Photo: Tivoli, Ssangyong Motors' SUV. Credit: Website of Ssangyong Motors.
Ssangyong Motor Company 쌍용자동차, South Korea’s fourth largest automaker with a long history of financial troubles, once again entered the court-supervised restructuring process ten years after its last restructuring. Until 1997, Ssangyong was a strong niche carmaker that introduced sports utility vehicles (SUVs) to the Korean market, with popular models like Korando 코란도 and Musso 무쏘. But the company’s parent chaebolSsangyong Group 쌍용그룹 disintegrated in the face of the 1997 East Asian Financial Crisis, selling the automotive division to Daewoo Group 대우그룹 which in turn evaporated in 1999.
Spun off from Daewoo Group’s bankrupt estate, Ssangyong Motors was sold to China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (known today as SAIC Motor Corporation) in 2005, then to India’s Mahindra & Mahindra Limited in 2010, while continuing to lose money. Novelist Gong Ji-yeong 공지영’s 2012 bestseller Musical Chairs 의자놀이 chronicles the harrowing journey of Ssangyong Motors’ laborers, who faced mass layoffs, brutal strike-breaking crackdown and a wave of suicides as their company went adrift in this period. Although the company appeared to turn the corner in the mid-2010s by making profit, other Korean carmakers began introducing their own lineup of SUVs, pushing Ssangyong into loss once again. With the restructuring, Ssangyong Motors barely avoided getting its shares de-listed from the Korea Exchange 한국거래소 as it seeks to revive the business.