The number of wealthiest individuals in South Korea continues to increase. Those with financial assets amounting to over one billion South Korean won reached around 393,000 in 2020. Despite the major hit of the coronavirus pandemic, companies and individuals strive harder by venturing into more businesses. Here we listed the top 10 richest people in South Korea based on Forbes real-time listing.
Chung Eui-sun, chairman of Hyundai Motor since 2020, has a net worth of $3.1 billion and ranks the 10th richest man in South Korea while 955th in the world today. He was president of Kia from 2005 to 2009 and is a majority shareholder in Hyundai Glovis. He was recently recognized and won the “Visionary of the Year” award at the Newsweek World’s Greatest Auto Disrupters event.
Coming from a billionaire family, he started his career at the New York office of Itochu Corp. before joining Hyundai Mobis in 1994.
Lee Seo-hyun is worth $3.2 billion and ranked ninth among the richest in South Korea. She serves on the advisory board of The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.
She leads the Samsung Welfare Foundation, a charity founded by her late father, former chair of Samsung Electronics. From 2002 to 2018, Lee held the position of president at Samsung C&T’s fashion division and was responsible for creating Bean Pole and acquiring the Italian leather brand Colombo through della Spiga. Additionally, she collaborated with YG Entertainment to launch the street fashion label Nonagon in 2014.
Cho Jung-ho, 64, is the chairman of Meritz Financial Group, and his estimated net worth is $3.5 billion — making him one of the wealthiest people in the world and South Korea. He is the son of Cho Choong-hoon, founder of Hanjin Group and parent company of Korean Air.
He holds both a Master of Business Administration from IMD and a Bachelor of Arts/Science from the University of Southern California. Jung-ho is married with three children and lives in Seoul, South Korea.
Lee Boo-jin, daughter of Hong Ra-hee and the late Samsung Group patriarch Lee Kun-hee, is the president and chief executive of Hotel Shilla, the top lodging and conference center and is considered South Korea’s largest duty-free operator after Lotte. She has served as an advisor for Samsung C&T and inherited her father’s business empire with her mother, brother and sister. Lee is currently estimated to have a net worth of $3.6 billion, ranking her 807th in the world.
Chung Mong-koo is the former chairman of Hyundai Motor and the second son of late founder Chung Ju-yung. He has a current net worth of $4.3B, and his largest holding is in the publicly-listed auto parts company Hyundai Mobis. He is often referred to as the “bulldozer” due to his blunt and forceful approach. In 2007, he was convicted of embezzling company funds (with a suspended sentence).
Kim Beom-su has an estimated net worth of $4.9B. He is the founder of Kakao, South Korea’s biggest messaging app, which also offers gaming, shopping and chatting services.
In 2014, he acquired Daum in an all-stock transaction. In 2021, Kim signed the Giving Pledge and committed to donating most of his wealth to charitable causes. Kim grew up in poverty and paid for college by offering private tutoring.
Kwon Hyuk-bin has a current net worth of $5.1 billion. He launched Smilegate in 2002, and it achieved success with its 2008 partnership with Tencent, producing the popular “CrossFire” game.
Kwon’s holdings are also major shareholders of the SundayToz mobile game developer. Furthermore, he founded the Smilegate Foundation to fund schools in China and Vietnam offering IT courses.
Hong Ra-hee is the widow of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee and currently holds a net worth of $5.5 billion. She received an arts degree from Seoul National University and formerly held positions as director of both the Samsung Museum of Art and the Ho-Am Art Museum. Her father was chairman of JoongAng Ilbo, one of Korea’s largest daily newspapers, and her brother is currently the chairperson of Korea’s biggest convenience store chain.
Seo Jung-jin is the cofounder of Celltrion, a biopharmaceutical enterprise that produces drugs to fight various conditions such as cancer, influenza and rheumatoid arthritis.
In March 2023, Seo returned to the role of chairman for Celltrion, two years after stepping down. His sons Jin-seok and Joon-serk co-chair the two different branches of Celltrion Inc. and Celltrion Healthcare, respectively. Seo first launched Celltrion in 2002 before officially taking it public in 2008. Before founding the company, Seo was a former employee of Samsung Electro-Mechanics. As of late, Seo’s net worth is estimated to be $6.5 billion, and he currently stands as the 387th wealthiest person in the world.
Jay Y. Lee
Jay Y. Lee is the executive chairman of Samsung Electronics and leader of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate. In 2017, he was arrested for bribing a confidante of Park Geun-hye, but was released in 2018 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in 2021 after appealing the case with the Supreme Court.
He holds a Master of Business Administration from Keio University and a Bachelor of Arts/Science from Seoul National University. He was friends with Steve Jobs and attended his private memorial service at Stanford University in 2011. Lee has an estimated net worth of $8.7 billion as of May 26, 2021, making him the wealthiest person in South Korea.
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