The Korea Herald


Wealth gap between richest and poorest in 20s and 30s widens

By Choi Si-young

Published : May 16, 2022 - 17:01

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The wealth gap between the richest Koreans in their 20s and 30s and their poorest peers increased more in 2021 than the previous year, a lawmaker said, citing data compiled by Statistics Korea.

In 2021, the top 20 percent of wealthy Koreans in their 20s and 30s held 981.85 million won ($764,442) on average, 35.27 times that of the 27.84 million won held by the bottom 20 percent in the same demographic.

That was an incremental increase from the 35.2 times in 2020, according to Rep. Kim Hoi-jae of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

The two groups saw their total wealth rise at a similar annual rate -- 12.8 percent for the top 20 percent and 12.6 percent for the bottom 20 percent -- between 2020 and 2021. But the richest people in their 20s and 30s saw a 111 million-won jump in wealth, while the poorest gained just 3 million won in the same period.

That was because the richest group had much more wealth to begin with than their poorest peers, Rep. Kim said, adding annual income alone cannot explain the huge difference in extra money annually flowing in.

“Essentially, they (the two groups) are off to a different start and I am saying that’s not fair because it’s not something you can change,” Rep. Kim said, alluding to the fact that the richest people in their 20s and 30s often become much richer thanks to a wealth transfer from their parents.

The latest government data supports Kim’s assertion, because the richest people in their 20s and 30s earned an annual income three times that of their poorest peers in 2021, a much smaller gap than the 35-fold wealth divide between them.

“We have to make a transition one way or another (in government policy) to deal with inequality. … We have to help those young people see to a ‘fair’ society where they are not held back by the divide they are born with,” Kim said.