LG Group’s former chairman dies at 94

SEOUL: Koo Cha-kyung, the LG Group former chairman who helped his father’s nascent cosmetics business grow into one of South Korea’s biggest conglomerates, has died. He was 94.

Koo died Saturday at 10 am of a chronic ailment, LG said in a statement, without providing details.

“Koo, a living witness of Korea’s economic boom, helped LG Group grow into a global company,” the Federation of Korean Industries, a business lobby group he once led, said in a statement. “We mourn his death. He was a great entrepreneur who knew real field situations.”

As the eldest son of LG Group’s co-founder, Koo In-hwoi, Cha-kyung joined what was Lak Hui Chemical Industrial Corp at the age of 25 and stayed on for 45 years before retiring from the group as chairman.

The younger Koo spent his first 20 years at the company managing factory production lines. He later succeeded his father and led the group for 25 years, during which revenue rose from 26 billion won (US$22 million) to 30 trillion won as South Korea’s war-torn economy recovered and grew into Asia’s fourth largest.

Cha-kyung retired at the age of 70, a few years before the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Under his leadership, Lak Hui became the nation’s first private company to go public in 1970. Shares of another affiliate – now known as LG Electronics Inc – were also listed on the domestic stock market during his term.

Rural Life

After retirement, Koo enjoyed a rural life, conducting research on mushrooms and tending trees.

Before joining his father’s company, Koo taught at elementary schools, including the one he graduated from, and earned the nickname of “a tiger teacher” for his strict appliance of rules. He used to tend persimmon and peach trees after work at schools.

His own oldest son, Koo Bon-moo, who succeeded him, died in May last year. The group is currently led by Koo Kwang-mo.