Cho Choong Hoon: Founder of Hanjin Group

On February 11 in the year 1920, one of the business leaders responsible for the South Korean economic miracle was born in Seoul City. His name is Cho Choong Hoon, the founder of the Hanjin Group which in its heyday was the eighth largest chaebol in South Korea.

Cho Choong Hoon
Cho Choong Hoon (Credit:

Cho Choong Hoon was the son of a middle class couple. With limited education, he started his business career with a single lorry that delivered goods to the port of Inchon just as when the Japanese were withdrawing from the Korean Peninsula in 1945. While his trucking business was expanding, he set up a bus division in 1961. Later, he entered the shipping industry through Hanjin Shipping which grew to become the largest in South Korea. In 1969, the government entrusted to him the management of Korean Air. Subsequently, he expanded the routes of the airline and in so short a time, it became profitable. Soon, the Hanjin Group became an integrated transportation conglomerate with the addition of other peripheral services such as courier, logistics and hotel operation.

Cho owed his success by his philosophy of “winning through losing” which means sacrificing short term loses by winning the long term trust of customers. He had always emphasized the value of honesty and patience in all his dealings. This was evident when he was contracted by the Americans during the Korean and Vietnam Wars to take care of their transportation needs. Moreover, his business expansion would not have happened without the unwavering support of President Park Chung-hee who ruled South Korea from 1963 to 1979.

Cho Choong Hoon died in 2002 at the age of 82. He had four sons and a daughter with his wife his wife, Kim Jung Il. At the time of his death, Hanjin Group controlled 21 companies with assets worth over $20 billion. The heavily indebted flagship company, Hanjin Shipping collapsed in 2016 dragged down by worldwide overcapacity amidst a downturn in trade.


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