How Do Korea's 1% Get Rich?

  • By Kim Eun-jung

    December 05, 2022 13:24

    An estimated 424,000 Koreans own more than W1 billion in financial assets. That means just 0.82 percent of the country's population own 58.5 percent of total household assets (US$1=W1,300). 
    Typically these people amassed an average of W820 million at the age of 42 and then increased their wealth. Their number has increased eight percent in just one year, though the rate of growth was smaller than the 10.9 percent during the stock market boom of 2020. 
    KB Financial Group announced the figures on Sunday based on Statistics Korea data and a survey of 400 of the very rich. 
    The rich continue to favor real estate investments. The total value of their real estate assets stands at W2.36 quadrillion, up 14.7 percent from 2020. Between 2019 and 2020 their real estate assets increased 18.6 percent. 
    Only 17 percent of the wealthy earned profits from the stock market over the past year, but 42.5 percent made money by investing in residential property and 34 percent got richer from commercial real estate. 
    Unlike ordinary Koreans who borrowed more money in a time of ultra-low interest rates, the rich swiftly repaid their debts. The proportion of wealth Koreans with debt decreased from 56.5 percent in 2019 to 43.8 percent in 2021, and 61.8 percent of the rich do not consider leveraged assets as assets and are now increasing their cash holdings and other liquid assets amid a real estate market slump and rising interest rates. 
    The wealthy prefer deposit and savings accounts as the best short-term investments over the next year now that interest rates are high. But they pointed to real estate, both to let and for use as their own homes, as the best investment over the longer term. 
    Their hopes for gold and jewelry or bonds also increased.  
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