Honorary Chairman Mong-Koo Chung served Hyundai for the duration of his 50-year career. The son of Hyundai founder, Ju-Yung Chung, Mong-Koo grew the company into one of the world’s top-five car manufacturers.
Mong-Koo Chung led the development of the Korean automobile industry and is credited with leading the struggling industry out of the 1997 economic crisis. He established a vast network of after sales, service, support and training for suppliers. He pioneered the development of recreational vehicles in Korea, revived Kia Motors out of bankruptcy, championed quality over quantity and guided the company’s move into alternative fuel technologies.
Born in Gangwon Province in 1938, Chung started his industry career as a manager of sales and purchasing with Hyundai in 1970. Chung holds a bachelor’s degree in Industry Business Administration from Hanyang University.
Chung first joined Hyundai Engineering and Construction, and later worked at Hyundai Precision and Industry, Hyundai Pipe and Hyundai Incheon Iron and Steel, before landing at Hyundai Motor Service Company, producing parts for Hyundai Motor Company.
As the Hyundai Group’s car division expanded its operations, Chung saw an opportunity to launch production of a sport utility vehicle, which had been gaining popularity around the world. He turned to Hyundai Motor Company’s partner in the production of Hyundai’s first car the Pony, Mitsubishi. The Mitsubishi Pajero was selected to be reworked by Hyundai, a common practice of the era, and Hyundai’s first SUV, the Galloper was born. Launched in 1991, by 1998 the Galloper was the best-selling SUV in Korea and a hit across Europe and Asia.
In 1998, Chung led the bidding and secured the purchase of then-bankrupt Kia Motors. Hyundai Motor Group was formed out of the merger of Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors. By 1999, Hyundai and Kia both recorded their biggest profits in company history. This quick turnaround stabilized the Korean automotive market and set both brands up for future success.
Chung was fond of saying “Our cars will sell when the quality is high.” To ensure this aim, Chung developed an in-house Quality Management Department Division, with a 24-hour situation room. Problems could be reported, suggestions made, and responses returned immediately. Problems arising in any of 150 countries could be immediately reported to headquarters and resolved as swiftly as possible. Chung also emphasized the acquisition of technological prowess citing that his colleagues should “aggressively apply new technology when it is determined to be necessary even if the cost is high.” Under his leadership, the company invested heavily in engine technology, ultimately opening a new revenue stream exporting engines.
Between April 1997 and September 1998, Hyundai had released three new engines, giving the company its first true line of engines. Chung wanted Hyundai, under his leadership, to take pride in new and innovative technologies. Continuing this strategy, Hyundai released a V-type, 8-cylinder Tau engine in 2007, which was named to Ward’s Auto’s “10 best engines” in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In 1998, Hyundai launched the “Hyundai Advantage” billed as “America’s Best Warranty.” All new Hyundai cars sold in the U.S. came off the lot with 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain protection, 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance. This groundbreaking warranty helped grow Hyundai’s brand and sales numbers. The following year, Hyundai’s U.S. business enjoyed an 82 percent sales increase. Around this same time, Chung promoted environmental management as a core business strategy.
In 2005, facing tougher regulations and reduced fuel supplies, he established the Hyundai Kia Automotive Research Institute of Environmental Technologies. Their work focused on hybrid, hydrogen, and electric vehicles, ecologically friendlier manufacturing and scrapping and recycling car parts. Hyundai launched their first mass-produced hydrogen vehicle in 2013, the Tuscon ix.
In May of 2005, Chung also unveiled Hyundai’s first U.S. factory in Alabama. The 4 million-square-foot plant can produce around 400,000 vehicles a year. Seventy two suppliers established locations in North America to support the Hyundai plant.
In 2010, Hyundai released its American-designed sixth-generation Sonata, which by May 2011, was the top selling mid-size vehicle in the U.S. By 2012, Hyundai North America sales passed Ford Motor Company’s.
In 2020, Mong-Koo Chung was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, the first Korean inducted. In March of the same year, Chung retired as Chairman of Hyundai’s Board. His son, Euisun Chung, former Chairman of Kia Motors was inaugurated as the new Hyundai Chairman following his father’s retirement.
On July 22, 2021 the Hall will celebrate its 2020 awardees as the class of 2020/2021. The 2020 ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.