The late Chairman CHEY Jong-hyon was a Korean businessman, educator, and philanthropist who transformed SK Group into a global leader in energy, chemical, and telecommunications.
Chairman Chey was born in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province in 1929. In 1950, he enrolled at Seoul National University, majoring in agricultural engineering. However, the outbreak of the Korean War that year forced him to suspend his studies. In 1952, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin where he majored in chemistry. He then enrolled at the University of Chicago, receiving his master’s degree in economics.
Chairman Chey became Vice President of Sunkyong Industry, a company founded by his older brother, CHEY Jong-kun. In 1973, he was named the company’s Chairman. As Chairman, he set about transforming the company. In 1980, he acquired the Korea Oil Corporation, the largest energy company in Korea at the time. Once SK expanded its business to encompass the energy sector, Chairman Chey correctly predicted that the telecommunications industry would be the key to the future and subsequently, acquired Korea Mobile Telecommunication in 1994. It was this vision that served as the foundation for the SK Group’s global leadership in telecommunication, energy, chemicals and semiconductors.
After being elected President of the Federation of Korean Industries in 1993, Chairman Chey inaugurated and operated the Private Committee for National Competitiveness. In late 1997, he met, during his treatment for lung cancer, with the Managing Director of the IMF to protest against its policies toward Korea and negotiate more beneficial programs for the nation’s economy. This was one of his many efforts to bring Korea out of the economic recession and revitalize its economy.
Chairman Chey was a life-long philanthropist who emphasized corporate responsibility. As a manifestation of his philosophy, he established Korea’s very first afforestation company, planting trees in 100 million square meters of land near the Indeung Mountain. Chairman Chey was also a passionate advocate of educating generations of talented scholars in order to transform Korea into a world-leading nation. In 1974, he established the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies (KFAS), a non-profit organization that offers full scholarships to promising Korean students, so that they can study at prestigious institutions world-wide without any precondition. His goals have come to fruition as the organization has produced more than 1,000 doctoral degree recipients so far.
After more than 20 years since his passing, his philosophy and vision continue to serve as a guiding principle for the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies.