Koreans Can’t Comprehend Why Actors Are Paid So Much

“The world has gone crazy! While some are struggling because they have no money…”

Anticipation has been rising for the upcoming Korean drama Mr. Sunshine as it gets nearer to its release date.

The first episode of the drama is scheduled to air on July 7, 2018.


One of the many reasons the drama is receiving so much attention is its huge production cost, which is estimated to be about $36 million USD.

Moreover, the drama is a collaboration between the producers of the hit drama Descendants of the Sun and Goblin, and is also scheduled to be released internationally through Netflix.


The lead actor, Lee Byung Hun, will be making an appearance in a Korean drama for the first time in 9 years since Iris in 2009. Despite this big gap, due to his increasing fame, broadcast affiliates have reported that he was probably paid at least $180,000 USD per episode.

With a total of 24 episodes, this means that Lee Byung Hun will have made approximately $4.3 million USD by the time he is finished filming the series.


With the rise in the popularity of K-dramas worldwide in addition to the introduction of Netflix in the Korean market, the production costs, as well as the amount actors are getting paid, have been on the rise.

With the exception of Bae Yong Jun, who made a record $225,000 USD per episode back in 2007 for appearing on the drama The Legend, Song Seung Heon and Jang Dong Gun were one of the first actors to get paid $90,000 USD per episode through My Princess and A Gentleman’s Dignity in 2011. Lee Jong Suk and Lee Seung Ki were both paid roughly $110,000 USD per episode on While You Were Sleeping and A Korean Odyssey in 2017. Other top stars who were paid over $90,000 USD per episode included Lee Young Ae in Saimdangi, Memoir of Colors and Ji Chang Wook in The K2. 


It seems that Lee Byung Hun’s pay for the upcoming drama was determined through this trend of rising salaries as well as his international fame.

The drama, which was planned from the beginning to target the international market, will be broadcast worldwide through Netflix.


Meanwhile, many Korean netizens have been critical of the amount actors are being paid and just don’t seem to understand why they are being paid so much.

  • “Even though their top actors who are extremely famous, I think their pay is just too much. The amount they get paid for each episode is higher than the salary of an employee of a conglomerate. No wonder the income structure of Korea is like this…”
  • “They should get paid moderately…this is too much…”
  • “There are so many other actors who don’t even get paid $9,000  a year…even if they’re big stars it seems unfair. Are they really worth it?”
  • “This isn’t right…”
  • “The world has gone crazy! While some are struggling because they have no money…”


Some netizens have also pointed out that they should give more to the staff who work just as hard as the actors.

  • “Give more to the staff who are always working so hard. Did they save the world or something? My goodness;;;”
  • “The staff are getting paid so little since they pay so much to those actors per episode…and the production cost is set so…”
  • “I wonder if the staff even get paid or not.”
  • “I heard the staff is only getting paid minimum wage and struggling. Give them some benefits too.”


Many others, on the other hand, have expressed their views that the amount actors are getting paid reflect their abilities.

  • “They’re getting their ability’s worth. It’s not a matter of the pay is high or not.”
  • “Getting paid that much is appropriate. Even if they reduce the pay for actors, it doesn’t mean the pay for the staff will go up…The investors take it all.”
  • “I don’t understand why everyone is talking about the pay. Our country is a capitalist state, not a socialist one!”
Source: Hankook Ilbo, Nate and Yonhap News