei and with political backing, he managed to do well, and consecutively bought many different companies. Daewoo Group was originally built on companies that were bought, often distressed companies. Kim was successful in transforming near-bankrupt companies into successful enterprises. By the 1990s, with a history of some 30 years, Daewoo Group was listed as second in asserts and third in revenues in Korea. This rapid growth was remarkable in comparison to how the other two of the Big 3 Korean companies, (Hyundai, LG, Samsung), made their mark.

However, due to its rather hollow financial structure, even though it had the most overseas branch offices, when the Asian Financial Crisis hit in 1997, the unstable Daewoo Group plummeted. It had to sell off nearly 50 division corporations, only focusing on the major companies.

Kim was on the list of Interpol when he was in exile, partly because of how he left Daewoo with the insurmountable debt, to his employees.

He was arrested soon after he returned to South Korea on June 14, 2005, and apologized "for hurting the nation" and accepted full responsibility for the collapse of the group, adding that he was "ready to accept whatever the authorities have in store for him," according to the Chosun Ilbo.[2]

Criminal charges[edit]

In May 2006 he was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of charges including embezzlement and accounting fraud. 21 trillion worth ($22bn) of his fortune was seized and he was fined an additional 10m won.[3]

Citing health concerns, his sentence was reduced to 8 and 1/2 years; then on 30 December 2007, he was pardoned by President Roh Moo-hyun. South Korean presidents traditionally hand out pardons for the new year.[4]


On December 9, 2019, Kim died due to pneumonia at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Kim Woo-choong Must Prove He Is Sincere". The Chosun Ilbo. 2005-01-14. Archived from the original on 2005-06-17.
  3. ^ "Daewoo boss gets 10 years in jail". 30 May 2006 – via
  4. ^ Herskovitz, Jon; Lee, Jin-joo (2007-12-31). "S.Korea pardons Daewoo founder, death-row inmates". Reuters.
  5. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe (11 December 2019). "Kim Woo-choong, Who Strove to Be 'Automotive Genghis Khan,' Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2020.