November 22, 2023
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What’s new about inequality in East Asia in 2023?

The 2023 update of the World Inequality Database includes new findings for East Asia, with new estimates of the full income distribution for South Korea from 1982 to today.

  • In South Korea, the richest 10% earn a third (32%) of total national income, while the middle 40% earn 45% of national income, and the remaining half of the population earns only 22% of national income (as of 2020).
  • Inequality was at its lowest in 1996, when the richest 10% earned about a quarter (25%) of national income. This phenomenon was largely associated with a big drop in corporate retained earnings due to the global recession in the semiconductor sector.
  • In recent years, inequality in South Korea has been relatively low compared to other East Asian economies, such as China and Taiwan. Most notably, the top 10% income shares were lower in China than in South Korea in the early 1980s, while this trend has been reversed in the most recent years.





Read More

  • Asia (Technical note)
  • 🔖Forthcoming working paper on South Korea (December 2023)



  • Zhexun Mo, East Asia coordinator:[at]
  • Sehyun Hong, Research Assistant and PhD candidate working on data for South Korea: sehyun.hong[at]


  • Media enquiries: Alice Fauvel, Communications Manager,, +33(0)763918168 , press[at]