How did It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’s Kim Soo-hyun become Korea’s top paid actor – and how does he spend it? Answer: cautiously

Kim Soo Hyun, star of It's Okay to Not Be Okay. Photo: TvN
The highest paid K-drama actors of 2020 have been revealed – and Kim Soo-hyun tops the list. At number one, he beats Crash Landing On You star Hyun Bin, earning US$165,000 per episode of the hit K-drama It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. The show is slated to run for 16 episodes, so by our sums, Kim Soo-hyun is set to receive a total of US$2.6 million.

So as South Korea’s highest paid actor, how does Kim Soo-hyun spend his hard-earned cash? We trace his K-drama career highlights and examine how he became one of South Korea’s most celebrated Hallyu stars.

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Kim Soo-hyun got his big break in the teen musical drama Dream High (2011) where he played a country boy who turned out to be a musical genius. The drama drew high television audience ratings of 20 per cent two months after its release.

He was then cast in Moon Embracing The Sun (2012) which established him as a rising actor. This time, the drama peaked at 42.2 per cent on the ratings chart. By the end of 2012, Kim Soo-hyun reportedly received a pay cheque of 600 million won (US$500,000), according to KDramaStars. In the same year, he revealed in an episode of TVN’s Taxi he was able to move into a rented home, according to Soompi.

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Thanks to his popularity, Kim Soo-hyun became the face of 17 products and earned 8 billion won (US$6.6 million) from TV ads and commercials. With a sizeable salary, he bought a flat for 4.2 billion won (US$3.5 million) in 2013. He is rumoured to have also bought a unit in Galleria Foret, one of the most expensive buildings in South Korea.

Kim Soo-hyun has been crowned “King of Commercials”, and the success of My Love From The Stars (2014) paved the way for more opportunities. Before the show, he reportedly earned US$550,000, but afterwards his fee climbed to between US$720,000 – 900,000 per advertisement. According to The Korea Times, he starred in 30 ads, including 10 in China.

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Despite earning millions from commercials, Kim Soo-hyun’s biggest splash of cash came when he pre-ordered a BMW i8 worth US$186,000, in 2015, according to AllKpop. It was the same car Tom Cruise and Paula Patton drove in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol. In the same year, he starred in The Producers, and the drama earned US$7.5 million.


According to the same KDramaStar report, after the end of his military service in 2019, Kim Soo-hyun’s talent fee per episode doubled from US$83,000 to US$165,000.

It was also reported then he would establish his own agency with his cousin. This seems like a good move, given his fame and solid credibility as Korea’s highest paid actor of 2020.

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He once splashed out on the BMW i8 driven by Tom Cruse in Mission: Impossible, but despite earning mega bucks from hit South Korean dramas including Moon Embracing Sun and My Love from the Star, Kim is a frugal spender – but with plans to open his own agency, the King of Commercials might soon be even richer