K-Dramas and K-Movies are, right alongside K-Pop, becoming more popular among international viewers. With that, Korean celebrities starring in these large-scale TV series get paid in millions.
Actor Lee Byung Hun, soon to return to K-Drama for the first time in 9 years in the upcoming tvN series Mister Sunshine, signed the role for 150,000,000 Korean won (approximately 140,000 US dollars) per episode. As the show is scheduled to air for 24 episodes, Lee Byung Hun will be making 3,600,000,000 Korean won (3.2 million US dollars) from this program alone.
The cost to hire actor Lee Jong Suk also averages around $120~140K per episode. Lee Jong Suk is estimated to have earned minimum 3.4 million dollars from his previous 32-episode 2017 K-Drama While You Were Sleeping.
For one of the most controversial TV series of 2017, A Korean Odyssey, singer turned actor Lee Seung Gi is said to have received about $120~140K per episode as well. Even though the program lost a lot of viewers amidst staff accidents and lawsuits involving the production, Lee Seung Gi earned close to 2.1 million dollars from his appearance in 20 episodes.
Actors like Hyun Bin and Park Bo Gum also receive the higher end of the average male actor’s pay rate. For his upcoming 2018 K-Drama Memories of the Alhambra, Hyun Bin is estimated to receive at least $90K per episode.
Park Bo Gum is projected to receive at least $90K per episode as well, for his next K-Drama called The Boyfriend, which also stars Song Hye Kyo.
Especially with the rise of Netflix in Korea, it is now possible to produce blockbuster-scale K-Dramas and K-Movies and the competition to cast is fierce. While these numbers sound out-of-this-world, K-Drama production companies claim it’s “worth the money” to pay these actors to star in their shows.
By signing with Korea’s hottest actors, production receives as much as 38 million dollars (in case of Mister Sunshine) to support the creation of the show. A strong cast also guarantees good export opportunities, product placements, and sponsorships.