Top Earners Get Richer

  • By Shon Jin-seok

    December 29, 2016 12:08

    A growing number of top earners are making six-figure salaries as the middle class is being squeezed at both ends and overall earnings stagnate.

    Around 600,000 salaried workers earned at least W100 million last year, or about one out of every 30, the National Tax Service said Wednesday (US$1=W1,211). There were 17.33 million salaried workers in Korea as of 2015, and 596,000 or 3.4 percent earned more than W100 million, far outpacing the increase in average wages.

    Even until 2011, there were only 362,000 workers making more than W100 million a year, but that number has been growing at least 11 percent every year and surged a whopping 65 percent over the last four years. At the same time the average income of salaried workers rose only 16 percent from W27.9 million to W32.5 million.

    Ulsan, which is home to major factories of Hyundai and other conglomerates, had the highest annual income of W41 million. Second was Sejong administrative city (W36.8 million), which is home to top government agencies and state-run institutes, followed by Seoul (W36.4 million).

    NTS data also show how many people made fat returns from their financial investments. Financial gains of less than W20 million a year are taxed separately, but any gains above that amount are grouped together with other income and taxed as composite income.

    A total of 111,047 people earned more than W20 million from their financial investments last year. Their per-capita average income stood at W206.7 million, and gains from financial investments accounted for 46.1 percent.

    Some 3,676 people made more than W500 million from their financial investments alone, with W2.5 billion on average in annual income and financial gains accounting for 74.9 percent.

    But the incomes of self-employed people are dwindling. As of last year, there were 5.48 million self-employed people and their per-capita annual income was just W24.6 million.

    Meanwhile, some 544,000 foreign workers from 220 nations paid income tax here in 2015, 36.3 percent of them Chinese. They earned on average W23.3 million.

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