The top 1 percent of earners in Korea account for 16.6 percent of the national income in a stark indication that polarization is particularly marked here. The Korea Institute of Public Finance on Monday said taxation data show that in 2006, a person making W100 million (US$1=W1,141) a year would qualify for the top one percentile of the income bracket.
The number of people earning at least W100 million a year accounted for 1.2 percent of the total population in 2007, 1.1 percent in 2009 and around 1.6 percent in 2010, according to KIPF.
The top 1 percent of wage earners accounted for 16.6 percent of the national income, which was slightly lower than the U.S. (17.7 percent), but higher than the U.K. (14.3 percent), Canada (13.3 percent), Japan (9.2 percent) and Australia (8.8 percent), showing that the wealth gap is especially pronounced in Korea. But KIPF said top wage earners account for a growing slice of the income pie in all OECD member nations over the past three decades.
But the top wage earners in Korea paid more taxes than their peers in advanced countries. They accounted for 43.9 percent of total tax revenues, as against the U.S.' 40 percent and a measly 24 percent in the U.K.
"The data was limited so it wasn't easy to compare different countries, but one thing is clear: those in the upper income bracket took up a larger share of the overall economy," said Park Myung-ho at KIPF.