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Why Hyundai Group’s Chairwoman Is Spending Millions of Her Own Money

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-EunHyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-Eun
Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-Eun (C) arrives at the inter-Korea transit office in Paju on December 27, 2011 after a trip to North Korea. A former South Korean first lady and the chairwoman of Hyundai Group returned after they paid their respects to late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and expressed condolences to Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO/JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)Jung Yeon—Getty Images

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun is fighting for her company’s life.

Hyun may be one of the most powerful women in Asia, but she has thus far been unable to stem the long and slow decline of one of the most storied conglomerates in South Korean history.

The Korea Times reports that Hyun is resorting to tapping her own vast wealth to keep her complex empire of more than 20 firms afloat, spending “30 billion won ($24.4 million) 30 billion won ($24.4 million) from her own pocket to acquire 4 million shares in Hyundai Merchant Marine’s new stock issue, which was planned as part of the group’s efforts to ease a liquidity crisis.”

The move follows years of weak performance for Hyundai Merchant Marine, which is struggling under a mountain of debt and to perform amid a climate of slowing global trade. Bloomberg reported last month that the Hyundai Merchant Marine’s debt situation has ballooned to a jaw-dropping 786 percent of its equity, making it little wonder that the firm is having trouble coming up with cash.

Hyundai Group, which long ago spun off car maker Hyundai Motor, has also long been at the forefront of efforts to forge economic collaboration between South Korea and North Korea. Hyundai Asan, another of Hyun Jeong-eun’s companies, was hit hard last month when the South Korean government decided to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where the firm employed many North Korean workers.