K-pop — more formally known as Korean popular music — as we know it has been around since the ’90s, but its popularity was mostly confined to South Korea and Japan. However, about a decade ago, a certain K-pop music video went viral on YouTube and soon everyone from astronauts to U.N. secretary generals were doing the horse dance and shouting, “Oppa Gangnam Style!” K-pop is huge but only a small handful of hopefuls become idols. Those who make it big, however, earn more than enough to live the high life in Seoul’s prestigious Gangnam District. Here are 20 of the richest K-pop stars according to their USD net worth as estimated by SeoulSpace.
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20. Jungkook (Estimated net worth: $25-30 million)
When most of us in North America think of K-pop, we think of BTS. They’re hugely popular around the globe and are among the world’s richest TikTokers. The band’s youngest member is Jungkook — or Jeon Jung-kook. Jungkook is arguably the most popular member of the band: in fact, he’s been voted several times as one of the most popular celebrities in not only South Korea but in China too. He’s such a trendsetter that he’s nicknamed the “Sold Out King”: even Downy fabric softener sold out after he mentioned that he uses the brand.
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19. Jimin (Estimated net worth: $25-30 million)
Jimin — or Park Ji-min — is another member of BTS. He also has a highly successful career outside of the group: one of his hits is a collaboration with fellow band member Jungkook where he wrote Korean lyrics to “Mistletoe”, a Christmas song by Justin Bieber. Jimin is regularly voted one of the most popular K-pop idols and is highly sought after for endorsements.
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18. RM (Estimated net worth: $25–30 million)
RM — or Kim Nam-joon — is best known as the leader of BTS. He used to have the stage name Rap Monster. In addition to writing hits for BTS, he’s also written GLAM’s LGBTQ+ positive debut single, “Party (XXO)”. One of his first big solo collaborations was with Warren G and he worked on the Korean soundtrack for Fantastic Four as well.
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17. Bae Suzy (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
In 2009, Bae Suzy — or Bae Su-ji — auditioned for a talent competition and while she didn’t make it very far, she was spotted by a scout from JYP Entertainment. The following year, she made her debut as a member of the girl group Miss A. She soon became a sought-after TV and events host and actress and raked in the awards. In 2017, she embarked on a solo career and has since gained wider recognition as an actress with shows like Vagabond and Start-Up. In addition, she’s also one of the most sought-after endorsers in South Korea.
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16. Yoona (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
Yoona — born Im Yoon-ah — made her K-pop debut in 2007, as a member of Girls’ Generation. The same year, she also embarked on what would become an award-winning acting career. She is an ambassador for several organizations and campaigns, including UNICEF’s UNIHERO campaign, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization. She’s also had endorsement deals with several brands, including Innisfree, one of the best Korean skincare brands available in Canada.
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15. BoA (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
BoA — or Kwon Bo-ah — is often called the Queen of K-pop because of her influence. She was discovered when, at 11 years old, she accompanied her brother to an audition. At 13, she released her debut album. She’s been hugely successful in Japan in China too and in 2008, she made her debut in the United States. The following year, she headlined San Francisco Pride and while she isn’t as big in North America as in Asia, she has worked with artists like Westlife, Howie D and Akon. She’s also appeared in movies and on TV, both as actress and as host.
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14. Suga (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
Suga — born Min Yoon-gi — started learning about MIDI and writing his own music by the time he was 13 and by 17, he had a part-time job at a recording studio. It was a given that he’d pursue a career in music and he signed with Big Hit Entertainment as a music producer. However, he soon started training as a performer and after three years he joined BTS. In 2016 he released his first solo mixtape, on which he was candid about his struggles with depression and social phobia. He’s also outspoken about LGBTQ2S+ rights.
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13. J-Hope (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
J-Hope — or Jung Ho-seok — is one of the most well-known members of BTS. Having been with the band since 2013, he made his solo debut in 2018 with his mixtape Hope World. In 2019, his “Chicken Noodle Soup”, featuring Becky G., made him the first BTS member to have a Billboard Hot 100 hit under his own name.
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12. Jessica Jung (Estimated net worth: $35 million)
Jessica Jung was born in San Francisco and spotted by a talent scout while on vacation in South Korea. In 2007, she made her debut as one of the nine members of Girls’ Generation and in 2009, she ventured into musical theatre, with the lead role in a Korean production of one of our favourite movies from the 2000s, Legally Blonde. She’s since embarked on a successful solo and acting career; her first novel, Shine, is a bestseller; and she owns a restaurant in Seoul.
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11. Dara (Estimated net worth: $35 million)
Dara — or Sandara Park — had a different road to fame than most K-pop idols. She first made it big in the Philippines when she competed in a talent show there and had a successful singing and acting career by the time she returned to South Korea in 2007. She was signed by YG Entertainment and in 2009, she made her K-pop debut as a member of girl group 2NE1. She has appeared in numerous movies, TV shows and reality shows in both South Korea and the Philippines and has endorsement deals in both countries. She also focuses her philanthropic efforts — including a donation of 30,000 face masks to protect children with leukemia and pediatric cancer from Covid-19 — on both the country of her birth and the one she grew up in.
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10. T.O.P. (Estimated net worth: $40 million)
T.O.P. — or Choi Seung-hyun — comes from a proudly artistic family: his great-uncle was abstract artist Kim Whanki. Already a successful underground rapper, he was initially rejected by record label YG Entertainment. He returned to the record company six months later and he was signed, becoming a member of Big Bang. In 2007, he embarked on a solo career and ventured into acting. His mandatory military service was mired in controversy for his weed use and suspected benzodiazepine overdose but he’s also known for his philanthropy.
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9. Taeyang (Estimated net worth: $40 million)
Taeyang — real name Dong Young-bae — made his debut as another one of the members of Big Bang. His stage names means “sun” in Korean and when he performs in Japan, he uses the name “SOL”. He kicked off his solo career in 2008. The singer, who started his career in entertainment to help out his family financially, partnered with Fendi to design an exclusive collection and also has an endorsement deal with car manufacturer Lexus.
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8. Lee Hyori (Estimated net worth: $45 million)
Lee Hyori — born Lee Hyo-ri — comes from a poor background, having grown up in a small barbershop. After being expelled from school, she worked part-time in a restaurant, where she was scouted by a talent agent. Her K-pop debut came in 1998, when she was 19, as part of girl group Fin.K.L. Five years later, she embarked on a solo career and in 2005, she made her acting debut. Among her endorsement deals was commercial for K-beauty brand Isa Knox, alongside Jessica Alba, shot in one of Canada’s most beautiful cities to live in: Vancouver.
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7. IU (Estimated net worth: $50 million)
When Lee Ji-eun chose a stage name, she combined the letters I and U ("I" and "you") to say that we all become one through music. She released her debut mini album at age 15: at the time, she said that she loved going to the studio because she could eat as much as she wanted and have a place to sleep, which was a far cry from the impoverished conditions at home. Three years later, the hit single “Good Day” made her a star. She has dominated the K-pop charts ever since, has a successful acting career and makes a lot of money through endorsement deals. IU is giving back, though, with various philanthropic efforts. She was one of Korea’s most generous celebrities during Covid-19, donating protective clothing to healthcare workers.
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6. Choi Si-won (Estimated net worth: $55 million)
While Choi Si-won — also simply called Siwon — was training to become a singer, he started acting in Korean TV shows. His music career started when he became one of the 12 members of boy band Super Junior. He also has a very successful career in Asian movies, including a role alongside Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody in 2015's Dragon Blade. Siwon was the first K-pop star to have three million followers on Twitter. While his riches are self-earned, he also comes from a very wealthy family who owns one of South Korea’s largest supermarket chains.
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5. Rain (Estimated net worth: $60 million)
Rain — real name Jung Ji-hoon — was one of the first K-Pop idols to make it big in North America. Performing at the closing ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics helped raise his international profile even further. It’s not only for his music that he’s famous, though: Rain made his English-language movie debut in the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer and his starring role in Ninja Assassin landed him an MTV award: making him the first Korean to receive one. He also had his own clothing line and has his own entertainment company.
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4. G-Dragon (Estimated net worth: $60 million)
G-Dragon — born Kwon Ji-yong — only needs a few million more to become one of the world’s richest rappers. His career started at the age of six and from eight to 13, he was a trainee in the K-pop star-making machine. The music of Wu-Tang Clan inspired him to pursue rap. He has made it big not only as a solo artist but also as a member of the band Big Bang: he and his fellow band members were quickly dubbed the “Kings of K-pop”. G-Dragon’s other ventures include cafés on Jeju Island; endorsement deals with brands like Airbnb, Nike and the Jeju Shinhwa World resort complex; and fashion and jewellery collections.
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3. PSY (Estimated net worth: $65 million)
Even though he doesn’t have a dedicated career as an influencer, he’s not only richer than most of the richest YouTubers but also has more views: his video for “Gangnam Style” has been viewed more than 4.1 billion times by August 2021. Born and bred in affluent Gangnam, PSY — or Park Jae-sang — was supposed to take over his father’s company and was sent to Boston University to prepare for this. However, the music bug bit and PSY released his first full-length album in 2001. He frequently landed in hot water with the authorities for what they deemed his music’s inappropriate content. However, after “Gangnam Style” he rubbed shoulders with Ban Ki-moon at the U.N. and Madonna at Madison Square Garden and even performed at the inaugural ceremony for former South Korean president Park Geun-hye. PSY also started his own entertainment company in 2019.
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2. Kim Jae-joong (Estimated net worth: $70 million)
Kim Jae-joong — also called simply Jaejoong — was born as Han Jae-joon but took on the name of the family that adopted him as a young boy. His rise to fame started in 2003, as lead singer of the boy band TVXQ. In 2009, he and two of his bandmates left to start their own group, JYJ. Jaejoong also embarked on a successful acting career. He released his first solo album in 2013. He’s a fashion icon and has also published two cookbooks.
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1. JYP (Estimated net worth: $250 million)
JYP — real name Park Jin-young — released his debut album in 1994. It’s not only his success as a K-pop idol that has placed him hot on the heels of the richest singers of all time, though: he’s the founder and co-CEO of one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea, JYP Entertainment, which has launched the careers of other K-pop superstars like Rain and Wonder Girls.
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