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Thoughts on talent compensation

June 7, 2024

SEOUL – Recently, there has been a surge in discussions about the Korean television industry, focusing particularly on the rising production costs of scripted dramas. A key area drawing media attention is the economics of talent compensation, especially for A-list talent at the very top of every casting list.

In order to better understand the economics of talent compensation, let us turn to the Korean film industry.

For the past two decades, the Korean film industry has thrived on the success of its domestic theatrical market. Since 2004, 19 domestic films have surpassed the 10 million admissions barrier. Selling 10 million tickets in a country with a population of roughly 50 million is an impressive feat, equating to one in five people. (The high water mark is a film that has sold over 17 million tickets!) And although Korean films are released in foreign markets, those contribute only a small portion to a film’s overall financial performance.

For those who are inclined to view specific numbers, I would like to point you to the Kofic Kobis website where you can access data on a film’s performance. From historical data to daily tickets sold and real-time presale ticket data, the level of publicly shared data is impressive as it is thorough.

This level of financial transparency allows all participants — talent management, financiers, producers and exhibitors — to accurately assess a film’s financial performance. An important benefit of this transparency is that it enables producers to keep production costs down by aligning their financial interests with those of their top talent. Instead of allowing talent costs to rise uncontrollably, producers have negotiated deals where top talent share in the film’s