Korea’s 50 Richest 2020: More Than Half The Country’s Wealthiest Takes A Hit Amid The Pandemic

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Korea’s Richest 2020. See the full list here.

After earning plaudits for successfully flattening the coronavirus curve earlier this year, South Korea is now fighting a second outbreak and bracing for possible continued economic contraction. With the benchmark Kospi virtually flat from a year ago, the collective wealth of the 50 richest, at $110.8 billion, was nearly unchanged from last year’s $110 billion. Reflecting the challenges most businesses are facing, the cutoff to make the list fell to $610 million from $855 million a year ago.

A total of 29 listees saw their fortunes decline in this testing environment. Pharmaceutical tycoon Lim Sung-kisuffered the biggest decline to his wealth in both percentage and dollar terms, shedding 44% of his net worth, to $1.4 billion. Shares in his Hanmi Science dipped after U.S. pharma giant Johnson & Johnson nixed a deal worth $810 million for an obesity and diabetes treatment, citing Hanmi’s failure to meet internal standards; the shares have yet to recover. “In phase-2 studies, the treatment showed excellent efficacy in reducing weight in obese people with or without diabetes. We will have an internal review on the matter,” said a Hanmi spokesperson in a public statement.(Korea)

This story is part of Forbes' coverage of Korea’s Richest 2020. See the full list here.
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Korea’s Richest 2020. See the full list here.

Mong-Koo Chung of Hyundai Motor saw his net worth contract 26% to $3.2 billion, dropping him three spots to No. 8. Shares at the country’s largest automaker plunged after the company posted its lowest unit sales in a decade earlier this year.

Of the 17 listees who added to their net worth, Kim Beom-suof Kakao was this year’s biggest gainer in percentage terms, up 93% to $5.2 billion. His internet giant benefited from social distancing measures amid the pandemic, with more use of its messaging app, e-commerce platform and online games. Kakao reported earnings of 868 billion won ($708 million) for the first quarter, up 23% from a year earlier. Similarly, most of the country’s internet entrepreneurs saw their fortunes rise, including Kim Jung-juof Nexon, Kim Taek-jinof NCSoft, and Lee Hae-jinof Naver. See our story on them here.(Korea)

The biggest gainer in dollar terms was Seo Jung-jin, who saw his fortune surge by $4 billion to $11.4 billion, on news that his Celltrion is due to start human trials for its Covid-19 treatment this month. He retained the No. 2 spot.

Two new names landed on the list: Huh Jae-myung of Iljin Materials, a maker of electronic parts and batteries, debuted at No. 33 on optimism about South Korea’s electric car market, which drove up Iljin’s shares. Kim Chang-soo entered the ranking at No. 49 after sales at his apparel firm F&F rose 36% last year to $781 million. Three names dropped off the list. The most notable was Park Yeon-cha, founder of sneaker manufacturer Taekwang Industrial, who died in January. His estate has not yet been settled.

Full Coverage of South Korea’s Richest 2020

Reporting by John Kang, and Kim Minsu, Park Jihyun, Kim Yeong-moon, Lee Zinone, Oh Seungil, Jang Jinwon and Shin Yunae of Forbes Korea.


The list was compiled using information from the individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases, government agencies and other sources. Net worths were based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets June 19, 2020. Private companies were valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar publicly traded companies. For some, the estimates include a spouse’s wealth.

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