SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won has made headlines throughout this week. Photo courtesy of SK Group

Tycoon continues to grab headlines in early February

The businessman of this week is certainly SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who continues to grab headlines this week regarding his business activities and private life.

SK Group is one of Korea’s biggest conglomerates whose units include SK hynix, the world’s No. 2 memory chip maker, and SK Telecom, Korea’s leading mobile operator.

The 60-year-old tycoon was appointed on Feb. 1 as the new leader of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents hundreds of thousands of member companies.

It marks the first time for the head of the nation’s big-four conglomerates to lead the powerful lobby group. Included in the big four are Samsung, LG, and Hyundai along with SK.

On Feb. 1, Chey also pledged to donate his annual salary to employees at SK hynix whose workers complain about a small amount of annual bonus despite good performances.

Last month, SK hynix announced its plan to give a bonus worth 20 percent of annual salary, which is the same as last year. Employees strongly protested as the tech giant’s 2020 profit topped 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion).

By comparison, Samsung Electronics offered a one-off bonus of up to 47 percent of the annual salary. Samsung is the world’s largest memory chip maker.

“We failed to think of employees’ pain. I do apologize for that,” Chey said.

However, grievance continued, which prompted SK hynix to offer an additional amount of bonus to its disgruntled workers.

On Feb. 2, a hearing took place about the divorce lawsuit between Chairman Chey and his wife Roh So-young, the daughter of former President Roh Tae-woo.

The two got married in 1988 to have three children. Chey revealed he had a live-in girlfriend and an illegitimate child in 2015.

In 2019, Roh filed for divorce, requesting about 42 percent of Chey’s stake in SK, which would be worth up to 1.3 trillion won.

“I think Chey was imprudent in disclosing his willingness to return a part of his salary. What SK hynix employees take issue with was the lack of clear standards in deciding the annual bonus,” Korean business tracker CEO Score’s chief Park Ju-gun said.

“Regarding the divorce, Chey’s control on SK might be weakened in case Roh receives a substantial proportion of Chey’s stock. But, I don’t think that will happen.”