Celltrion Cofounder Becomes First Self-Made Billionaire To Claim Top Spot

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Korea’s Richest 2021. See the full list here.

For the first time ever Korea’s richest person is a self-made billionaire. Seo Jung-jin, cofounder of drugmaker Celltrion, tops this year’s ranking with a net worth of $12.5 billion. Since the inaugural list in 2005, the No. 1 perch has always been occupied by one of the head honchos of either the Samsung or Hyundai chaebols, second-generation heirs who inherited their fortune. Seo started the company in 2002 after his former employer, Daewoo Motor, declared bankruptcy. 

Debuting on the list in 2012, Seo saw his wealth swell by 10% this year thanks to rising sales of his company’s biosimilars—generics off-patent drugs. Last year Celltrion developed a Covid-19 antibody treatment, which was conditionally approved in South Korea in February, pending phase-three clinical trial results. Revenue for his flagship Celltrion Inc. rose 64% to $1.6 billion, while net profit jumped 74% to $440 million in 2020.

 Seo marked another milestone this year, retiring from the Celltrion group in March. His eldest son Jin-seok, 36, now chairs Celltrion Inc. and Celltrion Pharm, while second son Joon-serk, 34, chairs marketing unit Celltrion Healthcare.

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