Wealth of Korean rich shed amid trade woes: Forbes

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 10, 2019 - 15:37
  • Updated : Jul 10, 2019 - 16:19

Caught in the crossfire of the China-US trade war, export-reliant South Korea saw a steep decline in overseas shipments, and a consequent decline in the wealth among the members of the rich-list, Forbes said Wednesday.

A total of 37 list members saw their net worth take a hit in the volatile economic environment. The combined net worth of Korea’s 50 richest declined 17 percent to $110 billion from $132 billion a year ago, the magazine said citing the latest Forbes Rich List.

With the slump in semiconductors responsible for a fifth of Korean exports, the list’s No. 1 Lee Kun-hee ($16.8 billion) and son Lee Jae-yong (No. 4, $6.1 billion) shed $3.8 billion and $1.8 billion respectively, as shares of Samsung Electronics slid 13 percent. The elder Lee retained the top spot on the list for 11 consecutive years while the younger Lee dropped one rank.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)

Pharmaceuticals tycoon Seo Jung-jin, who was last year’s biggest gainer in both percentage and dollar terms, saw his net worth cut by a third to $7.4 billion, as profits at his company Celltrion fell on setbacks in new drug development, Forbes said. He still maintained the No. 2 position.

Nexon’s Kim Jung-ju came third, with his net worth falling 11 percent this year to $6.3 billion as shares of his gaming giant dropped 13 percent since last year’s list, amid protracted bidding, which was eventually called off.

Suh Kyung-bae, chairman of Amorepacific, Korea’s largest cosmetics firm, saw the biggest decline in his net worth on the list. His fortune more than halved and he dropped two spots to No. 6 with $3.5 billion, largely due to declining sales in China, according to Forbes.

There were, on the other hand, also notable gainers, including No. 7 Park Yeon-cha of Taekwang Industrial, riding on the global demand for Nike sneakers and low-cost production facilities in Vietnam. His sneaker-manufacturing business posted record sales and a 20 percent jump in net profit.

Also bucking the trend was online gaming tycoon Kim Taek-jin of NCSoft, whose wealth rose 11 percent to $1.7 billion, elevating him through the ranks to No. 18 from No. 24. The gain was largely driven by hit mobile game Lineage M, which generated 2 trillion won in sales since its launch in June 2017.

There were three newcomers to the list including Hoban Construction’s Kim Sang-yeol at No. 15, cosmetics maker GP Club’s Kim Jung-woong (No. 30), and online gaming outfit Krafton’s Chang Byung-gyu (No. 47).