The headquarters of Korean securities companies in Yeouido, Seoul, are shown in this September file photo. The wealthy who own more than 1 billion won in financial assets hold 30 percent of total banking deposits, according to Mirae Asset Financial Group and the Bank of Korea. Korea Times
By Kim Jae-won
The number of "superrich," or high net-wealth individuals with financial assets worth 1 billion won ($840,000) or more topped 130,000 with the combined aggregate figure estimated to reach 324 trillion won.
The superrich don’t entirely correspond to the richest 1 percent targeted by those leading the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations as the cause of the income imbalance, triggering similar protests around the world.
The figures appear to reflect the current economic situation where the depressed property market is moving investments away from housing and land to financial assets that are more liquid.
The 324 trillion won is equal to the size of national pension fund’s assets at the end of 2010, and accounts for about 30 percent of gross domestic product, or a third of 938.9 trillion won in total bank deposits as of October this year.
The figures were tallied by Mirae Asset, one of the leading financial groups, on the basis of data available from the Bank of Korea.
Mirae said the number of superrich was based on two assumptions. First, bank deposits account for 40-50 percent of a person’s total financial assets so about 84,000 individuals with deposits of over 500 million won were included in their number.
Second, about 10 percent of those who hold deposits of 100 million won to 500 million won were also included.
Experts say that frozen real estate market drove the wealthy to invest their assets in financial products.
The real estate market had been regarded as the best way to increase wealth, but it is now seeing a big slump after the 2008 global financial crisis and lingering economic growth.
As the number of superrich increases, financial companies such as banks, brokerages and life insurers fiercely compete to offer wealthy customers a wide range of services from portfolio management, taxation and legal tips to matchmaking opportunities between well-off families.
For example, Shinhan Financial, the country’s No. 3 banking group, launched its first private wealth management branch in downtown Seoul last week to cope with changing financial circumstance.
Financial institutions expect explosive growth in the country’s private banking and asset management markets, which have so far remained underdeveloped due to Korea’s regulatory system.
“Financial companies need to brace for the rising rich with new marketing strategies,” said Jang Gyeong-ho, a spokesman at Mirae Asset.
10억 원 이상 금융자산을 소유한 최고 부유층의 수가 13만 명을 돌파했다. 이들이 가진 재산의 합계는 324조원에 이르는 것으로 나타났다.
이들 최상위층은 “월스트리트점령” 시위대가 부의 불평등한 분배의 원인으로 지목한 1퍼센트와 정확하게 들어맞지는 않는다.
이 수치는 침체된 부동산 시장으로 인해 투자자금이 금융자산으로 이동하는 현상과 맞닿아 있는 것으로 보인다.
324조원은 지난해 국민연금의 총자산과 맞먹는 수치다. 이는 국내총생산의 30퍼센트 혹은 10월 은행 총예금의 3분의 1에 해당하는 금액이다. 이 통계는 미래에셋이 한국은행의 자료를 바탕으로 계산한 것이다.
미래에셋은 최고 부유층의 수를 두 가지 가정에 근거해서 얻었다고 말했다. 첫 번째는 은행 예금이 개인의 총 금융자산의 40-50퍼센트에 해당한다는 것이다.
이 가정에 따라 5억 원 이상의 예금을 소유한 8만4천 명의 개인이 최고 부유층에 포함됐다. 1억 원과 5억 원 사이의 예금을 소유한 사람들 중 약 10퍼센트 정도도 이들 숫자에 포함됐다.