The Shocking Difference In What Idols Get Paid In South Korea VS Japan

The Shocking Difference In What Idols Get Paid In South Korea VS Japan

The disparity in appearance fees between Korean and Japanese entertainment industries has always been a subject of whispers within the industry. However, it recently took center stage when Kim Jaejoong, a Korean artist with a significant following in Japan, discussed the stark differences on a Japanese variety show.

Jaejoong is no stranger to the entertainment scenes in both Korea and Japan. Having debuted as part of the wildly popular K-Pop group TVXQ!, he enjoyed phenomenal success, which didn’t wane even after his departure from the group. Jaejoong’s solo career in Japan has been marked by a series of sold-out tours and chart-topping albums, indicating his enduring popularity. Thus, his insights into the pay disparity come from a place of extensive experience and understanding of both markets.

During Jaejoong’s recent variety show appearance, a Japanese cast member broached what they acknowledged might be “a slightly unpleasant topic,” asking about the differences in appearance fees in South Korean shows as opposed to Japanese ones. Jaejoong’s response was candid and eye-opening.

Jaejoong during his variety show appearance. | Osen

He explained that the production costs, including staff wages, are inherently higher in Korea.

K-Dramas, as well as K-Movies, Korean varieties, and commercials, offer a much higher pay rate. It’s about 9 times higher in Korea, in general.

— Jaejoong

Jaejoong with fans in Tokyo. | @jj_1986_jj/Instagram

Why is there such a significant gap? The reasons could be manifold. South Korea’s entertainment industry is known for its high production values and profitability, especially given the global K-Wave phenomenon that sees Korean cultural products in high demand. This international success could be driving up the fees within the country. In contrast, Japan’s market, while large and influential, has a more domestic focus, possibly leading to more conservative fee structures.

TWICE’s Nayeon and Jihyo promoted their solo debuts in South Korea. | @twicestagram/Instagram Meanwhile, TWICE’s MISAMO unit promoted their debut in Japan. | Vogue Japan

The financial implications of this pay disparity are profound. Korean idols, who often train for years and work tirelessly, can see their efforts compensated more generously within their home country. In contrast, their Japanese counterparts may not see the same level of financial reward, despite similar levels of dedication and talent.

While Jaejoong’s comment drew laughter from his fellow cast members, it could underscore a serious issue within the entertainment industry: the fair valuation of art and artists across different markets.

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