7 of K-drama’s highest-paid stars in 2021 – earnings, ranked: from Now, We Are Breaking Up’s Song Hye-kyo, to One Ordinary Day star Kim Soo-hyun and Squid Game’s Lee Jung-jae

Lee Jung-jae, Song Hye-kyo, Kim Soo-hyun, Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Young-ae are among this year’s top-paid K-drama actors. Photos: Gucci; @kyo1122, @soohyun_k216, @thehistoryofwhoo_official/Instagram; Alexander McQueen

The Korean entertainment industry is enjoying one of its best years thanks to streaming giants like Netflix (hello, Squid Game), Apple TV and even Disney+, which are all competing against each other to deliver Korean content as demand from global viewers rises.

Disney+ will release its first Korean show Snowdrop featuring Blackpink’s Jisoo and Jung Hae-in on December 18, and have announced another four dramas, a Blackpink documentary and a spin-off of variety show Running Man for its 2022 line-up.

And as the popularity of K-drama increases, so do the pay cheques of our favourite Korean small screen stars. If you’re wondering how much your beloved hallyu actors made this year, find out more below …

7 Korean celebrity couples who overcame tough times

Kim Soo-hyun – US$3.4 million

Kim Soo-hyun earned about US$423,000 per episode for his latest drama One Ordinary Day. Photo: @soohyun_k216/Instagram
It should come as no surprise that with his current level of stardom Kim Soo-hyun, who is also known as the “king of commercials”, is able to ask for a whopping 500 million won (US$423,000) per episode for his latest drama One Ordinary Day. With a total of eight episodes, the 33-year-old star takes home around US$3.4 million for the entire season. Kim reportedly does not only star in the show, but he also co-produced it through his management company Gold Medallist and will therefore receive extra in business earnings.

Song Joong-ki – US$3.4 million

South Korean actor Song Joong-ki arrives to attend the Blue Dragon Awards in Seoul, South Korea, on November 26. Photo: AP
Earlier this year, 36-year-old Song Joong-ki delighted fans with his mafia series Vincenzo. The Space Sweepers star earned a staggering 200 million won (US$170,000) per episode and, since the show is 20 episodes long, thus made around US$3.4 million this year for his role in the crime-drama series.

Song Hye-kyo – US$2.7 million

Fendi brand ambassador Song Hye-kyo earned about US$170,000 per episode for Now, We Are Breaking Up. Photo: @kyo1122/Instagram
We promise that putting Song Hye-kyo next on the list was not a deliberate move. For her latest show Now, We Are Breaking Up, KBizoom reports that 40-year-old Song snagged 200 million won (US$170,000) per episode – the same figure as her ex-husband, Song Joong-ki. However, with a total of 16 episodes – four episodes shorter than Vincenzo the Fendi brand ambassador earned slightly less with a total of around US$2.7 million.

29 Korean stars who tested positive for Covid-19, including Blackpink’s Lisa

Jun Ji-hyun – US$2.7 million

Jun Ji-hyun is among highest-paid actresses in South Korea, raking in US$170,000 per episode for Jirisan. Photo: @junjihyun_81/Instagram

Another top-paid Korean actress who made her comeback this year is none other than Jun Ji-hyun for TVN’s Jirisan. In the same report by KBizoom, the 40-year-old star is said to have earned 200 million won (US$170,000) per episode for a total of 16 episodes, leaving her with a cool US$2.7 million pay cheque.

The My Sassy Girl actress also made a jaw-dropping 17 billion won (US$14 million) from starring in 16 advertisements this year, reports the same publication.

Lee Jung-jae – US$2.3 million

Actor Lee Jung-jae attends a special event for the television series Squid Game in Los Angeles, California, on November 8. Photo: Reuters
It’s impossible not to include the record-breaking Squid Game’s star Lee Jung-jae on this list. However, the 48-year-old actor earned a bit less than the other stars on this list. Lee was reportedly paid a handsome 300 million won (US$253,600) per episode, but with only nine episodes in its debut season, Lee took home a modest US$2.2 million. Lucky for him, the Netflix show has been greenlit for a second season.

Lee Young-ae – US$2 million

Actress Lee Young-ae stars in Netflix’s Inspector Koo. Photo: @thehistoryofwhoo_official/Instagram
Starring in Netflix’s Inspector Koo, veteran actress Lee Young-ae is also reportedly earning a similar amount to Song Hye-kyo and Jeon Ji-hyun, reports KBizoom. This means the 50-year-old star is probably earning around 200 million won (US$170,000) per episode, rounding her off with around US$2 million for the 12-episode series.

Lee previously received 100 million won (US$84,575) per episode for 2017’s Saimdang, Memoir of Colors, reports KBizoom.

5 K-pop idols whose siblings are as attractive as they are

Go Hyun-jung – US$1.4 million

Go Hyun-jung earned about US$1.4 million for starring in Reflection of You. Photo: @iokcompany/Instagram

The former Miss Korea runner-up returned to acting with this year’s JTBC’s Reflection of You opposite Shin Hyun-bin and earned an impressive US$1.4 million for the 16-episode series. The 50-year-old actress is believed to have collected more than 100 million won (US$84,575) per episode.

Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
  • From Disney+’s Snowdrop featuring Blackpink’s Jisoo, to Netflix’s Squid Game, demand for streaming K-dramas is on the rise – as are pay cheques for Korean stars
  • Vincenzo’s Song Joong-ki, TVN’s Jirisan star Jun Ji-hyun and Inspector Koo’s Lee Young-ae all raked in a whopping US$170,000 per episode this year