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SK Chairman, estranged wife lock horns in divorce battle

Nov. 12, 2023 - 15:09 By Jung Min-kyung
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, left, and Art Center Nabi director Roh Soh-yeong (Yonhap)

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won hit back at his estranged wife Sunday, accusing her of deliberately stirring the pot to get the upper hand in their ongoing divorce settlement litigation.

In a statement released through his lawyer, Chey said that their marriage was broken long before he started dating his current partner.

“We’ve been a wife and husband merely on paper for decades,” stressed the tycoon, who had a child out of wedlock in 2015 with his current partner, Kim Hee-young.

Chey's statement came a day after Art Center Nabi director Roh Soh-yeong said in a press interview following a pre-trial meeting at Seoul High Court that she was “deeply saddened by the way her 30 years of marriage ended.” Roh added that she hoped her case could “become an opportunity for the law to protect family values.”

Chey, in Sunday’s statement, refuted Roh by saying that there were “essentially strangers in a state of prolonged mistrust” and accused her of trying to sway the court for the division of their marital assets.

Art Center Nabi director Roh Soh-yeong arrives at Seoul High Court on Saturday to attend a pre-trial meeting. (Yonhap)

The representative added that Roh has ignored the appellate court's request to refrain from "the act of manipulating the public through the press." Chey could not appear at the court since he was out of the country on a business trip.

The couple’s divorce, much like their union in 1988, is garnering significant attention due to the massive assets involved, especially with regards to SK Group companies and entities.

In December last year, the Seoul Family Court approved the couple's divorce after 34 years of marriage and ordered Chey to pay 100 million won ($75,728) in alimony and 66.5 billion won from property division to Roh.

Both sides appealed and they are set to face each other at Seoul High Court on Jan. 11 for the first hearing.

The legal battle started in July 2017 after Chey admitted to having a child out of wedlock in 2015 and filed for a divorce settlement, citing irreconcilable differences.

SK Group Chey Tae-won delivers his opening speech at the Second BOK-KCCI Seminar in Seoul, Nov. 1. (Yonhap)

Roh initially opposed a divorce but filed a counterclaim for divorce in December 2019, demanded an alimony payment of 300 million won and 42.29 percent of Chey's stake in SK Inc., a holding company of SK Group. Chey owns 12.97 million shares in SK Inc., equivalent to 17.5 percent.

Both sides are currently indirectly involved in another legal battle involving real estate. SK Group’s refinery arm, SK Innovation, filed a lawsuit against Art Center Nabi for failing to uphold its lease agreement. SK Innovation claimed that the art center continued to occupy an entire fourth floor space in its headquarters in central Seoul even after its lease agreement ended in September 2019. Roh claimed that such art galleries should be protected as a valuable cultural asset and that the benefits and rights of the employees at the gallery must be considered.

Chey, who runs South Korea's second-largest conglomerate, and Roh, the daughter of the then President Roh Tae-woo, married in 1988 at the presidential residence. They have three children.