June 02, 2020

FSS data lists South Korea’s most-paid execs

PUBLISHED : April 02, 2019 - 16:45

UPDATED : April 02, 2019 - 17:00

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Retiring executives -- whether they are members of conglomerates owned by families or professional mangers -- were paid most generously last year, according to data from the country’s financial watchdog Financial Supervisory Service on April 2.

Some of the scandal-ridden chiefs took nothing home, but others at the center of controversies bagged twice as much despite the criticism.

Lee Woong-Yeol, retired chairman of Kolon Group, bagged a whopping 45.57 billion won ($40.15 million) last year including severance pay of 41 billion won from four affiliates he led.


South Korea's most paid executives -- former Kolon Group Chairman Lee Woong-yeol (left) and CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun

Lee, grandson of the Kolon founder Lee Won-man, stepped down from all his positions at the group on Jan. 1. 

Excluding severance pay, CJ Group President Lee Jae-hyun, coming back from sick leave, took home some 16 billion won.

Kim Taek-jin, CEO of NCSoft, one of South Korea’s top game makers, received 13.8 billion won, partly due to the success of the mobile version of the hugely popular game “Lineage.”

Koo Kwang-mo, 41, who took the realm of LG Group as chairman and CEO after his adopted father Koo Bon-moo passed away, took 1.3 billion won for a half-year salary. Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Hanjin Group, a company that is facing much public backlash for abusing power and negligence, took home 10.7 billion won from five affiliates.

On the other hand, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who was the most paid executive in 2017 with 15.2 billion won, tumbled from the throne after returning five months worth of salary while he was in prison. Lee Jae-yong, president and the de-facto leader of the country’s largest conglomerate Samsung, received nothing as he has been facing trials.

Among female executives, Shinsegae Group Chairman Lee Myung-hee had a salary of 4.1 billion won while her daughter Chung Yoo-kyun, Shinsegae Department Store president, was compensated with 30.3 billion won. Lee is the sister of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

The Samsung chairman’s eldest daughter Lee Boo-jin, president of Hotel Shilla, earned 2.6 billion won. Her younger sister Lee Seo-hyun was paid 4.3 billion won including severance pay as she stepped down as president of Samsung C&T’s fashion division.

Among the professional executives who are not family-affiliated, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and CEO Kwon Oh-Hyun was the most generously compensated last year, receiving 7 billion won.

If including professional executives who took severance pay as they left their positions, two former Hyundai Motor vice presidents, Kim Yong-hwan and Yang Woong-chul, got 8.8 billion won and 7.5 billion won, respectively. After resigning from Hyundai Motor, Kim became vice chairman of Hyundai Steel.

By Park Ga-young (

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