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Millionaires in South Korea - statistics & facts

Despite the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of millionaires in the world jumped to about 56 million in 2020. A similar trend was seen in South Korea, where the millionaire population – those who owned financial assets worth one billion South Korean won or more – rose to around 393 thousand in 2020, an increase of almost 11 percent from the previous year. The number even exceeded one million when non-financial assets were included, which was equivalent to about 2.5 percent of South Korea's total population.

Demographics

The growth in millionaires is a remarkable trend, considering the economic difficulties many people faced during the pandemic. In fact, the number of so-called high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) in South Korea – those whose net assets, including their homes, exceed one million and 30 million U.S. dollars, respectively – had been steadily increasing even before the pandemic. Although this group remains a minority, it owns proportionately more wealth than the rest of the population. In 2021, the richest ten percent of households held more than 40 percent of all wealth in South Korea.

According to a survey, about half of all South Korean millionaires lived in the capital Seoul. The bulk of their wealth came from various asset sources such as real estate and financial investments, with the share of real estate having risen sharply over the past few years. Most of them considered their fortunes to be self-made, such as running a successful business. Only about 18 percent attributed their wealth to family inheritance.

Who are the richest people in South Korea?

The richest of the rich in South Korea have traditionally been family members of powerful conglomerates known as chaebols, such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK Group. With a net worth of around 9.1 billion U.S dollars, Lee Jae-yong (Jay Y. Lee), vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and son of the late Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, was the richest person in South Korea as of April 2022. Recently however, self-made billionaires – mostly new entrepreneurs of startups and unicorn companies – have been transforming the chaebol-dominated landscape. Kim Beom-su, the founder of South Korea's most popular messaging app KakaoTalk, has reportedly reached a fortune of around 9.1 billion South Korean won as well, leading the wealth ranking along with Samsung vice chairman Lee.

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