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Richest 0.1% make 80% of total income

Oct 12,2017
The average earned income of Korea’s top 0.1 percent is nearly 30 times the average of the top 50 percent, a lawmaker from the ruling party said Wednesday, underscoring the country’s widening wealth disparities.

In 2015, the latest year income data is available, 17,334 individuals in the wealthiest 0.1 percent earned an average 655 million won ($576,000), while the top 50 percent earned an average 23 million won, according to Democratic Rep. Park Kwang-on, who serves on the National Assembly’s finance committee and received the data from the National Tax Service ahead of an annual legislative audit.

The report includes the income of over 17 million workers who are not self-employed.

Per month, the top 0.1 percent took home 54.58 million won, while the average 50 percent only made 1.92 million won.

The total income of the top 0.1 percent in 2015 was 11.35 trillion won, accounting for 2 percent of money that the entire country made. Most surprisingly, the income was equivalent to the amount that 80 percent of the workforce made that year. That means the income of 17,000 individuals was equivalent to the income of three million Koreans.

“The polarization and inequality of income has been getting worse,” Park, the lawmaker, said. “There’s a need to mobilize all policy methods in solving the wage gap that results from various hiring forms, including discrepancies between regular workers and contract workers and between conglomerates and SMEs.”

The lawmaker speculated that the gap between haves and have-nots could widen, considering part-timers and day laborers are unlikely to report their income.

According to the data, more than five million workers, about 30 percent of the workforce, made so little - an average 14 million won a year - that their taxes after deductions and payroll were zero.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent made an average 141.8 million won a year, accounting for about 7 percent of total income. People who made more than 100 million won a year accounted for 3.4 percent of all workers, at 589,336. They took home close to 8.4 million won monthly.

The top 10 percent averaged an annual income of 70 million won, which accounted for 32.4 percent of the total income at 182.3 trillion won.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]