This story appears in the Apr/May 2022 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
Bryan Van Der Beek/Bloomberg
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Korea’s Richest 2022. See the full list here.
Chung Kyungsun, grandson of late Hyundai group founder Chung Ju-yung, could easily have joined one of South Korea’s biggest chaebols just like many of his cousins did, but he chose a different path. Rather than work for the family business, the only son of Chung Mong-yoon, the 67-year-old chairman of Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance, worked at nonprofits, such as the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Kyungsun has said he was inspired by his grandfather who taught him that rich people need to give back to society.
After graduating from Columbia University, Kyungsun and his classmate Scott Jeun cofounded Singapore-based Sylvan Group, a private equity firm seeking to invest in education, healthcare and renewable energy—sectors they believe can have the biggest positive impact in tackling environment, social and governance issues. “This whole concept of impact investment basically nurtures businesses that are mindful of social and environmental results,” 35-year-old Kyungsun said in February when Sylvan announced its first investments.
The firm, which raised $200 million from anchor sponsors, spent $141 million to buy majority stakes in four Singapore-based healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. “Impact investment is not just out of goodwill,” he asserted, adding that Sylvan targets a 25% internal rate of return for its investments.
Sylvan is backed by members of Chung Ju-yung’s family as well as Singapore billionaire Wee Cho Yaw’s United Overseas Bank, Hanwha Life Insurance and Kolon Industries of Korea. The firm is aiming to raise another $200 million for investments this year.
Two of Kyungsun’s uncles are among Korea’s wealthiest. Chung Mong-Koo 84, the former Hyundai Motor chairman, saw his fortune shrink by 29% to $4.4 billion. The net worth of Chung Mong-joon, 70, the biggest shareholder of Hyundai Heavy Industries, dropped 30% to $975 million