South Korean tycoon ordered to pay $1bn in record divorce settlement

SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won and his former wife Roh So-young (Getty Images)
SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won and his former wife Roh So-young (Getty Images)

South Korean billionaire Chey Tae-won has been ordered to pay 1.38tn won (£788m, $1bn) in cash to his wife in what would be the country’s largest divorce settlement payout.

The chairman of the powerful SK Group has been ordered by the Seoul High Court to pay the settlement to his wife, who is the daughter of former president Roh Tae-woo.

The ruling comes a decade after their marriage fell apart over his extramarital affair with another woman.

Mr Chey married Roh So-young in 1988 and remained in wedlock for 35 years before she learned that he had a child with another woman he was seeing.

The lawyers for Mr Chey said he would appeal the ruling, insisting that the court had taken "Roh’s one-sided claim as factual".

The court awarded Ms Roh 1.38tn won in property division and 2bn won in alimony.

The settlement is 66.5bn won more than Ms Roh was awarded by a lower court in 2022. The family court had rejected her appeal to receive a portion of Mr Chey’s shares in his company.

The high court overturned the lower court’s decision on Thursday and said the shares of her former husband should be considered their joint property and that she was entitled to a portion of them.

The court said "it was reasonable to rule that, as his wife, Roh played a role in increasing the value of SK Group and Chey’s business activity".

The court said the new settlement took into account the emotional suffering of Ms Roh due to her former husband’s extramarital affair.

It said Mr Chey was “not showing any signs of remorse for his foul behaviour in the course of the trial...nor respect for monogamy”.

Ms Roh would take an estimated 35 per cent of Mr Chey’s 4tn won fortune.

The court noted that Ms Roh helped Mr Chey’s business flourish during her father’s presidency from 1988 to 1993 by easing regulatory hurdles for SK’s late chairman, Mr Chey’s father Chey Jong-hyon.

Mr Chey’s lawyers contended that his ex-wife’s political connections had rather been a disadvantage.

SK Group operates South Korea’s leading mobile carrier and controls SK Hynix, the world’s second-largest memory chip maker.