Actress Ko Hyun-jung was apparently paid W55 million per episode of the SBS TV drama "President" which aired last year, setting a new record for a Korean actress (US$1=W1,085). The previous record was held by Choi Ji-woo's W48 million per episode of "Star's Lover" back in 2008.
According to industry sources, Ko received a total of W1.3 billion for the entire series of "President," including extra pay for outdoor scenes. Before filming "President," Ko's previous record fee was W35 million for each episode of "H.I.T." shown on MBC in 2007.
The W55 million Ko was paid is three times the ceiling of W15 million per episode set by the Corea Drama Production Association back in 2007. But CODA left 13 so-called Korean Wave stars -- Bae Yong-joon, Jang Dong-gun, Lee Byung-hun, Song Seung-hun, Rain, Jung Woo-sung, Kwon Sang-woo, Won Bin, So Ji-sub, Choi Ji-woo, Lee Young-ae, Song Hye-kyo and Park Yong-ha -- as exceptions because their shows are so successful abroad as to justify an extra incentive. Ko, however, did not fall under the category.
There have been persistent complaints that stars are paid too much, forcing producers to opt for safe formulas and skimp on other expenses. According to one report in 2008, Song Seung-hun was paid W70 million per episode of "East of Eden," while Kwon Sang-woo and Park Shin-yang received W50 million per episode of "Bad Love" and "The Painter of Wind," respectively. The all-time record is held by Bae Yong-joon, who was paid W250 million per episode of "Taewangsasingi (The Four Guardian Gods of the King)" on MBC, including additional pay based on ratings and overseas sales.