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Daewoo ("Dae" Hangul: 대. Korean for "Great" and "Woo" Hangul: 우. Korean the first name of founder and chairman Kim Woo-jung) or the Daewoo Group was a major South Korean chaebol (conglomerate).

Daewoo International Corporation had its head office in Yonsei Building, Jung-gu, Seoul. Its global network consists of over 100 overseas branches and subsidiaries. As of January 26, 2015, it has moved its head office to the Northeast Asia Trade Tower(NEAT Tower) in Songdo, Incheon.



It was founded on 22 March 1967 as Daewoo Industrial and was dismantled by the Korean government in 1999. Prior to the Asian financial crisis, Daewoo was the second largest conglomerate in Korea after Hyundai Group, followed by LG Group and Samsung. There were about 20 divisions under the Daewoo Group, some of which survive today as independent companies. Daewoo ("Dae" Hangul: 대. Korean for "Great" and "Woo" Hangul: 우. Korean the first name of founder and chairman Kim Woo-jung) or the Daewoo Group was a major South Korean chaebol (conglomerate).

It was founded on 22 March 1967 as Daewoo Industrial and was dismantled by the Korean government in 1999. Prior to the Asian financial crisis, Daewoo was the second largest conglomerate in Korea after Hyundai Group, followed by LG Group and Samsung. There were about 20 divisions under the Daewoo Group, some of which survive today as independent companies.

Daewoo International Corporation(대우인터내셔널) is Korea’s largest trading company and a subsidiary of POSCO. The company was founded by Kim Woo-choong in 1967 as Daewoo Industrial Co., Ltd, which ran its business in trading and construction. In 2000, as Daewoo Group faced work-out program, Daewoo Industrial Co., Ltd’s trading segment was split and established as Daewoo International Corporation. Afterwards, it succeeded general trading license and was listed on stock market back again. Daewoo International corporation has five business segments, providing services in international trading, resource development in foreign countries, domestic and international investments in business, foreign projects, support of small and medium-sized companies with items such as steel, metal, chemical materials and automobile parts, machinery, plants, electronics, textiles, special materials.

Early corporate growth

The Daewoo Group was founded by Kim Woo-jung in March 1967. He was the son of the Provincial Governor of Daegu. He graduated from the Kyonggi High School, then finished with an Economics Degree at Yonsei University in Seoul.

During the 1960s, after the end of the Syngman Rhee government, the new government of Park Chung Hee intervened to promote growth and development in the country. It increased access to resources, promoted exports, financed industrialization, and provided protection from competition to the chaebol in exchange for a company's political support. In the beginning, the Korean government instigated a series of five-year plans under which the chaebol were required to achieve a number of basic objectives.

Daewoo did not become a major player until the second five-year plan. Daewoo benefited from government-sponsored cheap loans based on potential export profits. The company initially concentrated on labor-intensive clothing and textile industries that provided high profit margins because of South Korea's large and relatively inexpensive workforce.

The 1970's

The third and fourth of the five-year plans occurred from 1973 to 1981. During this period, the country's labor force was in high demand. Competition from other countries began eroding Korea's competitive edge. The government responded to this change by concentrating its efforts on mechanical and electrical engineering, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, construction, and military initiatives. At the end of this period, the government forced Daewoo into shipbuilding. Kim was reluctant to enter this industry, but Daewoo soon earned a reputation for producing competitively priced ships and oil rigs.

Daewoo Motor Co., Ltd. was founded when the Daewoo Group purchased Saehan Motor in 1978, but the Daewoo Motor name did not appear until 1983. It's customer service got many good reviews in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, S. Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, S. Africa and Western Europe in the 1990s.

Cold War docks purchase

Kim's late 1970s ego-trip

The 1980s

During the next decade, the Korean government became more liberal in its economic policies. Small private companies were encouraged, protectionist import restrictions were loosened, and the government reduced positive discrimination (affirmative action), to encourage free market trade and to force the chaebol to be more aggressive abroad. Daewoo responded by establishing a number of joint ventures with U.S. and European companies. It expanded exports of machine tools, defense products (under the S&T Daewoo company), aerospace interests, and semiconductor design and manufacturing. Eventually, it began to build civilian helicopters and airplanes, priced considerably cheaper than those produced by its U.S. counterparts. It also expanded efforts in the automotive industry and was ranked as the seventh largest car exporter and the sixth largest car manufacturer in the world. Throughout this period, Daewoo experienced great success at turning around faltering companies in Korea.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Daewoo Group also produced consumer electronics, computers, telecommunication products, construction equipment, buildings, and musical instruments (Daewoo Piano).

Crisis and collapse

Daewoo Group ran into deep financial trouble in 1998 due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, increasingly thin relationships with the Korean government under President Kim Dae Jung, and its own poor financial management. With the Korean government in deficit, access to cheap and nearly unlimited credit was severely restricted.

In 1998, when the economic crisis forced most of the chaebol to cut back, Daewoo added 14 new firms to its existing 275 subsidiaries, in a year where the group lost a total of 550 billion won (US$458 million) on sales of 62 trillion won (US$51 billion). At the end of 1997, South Korea’s four biggest chaebol (a type of massive corporate conglomerate) had a debt of nearly five times their equity. While Samsung and LG cut back in the midst of the economic crisis, Daewoo took on 40% more debt."

By 1999, Daewoo, the second largest conglomerate in South Korea with interests in about 100 countries, went bankrupt, with debts of about 80 trillion won (US$84.3 billion).

Soon after the demise, Chairman Kim Woo-Jung fled to North Korea, and former Daewoo factory workers put up "Wanted" posters with his picture. Kim returned to Korea in June 2005 and was promptly arrested. He was charged with masterminding accounting fraud of 41 trillion won (US$43.4 billion), illegally borrowing 9.8 trillion won (US$10.3 billion), and smuggling US$3.2 billion out of the country, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.[5] On 30 May 2006, Kim was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of fraud and embezzlement. On the last day of the trial, Kim tearfully addressed the court, "I cannot dodge my responsibility of wrongly buttoning up the final button of fate."

Debt and it's 'to important to fail status'

Fiscal analysis

According to an article in The Economist, dated 19 August 1999 (not long after Daewoo's bankruptcy), "Its failure was a long time coming."

The downfall of Daewoo was and still remains highly controversial because of the sheer importance of chaebols in the national economy. The collapse caused billions of dollars in losses for both South Korean banks and the government, who were forced to stage-manage[ambiguous] Daewoo's dissolution to soften the blow. The bankruptcy was not only a financial crisis, but also a political one, and it came as a shock to much of the nation.

Michael Schuman of Time stated that while Daewoo's demise had significant consequences, it would have nonetheless been better than propping it up with fresh funds. There was a persistence of the belief that Daewoo and other Korean conglomerates were "too big to fail". Such belief led many bankers and investors to continually waste money on bailouts, despite the sign that Daewoo was unable to engineer a turnaround and repay these bad loans. Once the too-big-to-fail perception was dispelled, with large conglomerates no longer considered the safest investments, bankers and investors began financing new opportunities in areas which had been starved of capital, such as small firms, entrepreneurs and consumers. Korea's GDP actually rose after Daewoo's unwinding.

Schuman also noted a similar analogy with Japan during its lost decade of the 1990s, where banks kept injecting new funds into unprofitable "zombie firms", on the belief that the firms were too big to fail. However, most of these companies were too debt-ridden to do much more than survive on further bailouts, which led to an economist describing Japan as a "loser's paradise." Schuman states that Japan's economy did not begin to recover until this practice had ended.

Breakup and present status

The group was reorganized into three separate parts: Daewoo Corporation, Daewoo Engineering & Construction and Daewoo International Corporation. They are active in many markets, most significantly in steel processing, ship building and financial services. The corporate entity known as "Daewoo Corporation" is now known as "Daewoo Electronics" and is focused solely on manufacturing electronics.

Daewoo Electronics survives to this day, despite bankruptcy, with a new brand logo "DE", but many of the other subsidiaries and divisions have become independent or simply perished under the "reorganization" by the Korean government under Kim Dae Jung. In North America, Target stores market Daewoo Electronics products under their "Trutech" brand on an ODM basis.

In 2004, General Motors pulled the Daewoo brand of vehicles out of Australia and New Zealand, citing irreparable brand damage. Later that same year, GM announced that Daewoo Motors in Europe would change its name to Chevrolet on 1 January 2005. In 2005, it was announced that Daewoo cars would have a Holden badge in Australia and New Zealand. In South Africa, Thailand, and the Middle East, Daewoo models were already branded Chevrolet. In South Korea, Daewoo was renamed GM Korea.

As part of the company reorganization, the content and the structure of its brand portfolio (its brand architecture) was reorganized. In 2011, GM discontinued the Daewoo brand name in South Korea and replaced it with the Chevrolet brand.

The Daewoo commercial vehicle manufacturer was taken over by Tata Motors – the world's 4th largest medium and heavy commercial vehicle manufacturer.

Involvement in Myanmar

Daewoo is also moving into the oil and gas industry. While Western oil and gas companies were unwilling to conduct business in Myanmar on account of the abysmal human rights record of the ruling military junta, Daewoo is one of three oil companies, along with the French company Total and the American company Unocal, which is already, or is close to, starting gas production in the country (at the Yadana Field). During explorations, Daewoo found one of the largest gas fields in southeast Asia. The field is located at blocks A-1 and A-3 at the Shwe field, about 100 km off Sittwe in Rakhine State. The field will go into production in five years, providing a lucrative (and probably the largest) source of hard currency for the ruling junta. Daewoo has long been one of the largest foreign investors in the country. Daewoo International was investigated by South Korean prosecutors for allegedly selling machinery with potential military applications to the junta.

The Daewoo brand today

Today five companies with the Daewoo brand name remain:

  1. Daewoo Electronics (DE) - Specializing in electronics
  2. Daewoo Engineering & Construction - Specializing in construction
  3. Daewoo International - Specializing in trading and investment
  4. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) - Specializing in shipbuilding
  5. Tata Daewoo - Specializing in commercial vehicles, wholly owned by Tata


Daewoo Development Company, funded by cash from the Group, and set up to develop hotels. Seven were built in Korea, China, Vietnam, and Africa. They were personally designed and furnished by Kim Woojoong's socialite wife Heeja who was Chairwoman of the company. The most lavish is the 5-star Hanoi Daewoo Hotel, which cost US$163 million to build in 1996 and was decorated by Heeja with fine art, porcelain, sculptures, and marble. She invited 3000 guests to the opening, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. There is an 18-hole golf course on the grounds and a swimming pool which is thought to be the largest in Asia. Kim is believed to have spent time there while "on the run".

Daewoo International Corporation's business sectors

Business Group I [Steel]
Hot Rolled Steel Division, Flat & Wire Rod Division, Automotive Steel Division, Cold Rolled Steel Division, Special Steel Division, Energy Steel Division

Business Group II
Machinery & Plant Division, Power Energy Infra Division, Automotive Component Division, Electronic Industry Division

Business Group III
Steel Raw Materials Division, Metal Division, Non-Ferrous Metal Division, Commodity & Textile Division

Business Group IV
Chemical Division I, Chemical Division II, Chemical Division III

Resource Development Group
E&P Division, Mineral Resources (Commodity & Agro-Resources) Division

Domestic Business
Busan Factory, Daewoo Department Store


year works done
1967. 03 Daewoo Corporation was established
1982 Trade Division was incorporated into Daewoo Corp.
1999. 08 12 companies under Daewoo Group including Daewoo Corporation begin workout program
2000. 12 Daewoo International Corporation was spun off from Daewoo Corporation
2003. 12 The company completes the workout program
2004. 12 Sales amount exceeded 5 trillion won
2005. 01 Received the grand prize for transparent management
2005. 03 Receives the decoration of gold tower on the Day of Commerce and Industry
2005. 05 Company was incorporated into KRX100 Index
2005. 08 Receives a Global Management Grand Prize (from the Korea Economic Daily)
2005. 11 Acquired credit rating BBB+
2005. 12 Acquires certification for excellence in information systems
2006. 06 Receives prize for excellence in corporate governance
2006. 07 Receives the prize of merit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the International Trading Day
2006. 12 Receives the best prize in the sector of future management in the management grand prize
2006. 12 Acquired Certification for an excellent company in information systems
2007. 05 Acquired credit rating of "A"
2007. 06 Awarded grand prize for shareholder value (The Money Today)
2007. 10 Awarded grand prize in the sector of global management (Korea Management Association)
2007. 10 Awarded grand prize for digital knowledge management (National Information Society Agency)
2008. 02 Secured exploration rights of 35&36 blocks in Uzbekistan
2008. 12 Daewoo International Japan Corp. acquires ISO 14001 certification
2010. 08 The contract for a takeover was signed by POSCO and Korea Asset Management Corp
2010. 10 Appointment of Lee Dong – Hee as CEO & Chairman of BOD


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