Lee Young Ae and Jeon Ji Hyun Top the List of Actress Salaries in K-dramas

As a drama viewer I would prefer to talk about the substance of the work, but the reality is that so much involving the production itself impacts the quality onscreen. If all the production budget goes to paying the two leads, where’s the money to spend on realistic set pieces and paying the rest of the cast to gamely do their share of the work? If more drama watchers are women and watching for the incredibly charismatic male leads, hopefully we’re also cheering on the female leads to end up with well-written characters and get treated with the same level of respect and compensation.

Kim Tae Hee‘s salary of 40 million won per episode in Yongpal has people talking all because she’s spent almost all her screen time so far laying in a bed sleeping. Her going rate was already at that level back in the Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love days, but back then she really earned her paycheck by acting her pants off. Which gets to the latest article making the rounds in discussing the drama salaries of the top actresses in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the two ladies making the most moolah to do a drama are Lee Young Ae and Jeon Ji Hyun, both got or are getting 100 million won per episode. Rounding out the top five after that are Song Hye Kyo, Choi Ji Woo, and Ha Ji Won – each makes 50 million won per episode of a drama.

Lee Young Ae is getting paid 100 million won per episode to come out of semi-retirement and do Saimdong: The Herstory after a decade away from television, while Jeon Ji Hyun was lured back to You From Another Star after an even longer hiatus with the same top salary of 100 million won per episode.

Song Hye Kyo is getting paid 50 million won per episode for Descendants of the Sun, and got close to that amount for That Winter, the Wind Blows. Choi Ji Woo makes the same amount for upcoming tvN drama Second Time Twenty Years Old. Same goes for Ha Ji Won in doing the In Time With You K-remake The Time I Loved You.

Kim Tae Hee reportedly got paid higher than 40 million won per episode for Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love, but due to the low ratings of JOJ her salary of 40 million won per episode in Yongpal is actually her accepting a lower rate to do the drama. Same goes with Gong Hyo Jin, her going rate is slightly above 40 million won per episode but she took a salary cut for both It’s Okay, It’s Love and Producer in order to do dramas that she felt strongly about.

Park Bo Young is getting paid 30 million won per episode to do Oh My Ghost, and same for Park Shin Hye when she did Pinocchio.

Rounding out the top ten actress salaries in dramas are Suzy and Yoona, both make 20 million won per episode in their last dramas, Suzy doing Gu Family Book and Yoona for Prime Minister and I, which is pretty insane considering these two are idols first and foremost.


Lee Young Ae and Jeon Ji Hyun Top the List of Actress Salaries in K-dramas — 30 Comments

  1. I’m curious how much they pay writers.

    I think, among the acting-writing-directing triangle, writing has largest effect and potential to buoy or sink a drama. Theoretically this should take higher precedence, right? But I doubt they value writers much… 🙁

    • The lack of value placed on writers is not unique to K Dramas though. An excerpt from Felicia Day’s (excellent) memoirs “I had … made connections with “Hollywood insiders.” Most of them were screenwriters, which I later found out are the most useless connections you can have (only LA valets get treated worse than LA writers)”

    • That is what i believe also. even compared to directors, For me writers will always take precedence, more so in dramas than movies. The storyline would always take me in rather than the actors invol ed or how it is shows.
      Always find it unnerving that even during presscon tha main actors and the director get their time to introduce the material while writers dont get much limelight.
      i have my share of fave actors but i do hope directors and especially writers get ther fair share of the cake much like these actors/actresses.But as salaries goes, i am happy for the ladies who are getting these salaries, i think most of them deserve it if we are talking about talent, except for suzy and yoona. I think the reason for thwir high salary would be popularity rather than talent cause if it were acting chops there are more deserving actresses out there.

      Wonder if anyone is wooing jeon do yeon to come back to dramaland? And i am gueesing basing from her acclaim in acting she is as much valued at 100million won or higher.

    • I’m curious too. I bet it’ll be lower than the actors and directors. But one thing, writers can lure actors. Big names of writers like Hong Sisters, Kim Soo Hyun, Lee Kyung Hee, Noh Hee Kyung, HITTG&SLA writer, etc. Actors put writers into consideration before choosing a project. It’s not a guarantee the show will be a success, but at least they know what kind of drama they’re going into.

    • The truth is that the treatment writers get in Korea is actually one of the best in MANY countries already. In countries like China, Japan, even USA and UK shows writers get almost zero recognition for their efforts. I mean, writers like Kim Eun Sook, Hong sisters are actually really popular and get a lot of respect and admiration for their works. Compared to China, where screenwriters get almost no acknowledgement (the only popular, celebrated screenwriter I can think of at the top of my head is Tong Hua, and even she was first recognized for writing books), and for UK/USA no one really gives a shit about who wrote which shows. Guess it kinda sucks to be a screenwriter

      • Really? In UK/US tv, the writer is the FIRST thing people check for, when they check for tv series, they get an incredible amount of press and some even have cult fandoms who will watch any show they write no matter what the premise.

        Or are you really trying to say that people like Steven Moffat, Matt Weiner, Joss Whedon, Tina Fey, Shonda Rhimes, etc are considered insignificant within their industries? Please.

  2. I hope the reveal the list for males soon so fangirls can stop whining about how much these actress are making when they aren’t even good actors. Very sure your oppa won’t deserve his share of the budget either.

    As far as I am concerned, they get paid for how much their brand value is worth. Very much like how much money you’ll have to pay to open a mcdonals or your own tuck shop. I have no problem with this.

    The people at fault are those in the production house, if you can’t afford them and pay the rest of the things off then don’t bite off more than you can chew.

    • That kind of reasoning doesn’t work anymore when ratings are almost universally in the crapper. Sure, there are exceptions–Jeon Ji-hyun clearly pulled her own weight in getting YFAS into the 40s–but I guarantee the majority of these top stars (actors as well as actresses) are not worth the amount their paid, in terms of branding (let alone ability). I think it’s safe to guess Yongpal’s recent success has a lot less to do with Kim Tae-hee’s presence, and a lot more to do with the fact that it actually entertains some honest storytelling ambitions, unlike everything else on these days. There’s a reason why good dramas like Punch and Grapevine actually had decent ratings (by today’s standards), whereas supposedly trendy star vehicles are flopping like mad, despite paying big bucks to get big names.

      That being said, I agree, clearly it’s not their fault that they’re paid such an exorbitant amount while bringing very little to the table themselves. It’s the industry’s. But it is a huge problem that negatively effects the livelihoods of a ton of people lower on the totem pole, and anyone who thinks it’s not is kidding themselves.

      • trendy star indeed doesn’t always generate good ratings but some of them still has influence overseas for example in china. Pinocchio didn’t generate good ratings but it sold to china for more than $250.000 per episode because of LJS and PSH plus a decent story.
        some of the actors/actress also bring lot of sponsor to help the production costs.
        but then again star power sometimes not enough to save the drama even I heard that hyun bin and song hye kyo refused the pay check when the production couldn’t afford to pay the crew and other cast

      • What are you talking about, Pinocchio had excellent ratings by today’s standards, and even its average rating was in 2 digits. It was a success both in Korea and abroad.

    • I’ve read recently Seong Seung Hun is paid 80 million and he refused A Thousand Days’ Promise which then went to Kim Rae Won for 50 million.

  3. I think park shin hye was only paid 25M from what i read from all other articles and not 30M??You also left out Shin Min Ah who being paid 30M and Moon Chae Won who being paid 25M.

    • Yes I think so

      Pinocchio is already a gem! Pinocchio already has more than100m views on Youku(Chinese site).Pinocchio was sold to China for $280,000USD per ep.that is 8 times more than YWCFAS(sold $35,000USD per ep) and higher than MLG(sold for $200,000USD).Pinocchio is the highest drama sold to China as of now.plus,Pinocchio has become the most searched word on various portal sites in China.many other countries are requesting the right to be sold in their countries.”

    • i believe it’s because of the acting chops and the tendency for the actress to do drama. as far as i concerned, the premium ones; tends to do movie rather than the drama so the drama production of course has to pay them high to headline their drama. for eg. park bo young OMG is her first headline drama in her 8 yrs acting as she’s a movie starlet so of course tvn has to lure her with many factors to bring he to the small screen. kmovie is always on another level

  4. Find it ironic that everyone is having a go at the actresses salary scale per episode but did not even bother to enquire about the actors salary scale which may be double or maybe triple the amount!!
    Anyone have info on the actors salary scale it would be only FAIR and interesting to do a comparision, instead of putting the onus on the actresses being the factor for the high production costs, etc,etc.??

  5. When news articles state so and so actress is being paid $xx per episode, it’s quite misleading.

    Because the money paid includes the salaries of the actress’s entourage, who are there to manage her schedules, styling and logistics, although I’m not sure whether these are considered as part of the agency’s cut of the earnings.

    I definitely respect GHJ for lowering her fees since it means less money is going to her after all these cuts.

    On the other hand, writers are paid less, but all the money goes to them. Unless they have to pay parties to help them conduct background research?

  6. “Gong Hyo Jin, her going rate is slightly above 40 million won per episode but she took a salary cut for both It’s Okay, It’s Love and Producer in order to do dramas that she felt strongly about.”

    This is one of many other reasons why I respect and adore her better than any other actress. She always does non-commercial (indie) movies while for drama, she always choose the non-common/unique one though she has to lowered her payment. And that’s why too I always have high anticipation from any project she would do in future. Always prepare to get surprised by her 😀

  7. I agree Ylang and LC

    Not everyone can get paid a lot to look so beautiful and tragic on TV. Internet trolls are people who would trash any talented actresses out there no matter how hard they work…

    There’s another 20 episodes so KTH still has plenty of screen time on those episodes. That’s what we would call star power. Earn big bucks for each appearance.

    And why nobody complain about the male actors’ pay? It’s double standard to fret about actresses’ pay checks. Look at Charlize Theron who only got similar pay with her male co star when she is an oscar winner after the sony leak

    • Yes Cat…
      They are not getting paid on monthly basis. That’s life. Get paid well and everyone is happy… But oh no, some Internet trolls are out to kill off anybody nice and good just because the actresses get good paychecks…

  8. I don’t like to judge a drama based on the rating. These days people don’t only watch drama on tv and korean are not the only one watching either. So the rating is not that so legit. Also I just wish some of the actress got paid higher. For example Ha Ji Won. She went through so much especially in Empress Ki and I don’t think the time we were not in love is such a big mess. I love that drama esp the relaxed vibe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.