After a four-year absence from the screen, veteran actress Lee Young-ae is making a triumphant comeback in the upcoming Netflix drama Inspector Koo , the Asian version of Killing Eve . She will play Koo Kyung-yi, a brilliant former insurance investigator who chases a mysterious serial killer. At the age of 50, she is one of the richest Korean actors with a net worth of US$40 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But besides her successful showbiz career, where else does her fortune come from? Why Koreans are only allowed to buy one Chanel bag per year Her acting career Born in 1971, the Seoul native first stepped into the entertainment industry as a CF model – or commercial film model – in the early 1990s while she was still studying at the department of German language and literature at Hanyang University, according to TV Over Mind. After appearing in hit K-dramas like Medical Brothers, Because I Love You and Romance , her breakthrough role came in 2003 in the historical drama Dae Jang Geum or Jewel in the Palace . She played the character of the legendary Seo Jang-geum, the first woman to be the supreme royal doctor during the Choson Dynasty. The film earned her the title “Korean wave star” and catapulted her to fame – not only locally but also in Japan, China and the whole of Southeast Asia, according to Oppa Kpop. Particularly, it achieved the highest ratings in Uzbekistan and she became their tourism ambassador in South Korea. Oppa Kpop reports that the movie was even mentioned in Taiwanese textbooks. After the drama, she also starred in famous series and films such as Saimdang-Memoir of Colors , Bring Me Home and Lady Vengeance – which she was awarded best actress at the 2005 Blue Dragon Film Awards and 2006 Baeksang Art Awards. Her beauty and acting talent has made her one of South Korea’s brightest stars and highest-paid actresses to date, according to Seoul Space. The publication estimates that she gets paid US$83,000 per episode – the second-highest per episode fee that’s very close to the top rank, which goes to actress Jun Ji-hyun with US$84,000 per episode . It’s far beyond the rate of US$42,000 for other famous names like Song Hye-kyo, Choi Ji-woo and Ha Ji-won, too. Her total earnings from K-dramas clocks around US$18 million so far. How Squid Game’s Jung Ho-yeon became an overnight icon Lucrative endorsements with luxury beauty brands Lee’s charm and fame also grabbed the attention of local luxury beauty brands. She has been the face of multiple labels for many years. During her early days in the entertainment world, she was the face of the cosmetics company Amorepacific from 1991 to 1999, per Korean Film Biz Zone. Lee played up her allure in the commercial and it became a hit, challenging the Korean ad industry’s traditional downplaying of sex appeal, according to The Korea Times . After Amorepacific, Lee became the global ambassador of LG Household & Health Care’s beauty brand The History of Whoo. Lee was also the model of Korean builder GS Engineering and Construction for its flat brand, Xii, for over seven years. She reportedly received over US$650,000 for a one-year contract with them, according to Ten Asia. How Squid Game’s Jung Ho-yeon and Blackpink Jennie became BFFs Her own beauty line, Lya Nature After being the face of different beauty brands, Lee decided to create her own beauty line and launched Lya Nature in 2015. Its name comes from her initials. The skin care brand is said to offer 100 per cent botanical products that go through ingredient verification and clinical tests, and has been certified for its safety and efficacy. Even her kids use them, according to Visit Seoul. With the concept of “less is more” to have great and youthful skin , it includes a range of cleansers and creams for the face, body and hair for both adults and children. The soap Jewel in the Palace is one of its most popular products, and is responsible for the brand’s explosive popularity in China, according to K-pop Herald. K-pop entrepreneurs: 5 Korean stars who founded businesses and brands Her boutique for safe children’s products Before her beauty brand, Lee also opened a boutique shop in Seoul in 2013. The actress got the idea of starting a business after she became a mother for the first time in 2011. She did research on children’s clothes and products, and found out that the safest offerings could actually be created with natural ingredients with reasonable prices, compared to more expensive ones on the market, according to The Wall Street Journal . “Because mothers don’t know what these products are, they look to expensive and famous brands,” she said. The idea turned into a shop, also named Lyanature, selling organic and chemical-free children’s clothes and baby skin care at prices ranging between US$18 and US$27 per product. Part of the profits goes to supporting junior schools that Lee and her husband, Jeong Ho-young, have helped build in China and Myanmar, The Wall Street Journal added. Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .