December 31, 2015 11:53
SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won prepared divorce papers around two years ago that accuse his wife, Roh Soh-yeong, of being partially responsible for causing their marriage to fall apart.
Roh has very publicly refused to divorce her husband and calls the allegations "unfair."
But the Chosun Ilbo has learned that Chey hired a high-profile lawyer in January 2013 and prepared the divorce papers. But he was unable to file the documents in a court because he was indicted for embezzlement.
In the divorce papers, which the Chosun Ilbo has seen, Chey says the marriage got off to a rocky start due to differences in the way they were raised, personalities and religion.
"In particular, Roh's strong style of expressing herself worsened the conflict. Our feelings for each other chilled quickly and we shut each other out of our hearts," Chey wrote.
He added that Roh became aware of this in 2006 and was the first to demand a divorce and huge alimony payments.
But sources close to Roh say it is unfair to blame her for causing the marriage to fall apart. "Chey claims that the marriage fell apart when prosecutors began investigating him in 2011, but he met his mistress in 2008 and had a baby daughter with her in 2010," one said.
Chey apparently moved out in the fall of 2011. Chey earlier this week admitted he has a love child with his mistress. Legal experts say his divorce filing is highly likely to be dismissed since the evidence points to his infidelity and Roh refuses to divorce him.
Korea's antiquated divorce laws consider the spouse who is responsible for the failure of a marriage ineligible to file for divorce. Chey would have to demonstrate that Roh had no intention of maintaining the marriage.
Lawyer Ahn Chul-hyun said, "A court could allow Chey to divorce his wife if he can prove that his wife is only clinging to the marriage to extract huge alimony payments or out of spite. But if Roh remains willing to save the marriage, the proceedings could drag on for years as the court listens to an army of witnesses."
Chey's announcement in a letter to a newspaper on Tuesday that he is determined to leave his wife and marry his mistress has raised concerns over control of the SK Group in case of a division of wealth between the estranged couple.
Chey's assets are estimated at W4 trillion, but they are all tied up in stocks in SK Group affiliates (US$1=W1,174). A substantial part could end up in Roh's hands if she successfully portrays herself as the injured party.
Shares of SK Holdings closed down 3.99 percent on Wednesday after sliding 1.6 percent the previous day, or more than five percent over two trading days. Chey is SK Holdings' largest shareholder with a 23.4 percent stake.
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