Meet the wealth and influence of South Korea richest individuals in 2023 with our comprehensive guide. Let’s take a detailed look at the power, wealth, and influence of these South Korea business leaders and billionaires of 2023.
South Korea Richest People in 2023
Net Worth: $9.7 Billion
Michael Kim is #1 richest person in South Korea. He co-founded MBK Partners, a private equity firm based in Seoul, and manages a portfolio exceeding $26 billion in assets. This recognition comes from his impressive asset management skills.
The firm’s notable venture, ING Insurance Korea, reached a significant milestone under its guidance. It became the first entity wholly owned by a private equity firm to list on the Korean exchange following its 2017 public offering.
Further enhancing the firm’s prominence, in September 2015, MBK Partners executed a landmark $6.1 billion acquisition of Tesco’s Korean division, Homeplus, setting a record for the largest private equity deal in the country’s history.
Net Worth: $8 Billion
Jay Y. Lee holds the position of executive chairman at Samsung Electronics, the largest conglomerate in the country. He stepped into this role in October 2022, filling a vacancy that had existed since his father’s passing in 2020.
His tenure has not been without controversy. In 2017, Lee was imprisoned and accused of bribing a close associate of the then-incarcerated former president, Park Geun-hye. However, he was released in 2018.
The court’s ruling characterized Lee’s involvement as “passive compliance to political power,” a charge he consistently denied and appealed to the Supreme Court. In a twist of events, January 2021 saw him facing a retrial, resulting in a two-and-a-half-year sentence.
Net Worth: $5.7 Billion
The #3 richest person in South Korea is Seo Jung-jin. He is a co-founder of Celltrion, a biopharmaceutical company, has made significant strides in the industry. The company focuses on developing drugs for various ailments such as cancer, influenza, and rheumatoid arthritis. Celltrion’s expertise in biosimilars has garnered considerable attention in South Korea, making it a popular choice among investors.
In a notable development in March 2023, Seo Jung-jin returned as the chairman of Celltrion Group, resuming leadership two years after he had stepped down from the position. His return was marked by a commitment to pursue significant acquisitions. The family’s involvement in the business is evident, with Seo’s eldest son, Jin-seok, co-chairing Celltrion Inc., while his other son, Joon-seek, co-chairs Celltrion Healthcare.
Net Worth: $5.1 Billion
Kwon Hyuk-bin founded Smilegate, a prominent gaming company he established in 2002. It has since become a leading name in South Korea’s gaming industry. A strategic partnership formed in 2008 with Tencent, a major Chinese internet company, significantly bolstered the company’s growth. This collaboration led to the release of CrossFire, Smilegate’s most successful gaming title to date.
Under Kwon’s leadership, Smilegate Holdings has expanded its influence in the gaming sector, becoming one of the key shareholders in SundayToz, a renowned Korean mobile game developer. Kwon’s contributions extend beyond the corporate realm; through the Smilegate Foundation, he has initiated educational projects in China and Vietnam. These projects focus on IT education, among other subjects, demonstrating his commitment to using his resources for philanthropic and educational endeavors.
Net Worth: $5 Billion
Kim Beom-su is the founder of Kakao, South Korea’s premier messaging app, boasting an impressive installation rate of 90% on the country’s smartphones. In a significant shift, he relinquished his role as chairman and departed from the board in March 2022.
Kakao’s reach extends beyond messaging; its tens of millions of users engage with the platform for various activities, including gaming, shopping, and social chatting. A notable strategic move occurred in 2014 when Kakao took over Daum, the country’s second-largest search engine, through an all-stock deal valued at $3.3 billion. This acquisition facilitated Kakao’s back-door listing.
Net Worth: $4.9 Billion
Hong Ra-hee is widely recognized as the widow of Lee Kun-hee, the former chairman of Samsung Group. Lee Kun-hee was one of South Korea’s richest individuals until his passing in October 2020.
She has played a significant role in the art world, particularly in her capacity as director. She served at the Samsung Museum of Art, known as Leeum, and the Ho-Am Art Museum. However, she stepped down from these positions in 2017. The museums she directed house collections from her father-in-law, Lee Byung-Chull, the founder of Samsung.
Net Worth: $4.1 Billion
Mong-Koo Chung is notable as one of the richest billionaires in South Korea. People has long recognized him for his leadership at Hyundai Motor, South Korea’s leading automaker. He held the position of chairman for over two decades until his resignation in March 2020. His tenure at the helm of the company was succeeded by his sole son, Euisun, who also has the distinction of being a billionaire.
However, we cannot ignore the deep relation of Mong-Koo Chung’s journey and his father’s legacy, Chung Ju-yung. Rising from a peasant background, Chung Ju-yung founded the Hyundai Group, which once stood as Korea’s most prominent conglomerate.
Adding to Mong-Koo Chung’s business accolades is his substantial investment in Hyundai Mobis, a publicly-listed auto parts company representing his second-largest holding. This investment further solidifies his influential position in the automotive industry.
Kim Jung-min & Jung-youn
Net Worth: $3.6 Billion
Kim Jung-min and her younger sister, Jung-youn, are minority stakeholders in the online gaming powerhouse Nexon. Their involvement with Nexon comes through inheritance from their father, Kim Jung-ju, who established the company in 1994. Their father’s passing in February 2022, at age 54, led to the transfer of these stakes to the sisters.
Despite their ownership in Nexon, Kim Jung-min and Jung-youn are not actively involved in the company’s day-to-day operations. They maintain a low profile, so there needs to be more public information available about them. This discretion has kept them relatively out of the spotlight, especially in the context of their association with a significant player in the online gaming industry.
Net Worth: $3.4 Billion
Cho Jung-ho serves as the chairman of Meritz Financial Group, a significant position within the financial sector. He is the youngest among the four sons of Cho Choong-hoon, the founder of Hanjin Group. This conglomerate is notably the parent company of Korean Air, one of the leading airlines in the region.
Cho Jung-ho’s professional journey includes valuable international experience, having worked for Korean Airlines in Europe. This overseas tenure gave him a global perspective, which he brought back home upon returning in 1989. Upon his return, he took up a directorial role with Hanjin Investment & Securities, the entity that was later rebranded as Meritz. This move marked a significant step in his career within the family’s business empire.
Net Worth: $3.3 Billion
Lee Boo-jin holds the prestigious roles of president and chief executive at Hotel Shilla, one of Seoul’s premier hotels and conference centers. Under her leadership, Hotel Shilla has also emerged as a major player in the duty-free market, ranking just behind Lotte as the largest operator in the country.
In addition to her responsibilities at Hotel Shilla, Lee Boo-jin has contributed her expertise as an advisor in the trading department of Samsung C&T, which functions as the de facto holding company of her family’s business empire. Her connection to Samsung is deeply rooted, being the daughter of the late Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung Group’s patriarch.
Why Bang Si-hyuk is not on the list?
Meanwhile, Bang Si-hyuk, the founder and chairman of Hybe (previously known as Big Hit Entertainment), is #16 of the richest people in Korea, with a net worth of $1.9 Billion.
Under his leadership, the company went public in October 2020, marking South Korea’s largest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in three years and propelling him to billionaire status. Hybe’s remarkable growth is largely credited to its globally successful seven-member boy group BTS, which has achieved five No. 1 albums on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
Before establishing Hybe, he was a composer for one of Korea’s top three music agencies, JYP Entertainment. In a significant expansion move, in May 2021, Hybe acquired Ithaca Holdings, the management company of prominent artists such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, in a deal valued at over $1 billion.
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