The richest K-pop stars revealed
Big Hit Entertainment’s IPO made its “Hitman” a billionaire. According to Bloomberg, Bang Si-hyuk, founder of the Seoul-based music agency, saw his net worth skyrocket to $1.4 billion in September of 2020, reportedly making him the fifth richest stockholder in all of South Korea. With a $4 billion market value, Big Hit became the largest South Korean listing in recent memory — and it was mostly thanks to its cash cow, BTS.
BTS debuted in 2013 but only saw crossover success in the United States in 2017 when they were named Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards. The group has since gone on to break 20 different records, including becoming the first K-pop group to perform at a major US awards show and having the first K-Pop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. More recently, BTS’ track “Dynamite” — the group’s first all-English-language single — made a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100, and it looks like it’s only up from there.
Per Bloomberg’s report, Big Hit’s IPO made the members of BTS — who were responsible for around 97% of the company’s sales in 2019 — about $8 million richer. Si-hyuk had given all seven members 68,385 shares each a couple of months prior. While that made the boys among the richest K-pop stars (leagues above fellow crossover acts like Blackpink), they’re not the absolute richest yet. These are the richest K-pop stars, revealed.
Jaejoong is big in Japan
There are differing reports about JYJ member Kim Jae-joong’s wealth. According to some reports, the star — who’s best known as Jaejoong — is worth around $12 million, but other reports (including one from the South China Morning Post) claim he’s worth an astounding $100 million, making him the richest K-pop idol of all time. So, how’d it happen?
Jaejoong has been in the game for a long time. According to the South China Morning Post, he moved to Seoul at age 15 to audition at SM entertainment, one of South Korea’s largest entertainment companies, but he wasn’t an instant success. The singer worked part-time jobs before he was cast as the lead vocalist of TVXQ in 2003. When the group broke up seven years later after a management dispute, Jaejoong formed JYJ with some of his old bandmates.
According to Billboard, JYJ’s debut album had more than 300,000 albums pre-ordered from Warner Music Korea, but the singer fared just as well with his solo career. In Korea, his debut and follow-up went No. 1. In China, his second studio album was heralded as the country’s favorite K-pop record. In Japan, his Japanese solo debut topped the country’s Oricon charts and “ranked No. 1 on iTunes’ J-pop charts in at least 29 countries,” according to Soompi.
In addition to his work as a singer, Jaejoong is also an actor, starring in TV series like Spy, Dr. Jin, and Manhole: Feel So Good.
'Gangnam Style' broke YouTube, but not the bank
In 2012, South Korean rapper Psy (born Park Jae-Sang) was absolutely inescapable. So much so, in fact, that the K-pop star’s hit “Gangnam Style” physically broke YouTube’s view limit. According to a 2014 report by BBC, The music video — which held the record for most-watched on the platform — was viewed more than 2 billion times, forcing the tech company to upgrade its counter to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. In other words, no one is going to have a limit problem ever again (at least during our lifetimes).
Psy is largely considered the first K-pop star to fully crossover in the States. Even in 2017 — years after “Gangnam Style” left its mark — Pitchfork claimed that the artist wrote “one of the most influential songs” of the decade and “changed pop music” forever. He soared, so BTS could fly.
Throughout his unlikely career, which kicked off in 2001, the Seoul-born star garnered a massive reported net worth of $60 million, but he’s not focused on the single that made him famous. “‘Gangnam Style’ gave me fame while as a creator, some rough times, but I’m not one to linger in the past and make two, three, four versions of (Gangnam Style) because I’m hung up on its fame,” Psy told Reuters. “It was probably the biggest trophy the world could have given me. It’s now something on the shelf I can admire from time to time.”
BIGBANG made G-Dragon big bucks
South Korean rapper G-Dragon regularly pulls in comparisons to Michael Jackson, and similarly, the BIGBANG member’s massive success took a lifetime of work. According to a Vogue profile, the singer worked in “the lower rungs” of the entertainment industry in the 1990s, long before he turned 18. By the early aughts, he had signed with YG Entertainment, who put him in BIGBANG, which went on to sell more than 140 million records. Yes, 140 million. According to Business Insider, that’s just slightly less than Elvis Presley (though it should be noted, some Redditors have disputed this).
Unlike many of his K-pop idol peers, G-Dragon is a well-versed songwriter and producer. According to Billboard, he wrote BIGBANG’s hits “Blue” and “Monster,” which both topped the K-Pop Hot 100 — but his talents extend beyond music. Per his Vogue profile, the artist has his own fashion line called PeaceMinusOne, and he’s collaborated with major stars like Justin Bieber and Missy Elliott. He’s also been known to nab lucrative ad deals, like his endorsement deal with Chinese water giants Nongfu Spring Co.
All in all, G-Dragon has amassed a reported $30 million net worth, but riches aren’t what initially drove him to create. “I wasn’t trying to be famous when I started making music. I mean, that wasn’t the first thing I wanted,” he told i-D. “But of course, I see more and more people getting interested in Korean culture, and I’m so proud about it.”
When it Rains, it pours
Rain (born Jung Ji-hoon) rose to prominence in the early aughts. The star was one of the biggest — if not the biggest — male K-pop idol of the era, regularly playing to tens of thousands of people in sold-out arenas across Asia. At the time, The New York Times dubbed the star the “Korean Justin Timberlake” and “Korean Usher,” and the South Korean media called him the country’s only “world star,” according to The Korea Times. His album It’s Raining sold over a million copies in Asia alone, with some impressive crossover success. Six years before Psy broke through in the United States, Rain was playing back-to-back nights at Madison Square Garden.
Rain’s music career hasn’t fared as well in recent years. In 2020, his “Gang” music video went viral largely because it can only be accurately described as completely whack. It elicited a number of parodies on YouTube, and one commenter even claimed it was a “vaccination for K-pop.” Nonetheless, Rain is likely laughing himself all the way to the bank.
Between his music and career — the latter of which includes roles in blockbusters like Ninja Assassin and Speed Racer – Rain has amassed a reported net worth of $20 million.
Jungkook is the boy with luv – and the boy with money
Big Hit’s IPO made the members of BTS really, really rich — but they were already on their way there prior to the company’s public debut. By April 2020, the boy band had sold more traditional albums than any other artist that year, according to Forbes. They were only beaten out in August by Taylor Swift’s Folklore, but remain the only K-pop artist — actually, the only artist of any kind — to spend 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Artist 100 chart.
With a $20 million reported net worth, BTS member Jeon Jungkook is one of the richest K-pop stars of all time. This mostly comes from the artist’s performing and producing credits, the latter of which includes BTS’ “Love is Not Over” and “Magic Shop,” according to Seventeen. The Grammy nominee has also appeared in South Korean TV shows like Celebrity Bromance and Flower Crew and owns a $1.74 million apartment in Seoul’s Forest Trimage, which Business Insider describes as “the most luxurious apartments” in the city.
Of course, with fame and money comes a whole lot of pressure, and it’s not lost on Jungkook. “The pressure is always there. But I want to show them that I am improving,” he told Paper in 2019, adding, “If I had a chance to improve every aspect of myself, then I would work hard to make it happen rather than just sitting idly by.”
Money can't buy you happiness, but it did help V
BTS’s fanbase is an army. Really, they’ve named themselves the BTS Army, and they’re the kind of fans that would — and did — pool together $10,000 to $30,000 to rent out a Times Square billboard celebrating the group’s fifth anniversary. They’re also the same people who made BTS utterly loaded.
Like his bandmates, BTS has also helped V (born Kim Tae-hyung) amass a reported $20 million net worth. Forbes reports that the South Korean outfit was the “top-grossing touring group of 2019” and pulled in $196 million, playing to 1.6 million people on their Love Yourself World Tour and Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour extension. This was more than the Rolling Stones, Metallica, KISS, and — more comparably — the Backstreet Boys.
According to Bloomberg, about $8 million of V’s net worth is held in Big Hit stock, but the riches are just the icing on the cake. In an interview with MBC FM4U radio’s Music Camp (via PinkVilla), the star revealed that he’s absolutely ecstatic and finally focusing on his personal happiness. “I’m happy these days. That’s really important. It took a lot of time for me to get there,” he said. “I was always worried about things, but I focused on finding happiness.”
Outside of BTS, J-Hope is making money on real estate
J-Hope (born Jung Hoseok) has the same reported $20 million net worth as his bandmates, but they still might have a little envy. In an interview with Paper, Jimin revealed that he wished he could have “J-Hope’s smiley face” because it’s “adorable.” RM admitted he wished he had J-Hope’s dancing skills. The rest of us wish we had J-Hope’s wallet.
Most of J-Hope’s cash can be attributed to BTS, but the lead dancer is also one of the few members to have attempted a solo career. According to Forbes, J-Hope’s 2018 solo album Hope World shot to No. 1 on the World Album chart and cracked the Billboard 200’s top 40. The latter is exceedingly rare for a Korean solo artist.
Beyond that, J-Hope has made some money on real estate investments. Business Insider reports that the rapper purchased a $1.6 million apartment in the same luxury complex as Jungkook in 2016 — but he never lived in it. According to PinkVilla, he sold it two years later for around $2.2 million USD, which is nearly a $1 million profit.
Jin spent his BTS cash on bad real estate and an exotic pet
Though some members of BTS have purchased their own real estate, the group reportedly live together in one of the most expensive apartments in Seoul. According to Metro, their three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two kitchen apartment is worth $6.53 million USD — and we can only imagine the bunk bed situation.
As odd of a choice as it is to share bedrooms when you’re worth a collective $140 million, Jin (born Kim Seokjin) has made worse real estate decisions. According to Business Insider, the singer purchased his own $1.7 million luxury apartment on Hannam the Hill, the same place as BTS’ shared digs. Unfortunately, Allkpop reports that after selling it, he lost 30 million won (roughly $26,000 USD).
Jin’s real estate blunder didn’t really affect his net worth too much. He’s still reported to be worth the same $20 million as the rest of his bandmates. Business Insider reports that he spent some of this on a leucistic sugar glider, which he named Gukmul, or “Soup.” These kinds of animals are worth between $1,500 to $2,500 USD — a small price to pay for something so cute.
RM is cashing in on some major songwriting credits
Even though RM — or Rap Monster or Real Me, depending on the day — is the leader of BTS, the singer-songwriter’s talents extend far beyond the group that made him a household name. According to Forbes, the rapper, born Kim Nam-joon, “was the first member of the group to go solo.” His eponymous 2015 debut was largely ignored in the United States, but he eventually saw crossover success in 2018. That year, RM’s second solo album, Mono, “peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200,” making him the first of the members to garner stateside success all by himself.
Beyond his own music, RM is also a prolific writer for K-pop groups. According to Seventeen, he’s got credits on more than 130 different songs, including the hit “Party (XXO)” for the Korean girl group Glam. He’s also dabbled in film scoring and worked on the Korean soundtrack for Fantastic Four. All together, RM’s work in the music industry has garnered him a $20 million estimated net worth.
Suga's solo career is paying off
RM isn’t the only BTS member cashing in outside of the group. Suga, born Min Yoon-gi, has lent his talents to other Korean singers, including Suran and Lee So-ra. According to Seventeen, the writer and producer has worked on more than 70 different songs throughout his career — which, in a way, accounts for 70 different paychecks.
Suga is also the third BTS member to go solo. The singer released his first mixtape, D-2, in May 2020 under the pseudonym Agust D. Unsurprisingly, his debut rocked the Billboard and iTunes charts. Forbes reports that it shot to No. 1 on iTunes charts across the globe. Billboard named it the second-largest opening for a K-pop album in 2020. The first? BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7. In other words: the only person out-doing Suga is himself.
Overall, D-2 made Suga the second member of BTS to score a solo hit on the Billboard Hot 100. He even out-did J-Hope’s peak position on the Billboard 200 by nearly cracking the Top 10. For his efforts, he boasts the same reported $20 million net worth as his bandmates, which includes the $3 million apartment he purchased in 2018, according to Business Insider.
We're all bracing for Jimin's next move
Jimin broke records with his solo single on BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7. According to Allkpop, “Filter” became the highest-charting b-side in iTunes history — and also lay claim to the crotch grab that launched a thousand troops of the BTS Army. If this says anything, it’s that any of Jimin’s potential solo endeavors are going to be pure gold, and though it hasn’t happened yet, it may be on the horizon. In 2019, he told Paper that there are “so many things” he wanted to try, but he didn’t want to “be too specific.”
Until then, BTS has given Jimin the financial freedom to do as he pleases. The star boasts the same $20 million reported net worth as the rest of his bandmates. According to Business Insider, some of this net worth is held in sponsorships from luxury brands. Though the group doesn’t generally accept deals, they do work with their favorite brands, which include Supreme, Gucci, and Givenchy. Any of those pieces could be worth thousands. Jimin is also rumored to have purchased an old home worth a few million that’s allegedly being renovated, though we can’t find much info on the exact property.
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