Forbes recently came out with its latest richest people in the world list. The combined net worth of the 10 richest South Koreans now stands at a little over $60 billion in 2021. Compare this to Jeff Bezo’s net worth of $182 billion. South Korea’s top billionaires have taken a hit due to the overall economy of South Korea suffering due to the coronavirus. However, as we look at some of the top richest people in South Korea, many will see startup entrepreneurs in Korea who have built massive unicorn companies. Therefore, the future of South Korea’s economy moving forward will rely on innovative entrepreneurs who can take their companies global and drive innovation.

Samsung Group’s Chairman Lee Kun-Hee passed away in 2020, leaving behind his massive Samsung empire to his three children. He is known for taking Samsung to the next level by focusing on semiconductors and mobile devices. With Lee Kun Hee’s passing, his son Lee Jae-yong who has been leading the company since 2014, will now lead Samsung moving forward.

Top 10 Richest People in South Korea for 2021

1. Jay Y. Lee

Jay Y. Lee

Who would have guessed that the current richest person in South Korea is in jail. Well, that is the case as Lee Jae-yong was sent to prison in early 2021 for bribery charges to former South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He was sentenced to prison for 2 1/2 years. Lee is the son of Lee Kun-Hee and now controls the world’s largest maker of smartphones and chips. He comes in at a very uncertain time as the US/China trade war has not slowed down. As well as the conflict between South Korea and Japan which complicated its outlook and supply chain. There are many Chinese companies that will look to incorporate 5G and AI into their existing technology to quickly catch up to Samsung.

Jay Y. Lee Focused On Future of Samsung

Even with Jay Y. Lee in jail, Samsung Group will continue to look towards the future. Lee has stated many times that Samsung will look towards new businesses such as system semiconductors, AI, 5G, and bioproducts.  There are some avenues Samsung will look to find ways to maintain supremacy as the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer and leading innovator in electronics. It will be very important for Jay Y. Lee to help Samsung continue to support South Korea’s economy even tho he is behind bars.

Net Worth: $11.2 Billion

2. Kim Beom-Su (Brian Kim)

Kim Beom-Su is the founder and Chairman of Kakao, South Korea’s largest messaging app. Over 90% of all smartphones in Korea have the Kakao app. He is one of the few self-made billionaires in South Korea. His first successful company is Korea’s first online games portal called Hangame Communications. He started Kakao with four people by developing applications for the iPhone. Kakao was introduced in South Korea in 2010. In 2014, Kakao acquired Korea’s #2 search engine Daum in an all-stock transaction worth $3.3 billion. Lately, Kakao has become more than just a messaging app. South Koreans use Kakao for gaming, shopping, and even payments (Kakao Pay).

Kakao Stock Surge During COVID-19

Kim Beom-su is $1.2 billion richer which Kakao shares going up 55% in 2020. He owns 26% of Kakao directly and through his holding company. Kakao now has over 52 million users globally which 45 million coming from South Korea. Over 90% of the Korean population use KakaoTalk.

Net Worth: $7.6 Billion

3. Seo Jung-Jin

Seo Jung Jin Richest people in South KoreaSeo Jung-Jin is the chairman/CEO of BioTech Unicorn Celltrion. Celltrion Group focuses on all areas of medicine. This includes R&D clinical, manufacturing, sales, and licensing. Therefore they develop drugs to treat cancer, influenza, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. In addition, Seo Jung-Jin was able to take Celltrion public in 2008 and his marketing subsidiary, Celltrion Healthcare, also went public in 2017. He started out as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University studying industrial engineering. In 2000, he set up a company called Nexol which eventually became Celltrion.

Expect Seo Jung-Jin’s net worth to grow even further due to the coronavirus outbreak. Their future plans include making a direct entry into China and make a contract with the Chinese provincial government. In addition, their plan is to build the largest bio-medicine production facility in China by 2030.

“We will do our best to become a global pharmaceutical bio company through the strengths of Celltrion Group alone, including its world-class research and development and manufacturing production capabilities,” said Seo Jung-Jin.

Celltrion Shares Double During COVID-19

Seo Jung-jin has an estimated net worth of over $10 billion due to his companies shares doubling during COVID-19. Celltrion has been actively developing a COVID-19 treatment/vaccine and is one of the few companies to see their stock skyrocket (up 75%). The stock has done 5x over the last 5 years.

Net Worth: $7.4 Billion

4. Kim Jung-Ju

Kim Jung Ju Richest People in South KoreaKim Jung-Ju is the founder of South Korea’s biggest online game publishing company Nexon Corporation. In addition, he is also the chairman of its holding company NXC. NXC has gotten into the cryptocurrency space and owns 83% of Korean cryptocurrency exchange Korbit. Kim Jung-Ju supports the Korean startup ecosystem. Furthermore, he has pledged $93 million to support Korean startups and children’s hospitals in Korea.

” The company will be able to continuously promote innovation and seek healthy growth when it maintains transparent and horizontal corporate culture,” said Kim Jung-Ju.

Launching Fintech Platform Company

Kim Jung-ju launched a fintech platform company that will provide investment and financial transaction services that are easy for average citizens. It will be a subsidiary of NXC, the holding company of Nexon. The fintech company plans to release an investment service that provides services through a messenger chat-like conversation management game sometime in 2021.

Net Worth: $6.8 Billion

5. Kwon Hyuk-Bin

Kwon Hyuk BinKwon Hyuk-Bin is the Founder of Korea’s third-largest gaming company, Smilegate. In 2008, he was able to partner with Chinese internet giant Tencent to create their most famous title, CrossFire. In addition, Smilegate Holdings which Kwon Hyuk-Bin owns 100% of the shares were the investors of Korean mobile game developer SundayToz. Furthermore, Kwon Hyuk-Bin created the Smilegate Foundation which helps establish schools in both China and Vietnam. The school provides IT education and other tech-related subjects.

Net Worth: $5.9 Billion

6. Chung Mong-Koo

Chung Mong kooChung Mong-koo is the chairman of Hyundai Motor Group who was recently inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He became the first South Korean inducted. Furthermore, Chung Mong-Koo is credited with the success of Hyundai Motor Group, the successful revival of Kia Motors, and the formation of an efficient business structure. He has 4 children, 3 daughters, and one son who is the vice-president of Hyundai and the hair-apparent to Hyundai Motor Group.

Net Worth: $5.1 Billion

7. Hong Ra-Hee

Hong Ra HeeHong Ra-Hee is the wife of Lee Kun-hee. She is expected to be the main beneficiary of the shares left behind by Lee Kun-hee. There will be a large inheritance tax of up to $10 billion. However, Hong Ra-Hee is expected to get around $2.5 billion in stocks. She already had a net worth of $1.8 billion before his death.

Net Worth: $4.3 Billion

8. Suh Kyung-Bae

Suh Kyung BaeSuh Kyung-bae is the Chairman of AmorePacific Group. It is South Korea’s largest cosmetic and skincare maker. They have done over $6 billion in sales to date. Suh Kyung-bae is an entrepreneur at heart and is very vocal in emphasizing customer-centered management, accelerating global expansion, and creating sustainable management, and a happy workplace. In addition, Suh Kyung-bae has been vocal about pursuing environmentally friendly consumption and production. He was one of the first entrepreneurs in South Korea to capitalize on Hallyu (The Korean Pop Culture Wave) through product placements and Korean celebrity endorsements.

Suh Kyung-Bae created The Suh Kyung-bae Science Foundation. It is a non-profit foundation that has a $250 million fund that was contributed by Suh Kyung-bae. The goal of the foundation is to contribute to humanity through the cultivation of creative, young scientists, and the development of the life science sector.

“We need to create innovative products that customers want, provide unique customer experiences, and achieve digitalization that adapts to customers’ minds,” said Suh Kyung-Bae.

Suh Kyung-bae – The ABC Spirit

Suh Kyung-base explained the ABC Spirit through an event that was broadcast live through YouTube. There he spoke about the five new principles that all employees must follow going forward. The five principles officially released by Amorepacific:

  1. Customers first
  2. Be the first and the best
  3. Collaborate with an open mind
  4. Respect differences
  5. Act with integrity

These principles were based on the experiences and know-how from their employees over the years. This was to motivate the employees at Amorepacific during the turbulent times caused by COVID-19. The beauty market as a whole has been hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Net Worth: $3.1 Billion

9. Shin Chang-Jae

Shin Chang Jae Richest People in South KoreaShin Chang-Jae is the chairman/CEO of Kyobo Life Insurance. Kyobo Life offers insurance and asset-management products to more than 6 million customers. Furthermore, he was recently the winner of the Sustainable Management CEO Award by the Korean Standards Association (KSA). Shin was able to turn Kyobo Life Insurance around. Before he took over the company recorded losses of 250 billion won. Afterward, the company had a net profit of at least 500 billion won per year. Shin owns a 33.78% take in Kyobo Life.

Net Worth: $2.3 Billion

10. Kim Taek-Jin

kimtaekjinKim Taek-jin is the founder/CEO of South Korea’s 2nd largest online gaming company, NCSoft. He rounds out our list of the richest people in South Korea. He was able to take NCSoft public in 2003 and now provides online game services to over 60 countries. Furthermore, the company has set up branches in North America, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan. His goal moving forward is for NCSoft to expand their platform from PC to mobile, and further to console and grow into a comprehensive game company that crosses all boundaries. In addition, Kim Taek-Jin is the owner of the Korean professional baseball team NC Dinos.

“We are going to expand our platform from PC to mobile, and further to console and grow into a global comprehensive game company by crossing boundaries,” said Kim Taek-jin.

Net Worth: $2.1 Billion