The Korea Herald


Key to wealth: Have you tried hard enough?

By Park Min-young

Published : Feb. 7, 2011 - 09:45

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Affluent studies professor says inheritance is less important than ever

Lunar New Year just around the corner, and one of the most frequently heard phrases during the holidays is “be rich!”

Everyone wishes to become rich, though most do not have a clue where to start.

So it is no surprise that Seoul Women’s University Professor Han Dong-chul has been in demand for talks ever since he first introduced an “Affluent Studies” class at the university in 2004.

The class promises to disclose everything about the affluent ― from the definition of being rich to analyzing their characteristics ― and, of course, show ways for ordinary people to become rich.

“A person has to satisfy three conditions to be called ‘rich’ ― one, be happy because he should be able to do anything he wants; two, be materially comfortable; three, be socially approved,” Han told The Korea Herald.

“In figures, one is usually referred to as ‘rich’ when the person’s personal fortune is estimated from about 3 billion to 5 billion won. There are about 300,000 households or 1 million people who have that much, in Korea. But those who fit into my definition of ‘rich’ would be less than 10 percent of that.”

Following his theory, the richest person in Korea would be President Lee Myung-bak and the richest person in the world would be U.S. President Barack Obama, Han added with a chuckle. 
Han Dong-chul, professor of business administration at Seoul Women’s University (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald) Han Dong-chul, professor of business administration at Seoul Women’s University (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

Soon after he started giving classes titled “Marketing to the Affluent” at the university in 1994, the professor of business administration was surprised to see that young female students were so interested in becoming rich.

To help satisfy the students’ curiosity, he started a class mainly focusing on how to make lots of money. As the class became popular, Han himself become more interested in the subject, met many inspiring wealthy people and decided to develop it further, more academically.

“I did not create anything new from scratch. Being rich means a bigger house, which means more comfortableness. It has been one of mankind’s most fundamental needs and major interests since forever,” said Han.

“The interest became more transparent in the 2000s as information started to spread much faster due to the creation of the Internet. TV commercials and books about being rich poured out. I am under the spotlight because I am throwing such ‘materialistic’ lectures in school, where it is supposed to be kept relatively noble.”

Han is the pioneer of the subject here. Although “Affluent Studies” does not have a significant academic standing in universities yet, schools such as Korea University and Yeungnam University have started liberal arts classes that address the subject in the last few years.

So what is the key to becoming one of the rich when most of the nation’s wealth already seems to be in the hands of the existing chaebol?

“Only ten percent inherit that much wealth from their parents and there are not many households that are classified as ‘rich’ for over a century. There are more opportunities to rise from a humble family now than in the past, like by creating venture businesses. The only problem is that people do not think so,” said Han.

“Create, economize and persevere. Many self-made men have put in unbelievable efforts into their businesses, to the point where they consider selling their blood to save it. Put in the amount of effort you would need to bore a hole into a metal table by pressing it with your finger tip. If you are not there yet, it only means that you have not tried enough.”

Listening to his unappealing answer, another question emerges: How rich is he to be so certain?

“I’m always asked this question. I know that I’m going to be criticized either way ― if I answer yes, people will say, ‘OK, so he’s one of them,’ and if I say no, they’ll say, ‘so what does he know?’ But I’m actually on both sides. There are not so many things under my name but I have some that I can use. I am happy doing what I want to do and I am also influencing others,” he said.

These days, Han emphasizes the importance of not just being rich but being “truly” rich.

“If you are rich only materialistically, your mind becomes impoverished. You have to maintain the balance and be socially approved if you wish to be ‘truly’ rich. The way to do that is to spend your money for others rather than simply for yourself, although most of the rich do not choose to do so,” said Han.

Han wrote many books that shed light on the importance of communication between the rich and the poor, including “Benz and Potato soup,” his latest.

He also established Korean Academy of Affluent Studies ( in 2007, which conducts studies on the affluent and gives out awards to rich men and women who have done volunteer work or made significant donations to society. So far, the award has been given out to 26 rich men and women during the last two years including Jeon Hyeong-pil, the late founder of Gansong Museum, and Kim Soon-jin, CEO of Nolboo Global, a Korean food franchise.

“The screening process is getting stricter year after year. But one thing stays the same ― we do not take donations and we do not give out prize money. It is just all about being approved by society. I wish to make the award become like a Nobel Prize within 10 years,” said Han.

By Park Min-young  (


부자학 교수가 제안하는 '부자 되는 법'

누구나 부자가 되길 원하지만, 그 방법을 아는 사람은 드물다. “부자 되세요” 라는 덕담이 오고 갈 설날을 앞두고, 서울여대 “부자학” 한동철 교수는 여기저기 강연하러 가기 바쁘다. 

한 교수는, 부자가 되기 위해서는 정신적으로 행복하고, 물질적으로 풍요롭고, 사회적으로 인정받는 3 요소를 고루 갖춰야 한다고 설명한다.

“수치로 따지자면 30억에서 50억 정도 있는 사람을 부자라고 말하는데, 우리나라에는 약 30만 가구, 혹은 100만 명 정도가 부자에 속한다. 하지만 내가 말하는 부자의 정의에 해당되는 사람은 그 중 10 퍼센트도 되지 않는다”며, “나의 기준에 의하면 우리나라에선 이명박 대통령이, 세계에선 미국 오바마 대통령이 가장 부자” 라고 말한다.

부도 대물림 되는 요즘, 정말 아무나 부자가 될 수 있을까?

한 교수는, “사실 부가 대물림 되는 경우는 100 명 중 10 명 정도에 불과하다. 그리고 100 년 넘게 가는 부자도 없다. 벤처 기업을 차리는 등 여러 가지 기회가 많은 요즘이 오히려 옛날보다 개천에서 용 나기 쉽다. 다만 사람들이 그렇게 생각하지 않는 것이 문제,” 라고 말한다.

“부자가 되고 싶다면 창조하고, 절약하고, 인내하세요. 자수성가한 수 많은 사업가들이 피를 파는 각오로 사업을 키웠습니다. 최소한 손가락 끝으로 쇠판을 눌러 구멍이 뚫릴 만큼의 노력을 기울여야 부자가 될 수 있습니다. 부자가 아직 안됐다면, 그건 단지 본인이 그만큼 노력하지 않았음을 의미합니다.”