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More Koreans grow ‘superrich,’ with stock assets exceeding W10b

Sohn Byung-doo (fourth from left), chairman and chief executive of the Korea Exchange, and others attend a ceremony in Seoul on Jan. 4 to mark the 2021 opening of the country’s stock markets in the morning. (The Financial Services Commission)
Sohn Byung-doo (fourth from left), chairman and chief executive of the Korea Exchange, and others attend a ceremony in Seoul on Jan. 4 to mark the 2021 opening of the country’s stock markets in the morning. (The Financial Services Commission)


Despite the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of South Koreans who hold stocks worth 10 billion won ($8.92 million) or more increased last year, data showed Sunday.

Data compiled by the state-run Korea Securities Depository showed that the number of these “superrich” Koreans came in at 2,800 -- up 600, or 27 percent on-year, as of the end of December. Their combined stocks reached 241.5 trillion won in value, up 59.9 trillion won or 33 percent.

Of all 2,800 people who fell into this group, 2,100 were the largest stakeholders of listed firms or members of the owner families. The number of rich stockholders with ties to listed companies stood at 1,700 in 2019.

“Many of those rich shareholders saw the value of their existing stakes grow last year while some investors became richer by making large bets to join the bullish bandwagon,” a market watcher in the stock market said.

The oldest person on the list was a 99-year-old relative of one of the largest shareholders of drugmaker Celltrion, owning 19.2 billion won worth of shares in the pharmaceutical company. The 8-year-old granddaughter of Chung Ji-wan, CEO of chip component firm Soulbrain, was the youngest with shares worth 58.2 billion won.

These superrich Koreans accounted for a mere 0.03 percent of the 9.19 million investors in the local stock market, but the value of their stocks comprised 36.5 percent of the stock market.

The average value of all shares held by these extremely rich investors increased by 4.5 percent on-year to 86.2 billion won last year. The number of individual investors with securities surpassing 10 billion won in value grew from 500 in 2019 to 700 in 2020.

Meanwhile, Celltrion CEO Seo Jung-jin is the wealthiest Korean, with the value of his assets standing at $14.2 billion, according to media firm Forbes. Kim Jung-ju, CEO of gaming developing firm Nexon’s holding company NXC, and messenger firm Kakao’s Chairman Kim Beom-su came second and third with their respective assets totaling $13.3 billion and $9.3 billion.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)
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