Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn served out his probation this February, after which he was widely expected to return to managing the conglomerate himself.
It is still believed that the 68-year-old will do so because he is healthy and his sons are relatively young – his eldest is in his mid-30s.
Some observers projected that the scion would get be appointed an internal director of Hanwha affiliates during shareholder meetings last month, but this was not on the agenda.
When contacted, a Hanwha official said he had no idea when or whether Kim would return as official leader of the conglomerate.
“Many Hanwha affiliates stipulate that they cannot name people as internal directors until two years after their probation period is served,” the official said.
That means that Kim is disqualified from being a director at many Hanwha units for the time being.
However, Kim has “flexed” his influence throughout the group without being tapped as an internal director.
He came up with New Year addresses to Hanwha employees every year. Late last December, he visited Hanoi for the first time in seven years to take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for Hanwha Aerospace.
Hanwha Aerospace, formerly Samsung Techwin, was founded in 1977 to grow as the only Korean firm to manufacture gas turbine engine. Samsung sold it to Hanwha in 2015.
This January, he participated in the meeting between President Moon Jae-in and top business leaders.
Against this backdrop, some watchers expect that Kim may officially declare his return to management in the not-so-distant future
In 2012, Kim was sentenced to four years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars in corporate funds by unlawfully diverting them from healthy subsidiaries to struggling units that he owned.
The tycoon was released for hospitalization in early 2013. Then his sentence was reduced to three years on appeal but he was imprisoned again. The next year, the sentence was suspended for five years and this period ended on Feb. 18, 2019.
Hanwha is one of the biggest conglomerates in Korea. The group started its business in 1952 and holds more than 50 subsidiaries in Korea and upside of 220 networks across the globe.