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90% of entertainers in poverty in South Korea

22 January 2017 No Comment

Many teenagers dream of becoming entertainers amid the popularity of K-pop and K-dramas abroad. However, data shows that only a handful of them enjoy wealth while the rest struggle to make ends meet.

According to the National Tax Service, a total of 15,423 actors reported their income in 2015. Their average annual income was 68 million won.

However, there was a huge polarization between the top earners and the rest. The top 1 percent of the income bracket, totaling 154 people, reported an average 1.96 billion won annual income. This means the top 1 percent took 45.7 percent of the total income of all actors.

When it comes to the top 10 percent of the income bracket, the average annual income stood at 367 million won, or 86 percent of the total.

The remaining 90 percent of actors, however, earned 7 million won a year on average, or 580,000 won a month.

Similar income polarization was seen among singers as well.

The top 1 percent of singers, or 45 among the total 4,587 who reported their income to the tax agency, earned 3.1 billion won on average in 2015. That is equivalent to 45 percent of the total income earned by all singers.

Thanks to the popularity of K-pop in markets overseas, the country’s successful singers are enjoying unprecedented wealth and fame. K-pop hitter Big Bang ranked 54th on Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities 2016 list, earning $ 44 million.

The top 10 percent of singers in terms of income made 604 million won each. The other 90 percent, meanwhile, made only 8 million won on average for the year. This means they made less than 700,000 won a month.

Athletes also saw income polarization.

Among 30,898 athletes who reported their income to the tax agency, the top 1 percent, totaling 308, filed an average 757 million won annual income. The bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, earned only 10 million won, each.

According to a survey by the education ministry and the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training, “athlete” was the second-most-wanted profession among elementary school kids. Singer ranked seventh. Among middle school students, athlete was the fourth-most-wanted job, while singers ranked ninth. Teacher was the most-wanted-job by both elementary and middle school students.


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