South Korea’s hottest celebrities show their impact not only through their music and acting roles, but also through brand endorsements known as CFs or commercial films in Korea. As such, it’s only natural for the most sought-out K-stars to rake in outrageous amounts of money, and the variety show Entertainment Company Live recently released a list of stars who’ve earned the most through CFs alone this year.
Here are the top eight Korean celebrities who brought in the biggest bucks through their CFs.
8. Youn Yuh-jung
Estimated earnings: 2.1 billion won (US$1.7 million)
Yoon Yuh-jung made history when she won the best actress in a supporting role for Minari. Photo: Reuters
Veteran actress Yoon Yuh-jung comes in at eighth place with estimated earnings of 2.1 billion won (about US$1.7 million), reports Star Today. Her performance in Minari won her the Academy Award for best supporting actress early this year, making her the first Korean woman and second Asian woman to win an acting Oscar.
With this on top of her already existing fame in Korea, the 74-year-old has become highly sought out for commercials. She appeals to a wide audience and reportedly modelled for seven brands this year, ranging from beer to homeware companies.
7. Lim Young-woong
Estimated earnings: 2.8 billion (US$2.3 million)
Popular trot singer Lim Young-woong filmed seven CFs this year. Photo: @im_hero____/Instagram
Trot singer Lim Young-woong takes the spot of seventh with estimated earnings of 2.8 billion won (US$2.3 million), reports Star Today. The 30-year-old singer shot to stardom after his appearance on the music competition show Mr. Trot in early 2020, making him a household name in Korea and scoring him a number of lucrative brand endorsements. Like Young, he modelled for seven brands this year, including food products, clothing brands and skincare.
According to a behind-the-scenes video of a commercial posted on his personal YouTube channel, the star studies the products thoroughly before filming. His dedication surprised even the director of the advertisement, so it’s no wonder he’s such a sought-out endorsement model.
6. Jennie (Blackpink)
Estimated earnings: 5 billion won (US$4.1 million)
Blackpink’s Jennie modelled for soju brand Chum Churum. Photo: @jennierubyjane/Instagram
It’s no surprise that a member of the hottest girl group right now has made this list, and Jennie in particular has been loved for many brand endorsements. She earned 5 billion won (US$4.1 million) from five brands alone this year, according to Star Today. She signed three new endorsements that were previously held by “CF Queen” actress Bae Suzy, cementing her status as a rising endorsement darling, possibly even the new “CF Queen”.
As the muse for luxury fashion brand Chanel, the 25-year-old’s selling power goes beyond South Korea and extends globally.
5. Son Heung-min
Estimated earnings: 6 billion won (US$5 million)
Football superstar Son Heung-min has a “world-class” status for CFs. Photo: @hm_son7/Instagram
South Korea’s football superstar and forward for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur comes in at fifth place with estimated earnings of 6 billion won (US$5 million), according to News21. After signing with Tottenham in 2015 and becoming the most expensive Asian player in history, it’s no surprise he’s made waves in his home country, particularly with endorsements. The 29-year-old has achieved a “world-class” status in the CF world, despite having only filmed six CFs this year, including those for shampoo, razors and food products.
4. Jo Jung-suk
Estimated earnings: 7.7 billion won (US$6.5 million)
Hospital Playlist star Jo Jung-suk even won an award for his CFs. Photo: @jament_official/Instagram
Because of his friendly and down to earth image, the Hospital Playlist star is a favourite for a wide range of brands. He filmed 11 endorsements this year alone, raking in an estimated total of 7.7 billion won (US$6.5 million), according to Zapzee. From endorsing English education services to masks, Jo has proven his versatility in the CF world, and even viewers have commented that he brings a sense of familiarity with his commercials.
Need more proof of his popularity among brands? Recently the 40-year-old was even given the “model of the year award” by the Korean Advertisement Association.
3. Park Seo-joon
Estimated earnings: 9.8 billion won (US$8.2 million)
Park Seo-joon filmed a total of 14 CFs this year. Photo: @bn_sj2013/Instagram
After his success with numerous dramas like What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim and Itaewon Class, the star has been a highly sought out CF model over the last few years, and this year has been no different. He made an estimated total of 9.8 billion won (US$8.2 million), according to Star Today, from this year’s CFs alone, having filmed a whopping total of 14.
It’s clear that the 32-year-old appeals to a wide audience – not only women, but also young men. His popularity has led him to film foreign adverts as well, such as one for a Filipino phone company.
2. Jun Ji-hyun
Estimated earnings: 15 billion won (US$12.5 million)
Jun Ji-hyun is the first South Korean ambassador for fashion brand Alexander McQueen. Photo: @junjihyunonly/ Instagram
As we near the top of the list, it’s no shock that one of Korea’s top-earning actresses makes an appearance. Korea’s long-reigning “CF Queen” modelled for 15 brands this year, earning an estimated 15 billion won (US$12.5 million), reports Star Today. With her long-awaited drama comeback this year with Jirisan, and her appointment as the first South Korean ambassador for fashion brand Alexander McQueen, she’s always somebody to pay attention to.
Including fashion, jewellery and even shampoo, the 40-year-old actress has added a variety of commercials to her repertoire, showing her influence as both an actress and a CF model.
Estimated earnings: 65 billion won (US$55.1 million)
V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope of BTS attend the 2021 American Music Awards at Microsoft theatre on November 21, in Los Angeles. Photo: Getty Images/TNS
The top spot goes to one of the hottest K-pop groups in the world, BTS, who earned an estimated total of 65 billion won through commercials alone, according to Koreaboo. Winning the artist of the year award at the American Music Awards this year, and recently getting nominated for the best pop duo/group Grammy award, BTS continue to make history.
Naturally, this translates to the commercial world, making them the most expensive CF models this year. Most notably, the McDonald’s BTS meal advertisement contributed about 10 billion won (US$8.5 million) to their earnings.Internet Explorer Channel Network