Korea’s Richest 2019: Fortunes Fall For 74pct Of Nation’s Wealthiest Amid Trade War Woes

11-Jul-2019 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

After a robust 2018 that produced a record 45 billionaires, this year provided a sharp contrast for South Korea’s wealthiest. Caught in the crossfire of the China-US trade war, export-reliant Korea saw a steep decline in overseas shipments, driving the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index down nearly 14 percent and pummeling the won.

A total of 37 list members saw their net worths take a hit in this volatile economic environment. The combined net worth of South Korea’s 50 Richest declined 17 percent, to $110 billion, from $132 billion a year earlier. The cutoff to make the list fell to $855 million from $880 million the previous year.

A worsening slump in semiconductors, which account for roughly a fifth of Korean exports, hurt the fortunes of three of the country’s heavyweights. Lee Kun-hee and son Jay Y. Lee shed $3.8 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, as shares in their key holding Samsung Electronics slid 13 percent; Chey Tae-won of chipmaker SK Hynix saw his net worth tumble 40 percent to $2.8 billion.

The listee who saw the biggest decline, however, was Suh Kyung-bae of Amorepacific, Korea’s largest cosmetics firm. His fortune more than halved and he dropped two spots to No. 6 with $3.5 billion, due largely to declining sales in China.

Pharmaceuticals tycoon Seo Jung-jin, last year’s biggest gainer in both percentage and dollar terms, saw his net worth cut by a third, to $7.4 billion, as profits at his Celltrion fell on setbacks in new drug development. He nevertheless retained the No. 2 spot.

Bucking the downtrend was Park Yeon-cha of Taekwang Industrial. Global demand for Nike sneakers and the company’s low-cost production factories in Vietnam enabled Park’s sneaker-manufacturer to post record sales and a 20 percent jump in net profit.

Online gaming tycoon Kim Taek-jin was up 11 percent, raising his rank to No. 18 from No. 24. Thanks largely to a hit mobile game, Lineage M, shares at his NCSoft rose by a third. Lineage M has since its launch in June 2017 generated 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in sales and held the top spot on the Google Play Store.

Three new names landed on the list: Kim Sang-yeol makes his debut after his Hoban Construction merged with a subsidiary ahead of a potential IPO, more than doubling its net assets. While his son Kim Dae-heon, 31, holds nearly 55 percent of the company, Forbes Asia has attributed the fortune to his father, Hoban’s founder, who likely maintains control. Other newcomers include Kim Jung-woong of cosmetics maker GP Club, which scored big with facial sheet masks in China; and Chang Byung-gyu, who secured an investment from China’s Tencent, which valued his online gaming outfit Krafton at $5 billion.

Koo Kwang-mo of LG, Korea’s fourth-largest conglomerate, returned to the list after inheriting the shares of his father Koo Bon-moo, who died last May. At 41, Koo is now the youngest chair among the country’s top five chaebols.

A notable drop-off was Kenny Park of Simone Accessory. Park debuted as a billionaire last year, but profits at his handbag manufacturer were cut in half, partly by sluggish sales from China and Vietnam.



Category: Korea

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