40 is the new 20: how top-earning K-drama stars Song Hye-kyo, Son Ye-jin, CF Queen Kim Tae-hee and Jun Ji-hyun became richer, fiercer and more successful with age

Is 40 the new 20? K-drama stars Jun Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo certainly prove it is. Photos: Alexander McQueen, My Sassy Girl, Autumn in My Heart and Chaumet
Some of us might dread the big four-oh, assuming that passing the milestone birthday will mean having to take things slow from then on. And while plenty of people do end up chilling out, others just become fiercer, richer and more successful with age – like these South Korean stars. Jun Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo prove 40 really is the new 20 in our youth-obsessed culture.

Here’s a closer look at the some of the top-earning K-drama stars and their staggering careers and net worths (sourced from Celebrity Net Worth, Korean media reports and previous STYLE stories).

Why were these K-pop and K-drama stars exempted from military service?

Jun Ji-hyun, turned 40 on October 30

Estimated net worth: US$6 million

Jun Ji-hyun when she was 20 versus now at the age of 40. Photos: My Sassy Girl and Alexander McQueen
Jun Ji-hyun started out as a commercial model and K-drama actress. After her debut film White Valentine in 1999, she quickly became popular among local Korean audiences and became even more well known with 2002’s My Sassy Girl. Her latest series, Jirisan, is currently showing on iQiyi.
Over the years, the My Love From the Star and Legend of The Blue Sea actress became known as a fashion goddess with edgy looks only she could pull off. That might explain why she caught the attention of several luxury houses. In 2020, Jun was appointed as Alexander McQueen’s first ever Korean ambassador.

She is also married to Choi Joon-hyuk, a banker, and welcomed two boys in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

Meet Ahn Bo-hyun, star of My Name and Yumi’s Cells

Song Hye-kyo, turns 40 on November 22

Estimated net worth: US$31 million

Descendants of the Sun actress Song Hye-kyo at 20 versus now at 40. Photos: Autumn in My Heart and Chaumet
Back in 1996, Song Hye-kyo made her first appearance as a model for a uniform company and then landed a role in TV drama First Love. Needless to say, we still re-watch some of the K-drama queen’s iconic films and shows such as Autumn In My Heart, Full House and Descendants of the Sun. Song might have another megahit series in the making, too – the upcoming Now, We Are Breaking Up, which marks her return to the screen after almost two years.

Growing older hasn’t stopped Song from living life to the fullest – despite her reported strict diet and workout plan. She has also won the hearts of luxury brands such as Chaumet, Fendi, Sulwhasoo and more. Now that’s what we call goals.

Son Ye-jin, turns 40 in January 11, 2022

Estimated net worth: US$20 million

Son Ye-jin at 20 versus now at 40. Photo: Kstarslive, Crash Landing on You
Son Ye-jin has been active in the film and television industry since 2000. Lovers’ Concerto and The Classic were two big films that marked her early success. In just a few years time, she quickly became one of the highest-paid Korean actresses in the country. We are also eagerly awaiting her new series Thirty Nine in 2022 after her long break after the hit Crash Landing on You.

As we all know, Son’s career has skyrocketed throughout the years. She also found her partner Hyun-bin during the filming of globally hit romance drama Crash Landing on You. The couple’s relationship was being revealed earlier this year by Dispatch. Although we are three months away from Son’s birthday, it is obvious that she has become fiercer, richer and even more successful with age.

Meet Park Hee-soon, the man who plays My Name’s all-powerful drug boss

Kim Tae-hee turned 41 on March 29

Estimated net worth: US$16 million

CF Queen Kim Tae-hee at 20 versus now at 40. Photos: Soompi and @kimtaehee99/Instagram
At the age of 20, Kim Tae-hee was scouted by an advertising agency for a modelling job, and she later acted in K-dramas. After the success of the show Stairway to Heaven, she earned the title of “CF Queen” due to her TV various successful commercial appearances. In recent years, her appearance in the series Hi Bye, Mama! touched our hearts with its the tear-jerking scenes.
Rain and Kim Tae-hee are known as one of the richest celebrity couples in South Korea. Photo: Handout
In 2017, Kim married one of South Korea’s biggest actors Rain (Jung Ji-hoon) and started a family a few months later. Together, they are known as one of the richest celebrity couples in Korea, owning high-value properties and buildings in Seoul, California and more.
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  • Song Hye-kyo scored deals with luxury brands Chaumet, Fendi and Sulwhasoo, while Jun Ji-hyun was appointed Alexander McQueen’s first ever Korean ambassador
  • Crash Landing on You’s Son Ye-jin is set to star in Thirty Nine in 2022, while Kim Tae-hee and K-pop legend Rain are known as one of Korea’s richest celebrity couples