1. LEE KUN-HEE, 72 years old, $11 Billion, Samsung
Lee Kun-Hee is chairman of Korea's largest conglomerate, Samsung Group, which accounts for around 20% of Korea's gross domestic product. His stakes in the group's two most important companies, Samsung Electronics and Samsung Life Insurance, have made him Korea's wealthiest individual. Under his leadership, Samsung Electronics has become one world's most recognized, high-quality electronics brands. It's the leading maker of smart phones, thanks to its flagship Galaxy model. Shipments have recently slowed, however, as the market anxiously awaits the introduction this spring of the new Galaxy S5, which will be paired with a new wearable device with advanced functions -- a successor to the Galaxy Gear smart watch -- and may also include eye scanner (iris recognition) technology. The smart phone slowdown has taken a bite out of Lee's fortune, as shares of Samsung Electronics, also a leading producer of flat-screen TVs and memory chips, have fallen about 17% from their all-time high in January 2013. Chairman Lee is an avid equestrian and also likes cars and classical music. As a member of the International Olympic Committee, he successfully led Korea's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
2. CHUN MONG-KOO, 76 years old, $7 Billion, Hyundai
Chung Mong-koo is chairman of Hyundai Motor Co., the world's fifth largest automaker having sold (along with its Kia affiliate) 7.56 million cars in 2013. Chung has driven a rapid expansion of production into new markets such as China and Brazil, and worked hard to upgrade the company's image as a maker of inexpensive, no-frills cars. But the company has nevertheless continued to struggle with quality management, as evidenced by the recall last year of more than 1.7 million vehicles in the U.S. for faulty stop lamp switches that can cause brake lights not to illuminate and cruise control to malfunction. In Korea and the U.S., Genesis sedans were recalled to address potential brake problems. This year, however, the company is looking alleviate quality concerns with the rollout of a fully revamped version of its key model, the Sonata. Chung is the second son of the late Chung Ju-yung, who assembled one of Korea's largest conglomerates, Hyundai Group. In the wake of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1980s, the group was broken up. Chung Mong-koo took the reins of Hyundai Motor, while his younger brother Chung Mong-joon, also a billionaire, wound up with the largest individual stake in Korea's leading shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries. Chung Mong-koo's billionaire son and presumed successor, Chung Eui-sun, is vice-chairman of Hyundai Motor, with responsibility for Kia Motors. In 2007, Chung Mong-koo was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling corporate funds. He was released after serving few months when an appeals court judge suspended the sentence, noting Chung's importance to the Korean economy. To make amends, Chung agreed to donate $1 billion over several years to benefit Korean society.
3. CHUNG EUI-SUN, 43 years old, $3.7 Billion, Hyundai
Chung Eui-Sun is the eldest son of Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong Koo and his heir apparent. After receiving an MBA from University of San Francisco, he worked at Itochu Corporation's New York office before joining Hyundai Motor Corp. Since becoming president of Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors in 2005, he has demonstrated a keen interest in moving away from utilitarian styling, as evidenced by his recruitment of renowned automotive designers Peter Schreyer and Christopher Chapman. Having overseen the successful launch of Kia Cee'd (small family car) in Europe, as well as other models such as the Soul and Forte, Chung was named vice president of Hyundai Motor in 2009. Although Kia plans to increase deliveries this year by 4.7% to 2.96 million vehicles, its profitability is threatened by the continued strength of the Korean won against the Japanese yen and the American dollar -- which erodes competitiveness against Japanese companies, such as Toyota Motor Corp., exporting to the U.S. Meanwhile, Kia plans to introduce to the U.S. market in 2014 the Soul EV, an all-electric, zero-emissions version of its Soul compact car, and the K900. The $60,000 sedan, due to arrive in select dealerships in March, will be the first luxury car the company has sold in the U.S. In terms of wealth, the holding that makes Chung a billionaire is a 32% interest in publicly traded Hyundai Glovis Co., which functions as a holding company for stakes in Hyundai affiliates while also providing logistics services to those affiliates and other clients. Outside of the business world, Chung is the president of Asian Archery Federation.
4. SUH KYUNG-BAE, 51 years old, $2.9 Billion, Amorepacific
Suh Kyung-Bae chairs South Korea's leading cosmetics company, AmorePacific. It traces its roots to the 1930s, when Suh's grandmother "scattered the seeds of beauty" by making camellia-based hair oils and creams as a sideline. His father, Sun Sung-Whan, took over the business in 1943 and ran it for more than five decades. The only one of six children to take an interest in the business, Suh Kyung-Bae, who grew up next door to the company's headquarters, joined Amore Pacific in the 1980s after earning an MBA from Cornell University. Elevated to chief executive in 1997, he quickly expanded into overseas markets. True to its heritage, the company, which invests heavily in dermatology research, has capitalized on the public's interest environmentally friendly products by introducing brands formulated from natural ingredients such as ginseng, soybean and green tea. Its luxury herbal cosmetic Sulhwasoo grew out of research into oriental medicinal herbs. Its "deep seawater" cosmetic, Lirikos, is popular with Chinese consumers. The company also does business in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines, and has a strong presence in U.S. department stores. In 2000, AmorePacific set up a breast cancer foundation. For more than a decade, it has supported the Korea's Pink Ribbon Love Marathon to help breast cancer victims. In 2010, Suh received an award from Ernst & Young naming him Korea's best CEO. Thanks to a 24% rise in the price of AmorePacific's shares, his fortune has grown by about $600 million over the past year. He is an avid art collector -- AmorePacific headquarters in Seoul is filled with pop art pieces.
5. CHEY TAE-WON, 53 years old, $2.8 Billion, SK
Former SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won is serving a four-year prison term for embezzling nearly 50 billion won ($47 million) from two SK Group affiliates and diverting the funds for personal investments in stock futures and options in 2008. In September, the Seoul High Court rejected Chey's appeal of the conviction and also overturned the acquittal of his younger brother, former SK Vice-Chairman Chey Jae-won, sentencing him to three years and six months for conspiring with the elder Chey, who, in 2003, spent seven months in prison for accounting fraud. He returned to SK after his release and was pardoned in 2008. Chey's downfall seems to belie his pedigree. Married to a daughter of Korea's former president, Roh Tae Woo, he has a BA in Physics from Korea University and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago; taught at prestigious Seoul National University; and was a regular attendee at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Under his leadership, SK Group's flagship, SK Telecom, became the country's dominant mobile carrier. In 2012, it became a major player in the memory chip market via a merger with Hynix (formerly Hyundai Electronics). The group's other key affiliate, SK Energy, is Korea's biggest refiner. Most of Chey's wealth is derived from SK C&C, which has ownership stakes in SK affiliates and provides lucrative IT services to them. A sports enthusiast, Chey once headed the Korea Handball Federation and, before incarceration, played a mean game of tennis.