If it wasn’t already obvious, there’s a hefty price to pay for producing the high quality K-dramas that we love. That said, a few shows cost a lot more than most based on their setting and storylines, especially when it comes to costume-heavy period pieces, and CGI-laden fantasy dramas. Not to mention each show’s top stars are also compensated handsomely per episode.
Curious as to how it all works? Below we rounded up five of the most expensive K-dramas produced thus far.
Estimated cost: 25 billion won
Starring Lee Seung Gi, Bae Suzy, and Shin Sung Rok, the 2019 crime thriller’s production cost reached a total of 25 billion won. Aside from the cast’s mandatory physical training, and executing large scale action scenes, most of its expenditure went to international fees as the series also shot in Morocco and Portugal.
4. The King: Eternal Monarch
Estimated cost: 25-30 billion won
Unsurprisingly The King: Eternal Monarch is just as expensive as it looks. Kpopmap notes that a lot of the show’s budget was spent to make up for its fantasy aspect. The production team also had the job of sprucing up Lee Min Ho as Emperor Lee Gon by surrounding him with expensive props from his clothes, to luxury cars, to actual helicopters.
3. Kingdom: Season 1 and 2
Estimated Cost: 35 billion won
According to series director Kim Seong Hun, Netflix’s breakout zombie drama Kingdom went over its assigned budget, which resulted in the production team having to pay for the additional penalty fees. He revealed in an interview with Variety that each episode required more than $1.78 million (approximately 2 billion won).
“Initially, Kingdom was intended as an eight-episode series and production was supposed to be completed in four months. In the end, however, we took about six months on production and overspent the budget,” he told Variety. The series stars top hallyu actors Ju Ji Hoon and Bae Doona.
2. Mr Sunshine
Estimated cost: 40 billion won
TVN’s period period piece cost an estimated 40 billion won for all of its 24 episodes. Much of the budget went to creating the series’ historical elements, special effects, and talent fees for its top stars. Lead actor Lee Byung Hun was rumored to have been paid 150 million won per episode. The series itself received critical acclaim for its cinematography and overall storytelling, and even won Drama of the Year at the 6th APAN Star Awards.
1. Arthdal Chronicles
Estimated Cost: 54 billion won
Starring Song Joong Ki and Jang Dong Gun, Arthdal Chronicles marked South Korea’s first ever drama set in the ancient times, pre-civilization. The series was shot in both South Korea and Brunei, and Kpopmap points out that a huge, costly set was built especially for the show. The 2019 drama consisted of 18 episodes, with an estimated production cost of 2.5 to 3 billion won per episode, currently making it the most expensive K-drama ever produced.