Daewoo etymology: What does its name mean? Who is it named after?

When GM decided to rename GM Daewoo to GM Korea, it also junked the Daewoo brand in favour of Chevrolet, but what’s the meaning of the Daewoo name?


Daewoo in Korean was written as 대우. Dae or 대 is Korean for large, great or big, while Woo or 우 (now Romanised as ‘u’) is taken from the name of the company’s founder 김우중, Kim Woo-Choong (also translated as Kim Woo-jung).

As with many Koreans, Kim was Woo-Choong’s surname. The Choong part of his name would likely have been shared with his brothers or other siblings, leaving him to be known in familial circles simply as Woo.

Like Hyundai and Samsung, Daewoo was actually a massive conglomerate, or chaebol. So in addition to cars, Daewoo also made buses, hotels, guns, electronics, ships, planes, buildings, highways, and dams. It also had a financial services and telecommunications arms too.

The story of Daewoo’s rise, collapse, bankruptcy, and Kim’s flight from the law is a fascinating story in itself, and one best covered in another article.


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Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Editor-at-large — Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]