Chung Mong-koo becomes 1st Korean inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

Chung Mong-koo becomes 1st Korean inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

Hyundai Motor Group Honorary Chairman Chung Mong-koo was officially inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, Thursday, after the official recognition was delayed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

By Yi Whan-woo

Hyundai Motor Group Honorary Chairman Chung Mong-koo was officially inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, becoming the first Korean to receive the honor, the company announced Friday.

Located in Detroit, the hometown of the American auto industry, the Automotive Hall of Fame first named Chung as a recipient in February 2020 when he was chairman of the conglomerate.

The official recognition, however, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than a year of delay, Chung, 73, stepped down to become the honorary chairman and was succeeded by his son Euisun after leading the corporation for more than 20 years.

Chung Mong-koo becomes 1st Korean inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun, right, also the son of the group’s honorary chairman Chung Mong-koo, shakes hands with Automotive Hall of Fame Board Chairman Ramzi Hermiz during a ceremony to honor the senior Chung’s induction to the hall of fame in Detroit, Thursday. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

The Chung junior attended the induction ceremony in person, Thursday, and delivered a speech on his father’s behalf.

“If my father were here, he would say he owes this honor to our employees, dealers and fantastic customers,” he said.

The third generational chairman of the family-owned conglomerate, Chung Euisun described the company as having “a humble beginning” as an affiliate of Hyundai Group founded by his late grandfather, Chung Ju-yung, before it was separated and grew into the world’s fifth-largest automotive group under his father’s stewardship.

The business expansion was possible through the acquisition of Kia Motors, which was renamed as Kia, creating a vertically-integrated manufacturing structure that makes the conglomerate self-sufficient in the production of steel and other components.

The conglomerate established new plants in strategic locations, including the United States, Europe, China, India, Brazil and Russia, as well.

The Automotive Hall of Fame said Hyundai Motor Group’s success “owes much” to the honorary chairman.

Chung Mong-koo becomes 1st Korean inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

Chung Mong-koo, then-chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, take a look at the under chassis of a Sonata sedan being assembled during his visit to the Korean automaker’s U.S. plant in Alabama in this 2014 photo. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Chung Mong-koo becomes 1st Korean inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

Chung Mong-koo, third from left in the back row, then-chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, watches his son Chung Euisun, left in the front row, shaking hands with then-Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue during a signing of Kia Motors’ $1 billion investment into Georgia in this photo taken in March 2006. Chung at that time was serving as the president of Kia Motors, a Hyundai Motor Group affiliate which was renamed to Kia this year. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

“My father continued the legacy of my grandfather … He expanded the group’s presence globally and continued to pursue excellence in quality. He made the group something that the employees and customers can all be proud of,” the incumbent chairman said.

He also took note of his father’s innovative mindset and business foresight, as seen from the group advancing into electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen energy, which are keys to next-generation technologies in accordance with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and sustainable growth.

“As Hyundai embraces the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century, we will continue to strive for excellence, challenge convention and lead the evolution of smart mobility. We will realize progress for humanity,” he said.

The Automotive Hall of Fame honored inductees for both 2020 and 2021.

The recipients include Thomas Gallagher, former CEO of Genuine Parts Company, Jay Leno, the host of American TV CNBC’s garage series named after him and Helene Rother, the first female automotive designer for General Motors and Nash Motors.

The Automotive Hall of Fame previously honored Chung Mong-koo with the Distinguished Service Citation Award in 2001.

Chung has been recognized and celebrated through various awards over the years, including Korea Management Association’s CEO of the Year Award (1996), Business Week’s Auto CEO of the Year (2004), Automotive News’ Top Automotive CEO in Asia (2005), Van Fleet Award (2009) and Harvard Business Review’s “The CEO 100.”

Established in 1939, the Automotive Hall of Fame honored nearly 800 business leaders such as Ford Motor founder Henry Ford, American inventor Thomas Edison, Mercedes-Benz founder Karl Benz, Honda Motor founder Soichiro Honda and Toyota Motor founder Kiichiro Toyoda.

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