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Life's Journey of Korea's Richest People, Concerned to Ever Work at an Internet Cafe


 Kim Beom-su, the founder of Kakao, topped the Forbes list of Korea's richest people in 2022 for the first time with a net worth of USD 9.6 billion. Before it became what it is today, Beom-su lived a concerned life.

Beom-su's inclusion on the list of Korea's richest people is an impressive feat, considering that he faced an investigation from the Korean Trade Commission in 2021 for alleged false reports about K Cube Holdings, an investment company he owns.


Talking about his life journey, it's hard to imagine what Beom-su's life was like before becoming a billion-dollar person. In an interview quoted from The Financial Times, Beom-su, also known by the name Brian Kim, has had his fill of difficult life experiences.



His family shared a bedroom in a small house in a poor neighborhood in Seoul. His parents struggled to earn a living. Beom-su is the first person in his family to study up to university level, and he finances his studies by becoming a private tutor.


"We went our own way because my parents didn't have time to take care of us. Our parents gave me a great degree of autonomy. This taught me a sense of responsibility," Beom-su said in the interview.


Worked at Samsung and Opened an Internet Cafe

He started his career as a software engineer at Samsung SDS, an IT service unit at Samsung. He then left Samsung after working for five years to open an internet cafe. While developing his internet cafe, he later launched the online game portal Hangame, which later merged with search engine Naver to become South Korea's dominant web portal, NHN.


After leading NHN for five years, he moved to Silicon Valley, United States (US) in 2005 to expand his company's presence in the US. However, it was more difficult than he imagined. Eventually Beom-su left NHN and started another business.



Establishing Cocoa

In 2007, the first iPhone was released. Beom-su, who was in California at that time, was amazed by the smartphone. He and members of Iwilab (now Kakao) which he founded in 2006, developed a messenger app for a new mobile product.


It was already looking ahead and believed that smartphones would be used as the main communication tool in the future. According to The Korea Herald, Beom-su eventually developed KakaoTalk which later merged with the Daum web portal to become Kakao.


As reported by the Korea Times, Beom-su hired his son Kim Sang-bin and daughter Kim Ye-bin to work at K Cube Holdings, Kakao's parent company, in 2020.


Insiders saw the move as a way to ensure a smooth succession to prepare his children to one day take over the company. He also reportedly gave his wife and two children 60,000 shares of Cocoa each, worth a total of more than USD 20 million.


Involved in a gambling scandal

Gambling is illegal both at home and abroad, according to Korean law. So, when Korean prosecutors received word from the US Department of Justice that Beom-su allegedly spent nearly 21 hours gambling at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in 2007, the report became a major scandal.


Beom-su is said to have spent an average of USD 2,440 per gambling session and lost USD 16,993 during his trial. A spokesperson for Kakao declined to comment on the investigation when it was widely discussed in 2015.


Join the charity "gang" with Bill Gates cs

In March 2021, Beom-su signed The Giving Pledge, an agreement of the world's richest people, including Bill Gates, Melinda French, and Elon Musk to dedicate a large part of their wealth to charitable causes.


He said that his donation was aimed at solving social problems, especially in the field of education. This year, he stepped down as chairman of Cocoa's board. He made the decision to explore greater opportunities overseas in the mobile-focused platform business.

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