Currently, South Korea is witnessing its most high-profile divorce case, with millions of dollars worth of settlement involved.
The ongoing divorce battle is between Chey Tae Won, the chairman of South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate, SK Group, and Roh Soh Yeong, the daughter of the former South Korean president Roh Tae Woo. The couple got married in 1988 and have three children.
However, in 2015, Chey publicly admitted his affair with Kim Hee Young, who is currently serving as the chair of the TC Foundation, and revealed that they had a child out of wedlock. In 2017, Chey filed for a divorce settlement against Roh. Though she opposed it initially, Roh followed it up with a counterclaim, demanding an alimony of ₩300 million KRW (about $232,000 USD) and 50 percent of Chey’s stake in SK, a holding company of SK Group. Chey owns 12.97 million shares in SK, which amounts to 17.5 percent.
In December 2022, the Seoul Family Court approved their divorce and ordered Chey to pay ₩66.5 billion KRW (about $51.3 million USD) in property division, along with an alimony of ₩100 million KRW (about $77,200 USD). However, both sides appealed the ruling.
In March 2023, Roh launched a lawsuit against Kim Hee Yong with the Seoul Family Court, demanding a solatium of ₩3.00 billion KRW (about $2.32 million USD). Her lawyers accused Kim of ruining Roh and Chey’s marriage, causing their client mental suffering. They also accused her of approaching the SK Group chair under the pretext of counseling, pretending to be his spouse at official events.
On November 13, Roh held a press conference following a pre-trial meeting at Seoul High Court, saying she was “deeply saddened by the way her 30 years of marriage ended” and hoped her case could “become an opportunity for the law to protect family values.” In response, Chey told the press a day later that their marriage was over well before his relationship with Kim started.
We’ve been a wife and husband merely on paper for decades.
— Chey Tae Won
He accused Roh of ignoring the appellate court’s request to refrain from “the act of manipulating the public through the press” and claimed that it was her way to sway the court’s decision in her favor in the divorce settlements.
Meanwhile, SK Group’s refinery arm, SK Innovation, has also filed a lawsuit against Art Centre Nabi, the organization run by Roh, for failing to uphold its lease agreement. They 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.
The legal battle between the two parties is set to continue even next year as they are set to face each other in court again on January 11, 2024, for the first hearing after their appeal.