SK heiress to serve at border unit

March 1, 2016
Chey Min-jeong (Yonhap)

Chey Min-jeong (Yonhap)

By Yi Whan-woo

An heiress of South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate SK Group is on a mission to protect the country’s western maritime border from North Korea as a naval officer, according to military officials, Tuesday.

They said Chey Min-jung, 24, the second daughter of SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, is serving as a combat intelligence officer with a battle squadron under the Navy’s Second Fleet Command, which is responsible for defending the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea. Refusing to acknowledge the U.N.-created NLL, North Korea has crossed the border several times for years and often conducted deadly attacks.

The officials added that Chey, a first lieutenant, was assigned to her post in late January after carrying out anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and returning home Dec. 23.

Her routine duty is to assist her battle squadron commander, to convey the commander’s instructions to subordinate units on time, to collect information concerning the squadron and to manage its communications system.

She also accompanies her commander on patrols in the waters near the NLL when the squadron conducts defense drills and related operations.

“First Lt. Chey is unnoticeably yet sincerely carrying out her mission,” an official said, asking not to be named. “She doesn’t want to draw attention to herself just because she is the daughter of a conglomerate owner.”

Chey is the first woman from a chaebol family to serve in the military, drawing public attention for “setting an example of noblesse oblige” for leaders and the elite in the society to follow.

In South Korea, women are exempted from mandatory military service while all able-bodied men are required to fulfill their duty, mainly in their 20s.

Some of those who are subject to conscription, including children of politicians and business tycoons, have been suspected of dodging the draft by exploiting loopholes in the conscription regulations.

Chey voluntarily joined the Naval Academy’s midshipmen training in September 2014 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in November of the same year.

In April 2015, the SK heiress was assigned to the KDX-II destroyer Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin, a 4,500-ton warship, as a combat intelligence officer.

She was dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in June 2015 as a crew member of the destroyer to combat piracy off the coast between Yemen and Somalia.

Chey has an older sister and a younger brother.

Chey’s father was released from jail in August 2014 under a presidential pardon while serving a four-year jail term for embezzlement.

Upon his release, the SK Group chairman abruptly confessed he had a mistress and has had a baby daughter with her.

Chey’s mother, Roh Soh-young, is the daughter of former President Roh Tae-woo.