South Korea’s Housing Recovery Makes Designer Cho a Billionaire

Rising home sales and increased consumer confidence have helped make kitchen and furniture designer Cho Chang Gul a billionaire.

The founder and honorary chairman of Hanssem Co., the country’s largest interior designer, had a net worth of $1.3 billion as of Tuesday’s close, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Cho, 76, owns about 24 percent of the Seoul-based company with his four children.

“From 2013 to current, the domestic housing market recovery helped Hanssem’s earning growth,” Park Joong Sun, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities Co. in Seoul, wrote in an e-mail.

The Bank of Korea reported last month that consumption increased across the country, supported by home sales and cheaper oil.

Hanssem has more than doubled this year as the nation’s home sales rose 25 percent in the first five months to 500,413 units, the highest since the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport started compiling the data in 2006.

The billionaire founded Hanssem in 1970, which has grown into a company with more than 1,700 employees, according to its annual report. It’s expanding to the U.S., China, and Japan, according to the report.

“Hanssem is the most famous furniture and kitchen brand in Korea,” Lee Kwang Soo, a Seoul-based analyst at Mirae Asset Securities, said over the phone. “Unlike other furniture companies in Korea, Hanssem sells more products to general consumers directly rather than property builders, and this is more profitable.”

Hanssem representatives declined to comment on the billionaire’s wealth.