Song Hye Kyo paid less than Song Joong Ki and Kim Soo Hyun? Is it gender discrimination?

Experts in the industry have revealed their insights on the pay gap between Korean male actors and actresses, drawing huge attention. 

A sad fact in the Korean showbiz is that male actors are paid significantly more than their female counterparts. In fact, the average pay gap between male and female in Korea is about 34.1%, according to a report by The Korea Herald, making for the largest gap among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

song hye kyo

In addition, there have been cases where male actors were paid up to five times higher than their female co-stars, according to an article on Wikitree. 

In the Korean entertainment industry, it is challenging to find a top female actress who earns over 100 million won per episode. Meanwhile, the average salary of A-list male stars has reached 200 million won per episode, which is double the amount. 

Many male stars receive sky-high salaries, and Kim Soo Hyun is one of them.

Take Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki for example. Song Hye Kyo has been in the industry longer than Song Joong Ki and has starred in more famous works. However, the current appearance fee of the actress is still significantly lower than that of her former husband. Compared to Kim Soo Hyun, who boasts the highest appearance fee, the payment Song Hye Kyo seems even more inferior.

This stark gap was pointed out by reporter Ahn Jin Yong from Munhwa Ilbo, who delved into this topic in a video on Korean actors and actresses’ payments in 2023.

In particular, the reporter mentioned that Song Hye Kyo was paid 200 million won per episode for her role in “The Glory”. Meanwhile, the producers of “Vincenzo” spent 300 million won per episode to recruit Song Joong Ki. As for Kim Soo Hyun, the actor was paid up to 500 million won per episode for his appearance in “One Ordinary Day”. He also stressed that normally, “actresses receive less than actors”.

Song Hye Kyo’s appearance fee is significantly lower than Song Joong Ki’s.

According to an insider in the entertainment industry, the difference in appearance fee comes from the script content and the actors’ profitability. Many scripts nowadays focus more on the male leads rather than female characters. This has led to male actors being paid more, as they take on more significant roles compared to their female colleagues in the same project.

Moreover, producers also consider the reputation of the stars. Historically, Korean male actors have been considered more impactful, with stronger international fanbases, compared to their female counterparts, who often have public backing. Thus, dramas and movies are often easier to sell and generate more profits if there are fan-favorite male actors. As a result, many producers favor male actors and are willing to pay enormous amounts of money to invite them.

Of course, the element of gender discrimination is also a likely factor when it comes to such an enormous pay gap. 

Source: Hankyung, The Korea Herald, Munhwa Ilbo

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