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Half of S. Korea’s savings deposits belong to top 1% of income earners

Of the combined savings deposits held by major banks in South Korea, nearly half belonged to the nation’s top 1 percent of income earners, a report from the Financial Supervisory Service showed Sunday.

According to the report released via a minor opposition Bareunmirae Party lawmaker, 18 commercial banks operating in Korea held a combined 283.3 trillion won ($238.9 billion) on behalf of its clients in the top 1 percent income bracket, which accounted for 45.5 percent of the total deposits, as of July. The total deposits came at 623.3 trillion won in the cited period.

The top 1 percent’s savings deposit had increased by nearly 1 percent compared to 2014, when the corresponding figure accounted for 44.3 percent of total deposits. It has hovered above the 45 percent mark since 2017. 


Though the report did not include figures for different income brackets, the top 1 percent residing in Seoul earned average annual income of 910 million won in 2017, National Tax Service data recently acquired and released by a separate lawmaker showed. The threshold varied among cities, with the corresponding figure for the port city of Busan standing at 670 million won.

Among banks that were popular choices with their richest clients, Citibank Korea ranked No. 1 with savings deposits by the top 1 percent accounting for 72.8 percent of its total savings accounts. Jeonbuk Bank came in second with 54.3 percent and SC Cheil Bank Korea, wholly owned by London-based Standard Chartered Bank, ranked third with 54 percent.

The total number of savings account managed by the 18 lenders amounted to 2.7 billion won in the same period. Of the accounts, five held deposits over 100 billion won, while 221 carried deposits over 10 billion won.

The lawmaker who had acquired the report expressed concerns of a widening gap in cash assets between the nation’s richest and the poorest.

“The fact that the top 1 percent has accounted for more than half of the savings deposits for years, reflects the growing imbalance of cash assets in the South Korean society,” said Bareunmirae Party lawmaker Lee Tae-gyu. 

By Jung Min-kyung (