By Kim Bo-eun
|Kakao Chairman Kim Beom-su / Courtesy of Kakao|
The self-made founder of Kakao has become the country's richest person, backed by stock gains this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bloomberg reported that Kakao Chairman Kim Beom-su, 55, has a net worth of $13.4 billion (15.4 trillion won), which places him at the top of Korea's wealth rankings. Following him is Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, with a net worth of $12.1 billion.
Kim's assets ballooned by more than $6 billion this year as Kakao's share price surged 91 percent from early January. The tech company's stock gains were fueled by scheduled listings of multiple affiliates this year, including internet-based lender Kakao Bank, which will make its local stock market debut next month.
Kim set up the country's dominant mobile messenger, Kakao Talk, in 2010. The company has since expanded into mobile-based financial services, as well as cab-hailing and entertainment. Kakao is currently the fourth-largest listed firm on the local stock market, after Samsung Electronics, SK hynix and Naver, with a market capitalization of 66.23 trillion won ($57.66 billion).
Kim is noted for being a self-made entrepreneur, who grew up in a humble family, with his father once running a butcher shop.
The Kakao chairman obtained a bachelor's and master's degree in industrial engineering from Seoul National University, and his first job was at Samsung's IT services affiliate Samsung SDS, where he worked with Naver founder Lee Hae-jin.
In his New Year's address this year, Kim pledged to donate half of his wealth to society. In March, Kim joined the Giving Pledge Initiative, initiated by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates. In June, he set up the philanthropy foundation, Brian Impact, after his adopted English name. The foundation will support research into future technology, such as artificial intelligence. Kim sold 500 billion won worth of Kakao shares to set up the foundation.