The 10 Highest-Paid South Korean Actors in 2021

It’s no secret that Korean dramas have taken over the world. TV show watchers enjoy the story, the happy moments, the heartbreaking scenes, plot twists that will shake your entire core, and even the sad scenes that make you cry your heart out. 

However, these are not the only factors why people binge-watches these series. It has something to do with the lead stars themselves. The actors and actresses starring in dramas have their loyal fanbase, as well. 

In the competitive film industry of South Korea, we wonder who are the top actors in the game and how much are they paid? 

Below, we listed the top 10 highest-paid South Korean actors! You can also read ‘Money Heist’ Season 4 Recap by click here,

10. Ji Chang-wook

$50,300/episode

Before his onscreen debut, Ji Chang-wook started his career in the field of musical theatre. In 2006, he made his television debut with the film Days… and a minor role in the 2008 television drama You Stole My Heart. His official onscreen debut is Sleeping Beauty (2008). 

He starred in various hit series and is well-known for his lead roles in Warrior Baek Dong-soo (2011), Empress Ki (2013–2014), Healer (2014–2015), The K2 (2016), Suspicious Partner (2017), Melting Me Softly (2019), Backstreet Rookie (2020), and Lovestruck in the City (2020).

9. Lee Jong-suk

$50,300/episode

Lee Jong-suk began modeling at the tender age of 15. He walked at the 2005 Seoul Collection walkway, making him the youngest to walk the Seoul Collection program runway at Seoul Fashion Week. 

He walked in numerous fashion shows and even trained as an idol group member for three months. However, he quit his agency after they broke their promised acting debut for Lee. In middle school, he took part in a selection for actors at the SBS TV station. 

His breakout role was  School 2013 (2012) and his career catapulted in his roles in I Can Hear Your Voice (2013), Doctor Stranger (2014), Pinocchio (2014), W (2016), While You Were Sleeping (2017), The Hymn of Death (2018) and Romance Is a Bonus Book (2019).

8. Song Joong-ki

$50,300/episode

Song Joong-ki’s acting debut was in 2008 in the film A Frozen Flower. Before becoming the star that he is today, he starred in small but notable roles in Believe in the Moment, Triple, and Will it Snow for Christmas?, and even became a regular host for KBS’ Friday music program Music Bank from 2009 to 2010. 

His breakout role was in the historical drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal, where he played an 18th-century Joseon-era rich playboy. His popularity peaked and he is most known for his lead roles in television series The Innocent Man (2012), Descendants of the Sun (2016), Arthdal Chronicles (2019), and Vincenzo (2021), as well as the hit films A Werewolf Boy (2012), The Battleship Island (2017) and Space Sweepers (2021).

7. Yoo Ah-in

$59,000/ episode

Yoo Ah-in (born Uhm Hong-sik) was scouted by a casting agent on the streets right outside his school in Daegu. He traveled to Seoul and began living by himself. He was enrolled in Seoul Arts High School but he soon dropped out due to his broadcast activities. After having completed his GED for high school certification, he entered  Dankuk University and Konkuk University. 

Before his acting debut, he trained to be an idol. He is best known for his lead roles in coming-of-age film Punch (2011), melodrama Secret Affair (2014), action blockbuster Veteran (2015), period drama The Throne (2015), historical television series Six Flying Dragons (2015-2016), psychological thriller mystery drama Burning (2018), and zombie film #Alive (2020).

6. Lee Seung-gi

$59,000/ episode

Lee Seung-gi is an all-in-one package. He is a singer, actor, and entertainer, all in one talented man. At the age of 17, he trained to be a singer and debuted with a popular ballad song “Because You’re My Girl.” Soon after, in 2005, he started his on-screen appearance in sitcom Nonstop 5 and officially debuted as an actor in KBS’s 2006 weekend drama The Infamous Chil Sisters. 

In the coming years, he continued to switch between being an actor, singer, and an entertaining host. He was a busy man and is well-known for his roles in  Brilliant Legacy (2009), My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho (2010), The King 2 Hearts (2012), Gu Family Book (2013), You’re All Surrounded (2014), A Korean Odyssey (2017–2018), Vagabond (2019), and Mouse (2021).

5. Lee Min-ho

$62,000/ episode

Lee Min-ho started auditioning and eventually landed minor roles in television dramas such as Nonstop 5 and Recipe of love. His official acting debut was in the EBS series, Secret Campus. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious car crash in 2006 with fellow actor Jung Il-woo and bedridden for months. 

The good news is he recovered and he appeared in various television dramas and movies. His breakthrough came in 2009 with his lead role in KBS’ Boys Over Flowers. He is best known for his roles in Personal Taste (2010), City Hunter (2011), The Heirs (2013), Legend of the Blue Sea (2016), and The King: Eternal Monarch (2020). 

4. So Ji-sub

$67,100/ episode

So Ji-sub started his career as a model for the jeans brand STORM in 1995. He made his acting debut in the sitcom Three Guys and Three Girls and also starred in the television drama Model. 

Throughout the late 1990s and early 200s, he landed small roles and quickly gained popularity in 2002 as the second male lead in Glass Slippers. His first lead role was in the time travel historical drama Thousand Years of Love. His breakout role was in the melodrama I’m Sorry, I Love You. 

He is best known for his lead roles in What Happened in Bali (2004), I’m Sorry, I Love You (2004), Cain and Abel (2009), Phantom (2012), Master’s Sun (2013), and Oh My Venus (2015–16) as well as the film Rough Cut (2008).

3. Jo In-sung

$67,100/ episode

Jo In-sung first appeared in the entertainment industry as a model for clothing brand Ziozia in 1998. His acting career began in 1999 through the MBC sitcom Jump and he starred in the teen drama School 3 and on the second season of the sitcom Nonstop in 2000. In 2001, he made his film debut with Public Toilet. 

His breakthrough film was the 2004 What Happened in Bali. He is well-known for his roles in That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013), and It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014), as well as the films The Classic (2003), A Dirty Carnival (2006), A Frozen Flower (2008), The King (2017) and The Great Battle (2018).

2. Hyun Bin

$83,900/episode

Hyun Bin’s first film was in 2002 Shower. However, due to lack of funding, the film was never released. Eventually, he debuted as an actor in 2003 with the television series Bodyguard and starred in the sitcom Nonstop 4 and romance drama Ireland. His popularity rose in the 2005 rom-com series My Lovely Sam Soon. 

Hyun Bin is well-known for his lead roles in  Secret Garden (2010–2011), Memories of the Alhambra (2018–2019), Crash Landing on You (2019–2020), Confidential Assignment (2017), The Swindlers (2017), and The Negotiation (2018) as well as the zombie horror Rampant (2018).

1. Kim Soo-hyun

Highest-Paid South Korean Actors

$84,000/ episode

Kim Soo-hyun was an introverted child and to overcome that, his mother recommended that he attend acting classes. He realized he wanted to be an actor during his middle school and high school years. 

Kim started with a supporting role in the 2007 family sitcom Kimchi Cheese Smile. His first lead role was in 2008 with KBS’s Jungle Fish. He became popular when he starred in the 2011 teen musicals drama Dream High and his breakthrough was with the Moon Embracing the Sun in 2012. 

He is best known for his roles in Dream High (2011), Moon Embracing the Sun (2012),  It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020), and is set to star in the thriller drama One Ordinary Day (2021). He also starred in top-grossing films The Thieves (2012) and Secretly, Greatly (2013),

 

More Stories
Top Korean Dramas (2020 Ratings)