Hyundai chairwoman visits N. Korean resort for husband's memorial service

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-08-03 10:16 Updated : 2018-08-03 10:16
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Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun walks into a border check point in an eastern coastal area for a trip to North Korea.[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- The widowed boss of South Korea's troubled Hyundai Group left for a cross-border trip Saturday to hold a memorial service at a North Korean resort developed by her late husband just north of the heavily armed border. 

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun and other group officials will hold the memorial service at the Mount Kumgang resort. The service on August 4 was suspended in 2016 because of high cross-border tensions. It was not known whether North Korean officials will attend Saturday's event.

Hyundai, founded by Chung Ju-yung, used to be one of South Korea's largest family-run conglomerates. The group spun off many of its better-known businesses including Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Hyun's husband, Chung Mong-hun, inherited a small group of Hyundai affiliates and inter-Korean projects in 1998 but he jumped off his office window in 2003 in a suicide that followed a humiliating investigation by state prosecutors into allegations that he had used unlawful funds to open up business opportunities in North Korea.

The suicide prompted Hyun to inherit the legacy of her late husband, but her group suffered a harsh blow after South Korea suspended a cross-border tour program in 2008 when a visitor was fatally shot by a North Korean guard.

Chung's memorial service has been held in front of a memorial stone erected in the resort, which used to be a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation along with a closed industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. Seoul has rejected Pyongyang's consistent request for the resumption of cross-border tours.

At a summit in April, South and North Korean leaders agreed to reactivate cross-border exchanges and economic projects. Hyun's group has been a key player in inter-Korean economic projects.