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SK Group tycoon's wife lays claim to US$1.2b in divorce suit

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SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won (in foreground) had sought a divorce settlement mediated by a court in 2017, but the couple failed to reach an agreement.

[SINGAPORE] A new billionaire woman could emerge from what may turn out to be one of Asia's biggest divorce settlements.

Roh Soh-yeong, the wife of Chey Tae-won, South Korean conglomerate SK Group's chairman, filed a suit Wednesday demanding 42.3 per cent of his stake in SK Holdings, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported.

The shares Ms Roh is asking for are worth US$1.2 billion based on Thursday's mid-day trading price in Seoul and - should she win the case - the settlement would make her the second-biggest shareholder of the company after Mr Chey.

Mr Chey, 59, currently has a fortune of US$2.8 billion after excluding the shares he has pledged as collateral, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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An SK Group spokesman declined to comment. Ms Roh, the daughter of former president Roh Tae-woo, couldn't be reached for comment.

Mr Chey has led South Korea's third-largest conglomerate, which has business interests spanning memory chips to telecommunications, since his father Chey Jong-hyun, the brother of the late founder, died in 1998.

Mr Chey sought a divorce settlement mediated by a court in 2017 but as the couple failed to reach an agreement, the case went back to a court, according to Yonhap news agency. In 2015, Mr Chey sent a three-page letter to local newspaper Segye Ilbo, revealing he had a child born out of wedlock and expressed his intention to split from Ms Roh.

MOVING ON

In a Facebook post after filing her suit, Ms Roh signalled she's ready to move on after years of waiting with "hope" to patch the marriage up.

"But now I don't see hope anymore," she wrote in the post. "I now think it's right to let my husband to go find the happiness he wants so desperately."

Expensive divorces have created enormous fortunes in other parts of the world. MacKenzie Bezos and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos divorced earlier this year, leaving her with a 4 per cent stake. That makes her the world's fifth-richest woman with a net worth of US$35.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Chey and Ms Roh met while studying at the University of Chicago and married the same year Ms Roh's father was inaugurated as president of South Korea in 1988, local media had reported then. They have a son and two daughters.

Ms Roh said in her Facebook post that she will dedicate the rest of her life to "ways to contribute to the society".

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