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.