The number of Koreans with financial assets worth W1 billion or more stood at an estimated 130,000 as of late 2010 (US$1=W1,058), according to the latest Korea rich list drawn up by KB Financial Group.
The group found that they own a combined W288 trillion, or an average of W2.2 billion per person. This means that the top 0.26 percent of the population holds 13 percent of its total personal assets. In 2008 when the global financial crisis broke out, the number on the list stood at 84,000. This jumped 54 percent in 2010.
The group based its findings on data supplied by the Bank of Korea, Statistics Korea and the National Tax Service. The results remain largely unchanged from Merrill Lynch's World Wealth Report, which was released last year.
Meanwhile, in a separate survey of 306 rich people in metropolitan areas, KB looked at the composition of their assets and found that each held W3.4 billion on average. Real estate accounted for 58 percent (W2 billion), while financial assets occupied 37 percent (W1,27 billion) and art works or memberships of exclusive facilities like golf and country clubs took up the remainder.
Korea's rich accumulated their wealth on the basis of 13-year investments using seed money of W240 million. Asked how they amassed the initial capital, 43.4 percent said they drew it from their salaries, while 29.1 percent got it from investing in real estate, 21.2 percent received it from their parents, in the form of family support or inheritances, and 5.9 percent prospered from sound financial investments.
Surprisingly, 76 percent of the respondents did not consider themselves to be wealthy, with 42.5 percent saying that only assets worth W10 billion would qualify them in this category.
Domestic financial institutes have stepped up their systematic analysis of the country's well-to-do in recent years as their numbers climb and the competition to attract wealthy clients grows.