Kim Woo-Choong, founder of the now-defunct Daewoo Group, has died at the age of 83. Kim Woo-Choong was suffering from chronic illness and died in Ajou Hospital in Seoul that was once part of his empire. Kim was famously known for Daewoo, the company he founded in 1967. Kim has left a mixed legacy that highlights his rise from the ashes to owning South Korea's second-largest conglomerate and then being arrested for accounting fraud.
Kim was born in a poor family in South Korea's Daegu region on December 19, 1936. Kim helped his family by working as a newspaper delivery boy as they were dependent on him for a brief period of time. Kim graduated from the prestigious Kyunggi High School and then went on to finish his Economics degree from Yonsei University.
Then, Kim worked as a salesman for a fabric company and later invested $5,000 in a textile company to start Daewoo in 1967. Kim's father was a mentor of former South Korean President Park Chung Hee, who supported the business tycoon both financially and business-wise. Kim in 30 years catapulted his conglomerate to help Daewoo Group list number 2 on assets and number 3 on revenues. At its peak, Daewoo Group employed more than 3,00,000 in over 110 countries.
But by the end of the 1990s, Daewoo Group was hit by the IMF crisis and suffered a huge loss with all 25 Daewoo companies under heavy debts. Kim fled South Korea in 1999 after apologising in resignation letter for the mistakes and negligence he made. Kim returned after five and a half years in 2006 and was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. Kim was found guilty of embezzlement and accounting fraud.
In 2007, Kim was granted amnesty by then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun who handed out the pardon citing health reasons. Following Kim's death, business groups in South Korea have expressed their grief and sorrow.