13 of the Highest Paid K-Drama Actresses and What They Earn
In the United States, it’s pretty well-known how much TV actors make, and there are lists everywhere enumerating the highest paid TV actors of all time, topped by actors like Charlie Sheen, who earned 1.8 million USD per episode of “Two and a Half Men” (2003-2015), and Ray Romano, at 1.7 million USD per episode towards the end of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996-2005).
Among the women on the list are Helen Hunt, who earned 1 million USD per episode of “Mad About You” (1992-1999) and Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow from the cast of “Friends” (1994-2004), all of whom (including the guys from the cast) also earned 1 million USD per episode towards the end of the sitcom.
Of course, these actors are at the upper end of the spectrum on an all-time list; many TV actors earn just a fraction of these actors, and these figures are for the United States.
In 2015, an actress will bring in about 50 billion won (approx. 42 million USD) in sales in the industry. Korean media outlet Ilgan Sports put together a list of Korea’s top actresses’ earnings per episode after consulting with drama production companies, broadcasting company producers, management staff members, and other specialists in the entertainment industry.
Park Shin Hye and Moon Chae Won enter the list with earnings of roughly 25 million won (approx. 21,000 USD) per episode. Park Shin Hye especially, with the highly popular drama “Pinocchio” under her belt, is predicted to see a rise in her per episode pay.
Park Bo Young hiked up her price tag to 30 million won (approx. 25,000 USD) due to her recent return to television being her first in seven years. She used to be the highest paid tvN actress before Choi Ji Woo.
Gong Hyo Jin receives slightly less than 40 million won (approx. 33,400 USD). Her per episode earnings for the drama “Producer” were a bit short compared to her previous drama “It’s Okay, It’s Love.”
Kim Tae Hee, currently filming the popular SBS drama “Yong Pal,” receives 40 million won (approx. 33,400 USD) per episode. She lowered her fee ever so slightly due to the lackluster response for her previous drama, “Jang Ok Jung, Lives in Love.”
The next on the list is Song Hye Kyo. She is in the center of the Hallyu wave in China and is currently working with writer Kim Eun Sook. Since Song Hye Kyo’s appearance in “That Winter, the Wind Blows,” she has maintained earnings per episode of over 50 million won (approx. 41,800 USD).
Most recently, Choi Ji Woo signed on with a tvN drama for 50 million won (approx. 41,800 USD), a record in tvN history. Since the broadcasting company’s inception nine years ago, she has become the highest paid actress, knocking Park Bo Young to the number two spot. She is able to receive even higher pay because it is her first cable drama appearance in 21 years.
Ha Ji Won also maintains her title as the “Drama Queen,” likewise receiving 50 million won (approx. 41,800 USD) for her appearance in her latest drama, “The Time We Were Not in Love.”
Lee Young Ae and Jun Ji Hyun top the list as the highest paid actresses in Korea. Since drama appearances from them are rare, they’re highly sought after with a premium price tag. Lee Young Ae, best known for her wildly popular work “Jewel in the Palace” (2003), is set to star in the upcoming drama “Saimdang, the Herstory,” her long-awaited 12-year comeback to television. Hong Kong’s Emperor Entertainment Korea (EEK) is investing 10 billion won (approx. 10 million USD) in the drama, which speaks volumes of Lee Young Ae’s popularity in China.
Jun Ji Hyun continues to enjoy explosive popularity from her most recent drama “My Love from the Star” (2013). The popularity of her character on the show even brought about the term “Chun Song Yi Economics,” which describes the phenomena of her popularity and her earning power. As previously reported, her pay per episode is about 100 million won (approx. 83,500 USD). Most recently the actress starred in the movie “Assassination,” which drew 10 million moviegoers.
*Edit: Updated with actresses Park Shin Hye, Moon Chae Won, and Shin Min Ah.