Taxi driver-turned-CEO is South Korea’s second richest man

Celltrion Inc is currently developing a medicine for COVID-19


Celltrion Inc’s founder Seo Jung-jin is the second richest man in South Korea. The former cab driver now trails behind Lee Kun-hee, chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. Jung-jin would pledge his organs to borrow from loan sharks to get funds to start his drug-making company.

Gamemaker Nexon Co.’s Kim Jung-jin has become Korea’s third-richest person with a $7.8 billion fortune. Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Corp., an energy, chemicals and telecom company is the fourth richest man in South Korea according to the Korea CXO Research Institute.

Brian Kim, founder of social-messaging app Kakao Corp., entered the wealth ranking for the first time this year, a Bloomberg report reads.

With income from shares almost doubling for Celltrion Inc., which is also developing a treatment for the coronavirus, the founder’s wealth is now at $ 10 billion.

His rise is extraordinary and represents a shift in the country’s business elite. While family-run conglomerates touch almost every aspect of life in South Korea, more corporate founders making fortunes in non-traditional sectors have emerged.

Born to a family who sold coal briquettes, Jung-jin, after studying industrial engineering at Konkuk University in Seoul, rose through the ranks at Daewoo Motor Co. In 2000, he set up a company called Nexol with former Daewoo colleagues to explore business opportunities that eventually have become Celltrion’s global marketing affiliate, Celltrion Healthcare Co.

Now, Celltrion is a giant that develops biosimilars such as monoclonal antibody Remsima of Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade.