The Korea Herald


Chey apologizes for 'public concern' after massive divorce settlement

By Jo He-rim

Published : June 3, 2024 - 15:31

    • Link copied

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won (Yonhap) SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won (Yonhap)

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won issued an apology on Monday after his high-profile divorce settlement ruling -- ordering him to pay a record 1.38 trillion won ($1 billion) to his ex-wife -- raised concerns for the company's employees and stakeholders.

Taking part in an extraordinary meeting held by the SK Supex Council, the conglomerate's top decision-making body, Chey also vowed to do his best to make sure his personal affairs do not have negative impacts on the company’s business operations and the country’s economy.

“I am sorry for causing public concern to members of SK Group and all stakeholders with my personal affair. I will fulfill my duties and make sure (my affairs) do not have negative impacts on SK and the national economy,” Chey said during the meeting held at SK headquarters in Seoul.

“I believed I needed to express my position as the recent ruling left a big scar to the values SK Group has built, and the honor and the pride of the members who made the values."

The Seoul High Court on Thursday ruled in favor of Roh Soh-yeong, the estranged wife of Chey, in their ongoing divorce settlement, ordering Chey to pay 1.38 trillion won in property division and 2 billion won in a one-off alimony payment. The ruling is the largest property division in a divorce case in South Korean history.

“My stance is unchanged on accepting the court’s judgment. But I cannot but express regret on the ruling that denies the history of SK," Chey said. "To recover the pride of SK and all its members, I will do my best to correct the truth."

The appellate court considered Roh's argument in her contributions to SK Group's expansion over the 36-year marriage. Roh's legal team argued that her late father, former President Roh Tae-woo, provided 34.3 billion won to Chey in the 1990s as a slush fund, which was allegedly used to acquire SK Securities and shares of Daehan Telecom, which became SK Telecom, and SK Holdings.

Chey's legal team denied the existence of any such slush fund, and contended that the company had actually been disadvantaged because Chey was the son-in-law of the late former president.

During Monday's council meeting, a number of chief executive officers challenged the court's view that SK had received special treatment from the former administration.

"It is a historical fact that under the Roh Tae-woo administration, SK gave up its mobile communication business license in a week even though it secured the license with an overwhelming score," the CEOs were quoted as saying.

"We acquired Korea Mobile Telecommunications Services Corp. with great difficulty after the inauguration of the Kim Young-sam administration. It is regrettable that the court has made such distorted judgment, portraying that SK grew upon collusion with the government, or with illicit funds."

According to SK Supex Council, Chey Tae-won revamped his desire to concentrate efforts on the group’s business management to better handle the turbulent market situations.

“In the green energy and biopharmaceutical business, I will promote qualitative growth based on substantial management, rather than on quantitative growth," Chey said,

"It is also crucial to achieve leadership in the artificial intelligence field, via expanding businesses in semiconductor and other digital technologies."

At the meeting, about 20 members of the council, including heads of SK affiliates and Chey Chang-won, the council chairman and Chey Tae-won’s cousin, were present.