10 Most Expensive K-Dramas So Far
Korean culture is dominating the globe, and it seems they are here to stay, with K-dramas and K-pop being embraced worldwide. Platforms for streaming, like Disney+ and Netflix, have invested heavily in K-dramas as they attract millions of views.
The producers do their best to ensure the movie theme remains captivating and that their fans are entertained. Speaking of grandeur, producers go the extra mile to create extraordinary scenes with insane expenses on production. Ever wondered which K-drama is the most expensive?
Check out our list of Korean dramas with massive production budgets, from ancient fantasy K-dramas like Arthdal Chronicles to fantasy romances like The Legend Of The Blue Sea.
1. Arthdall Chronicles (2019)
Overall Budget: KRW 54 billion
The trend of emphasizing the cost of production began with this historical fantasy in the K-drama industry. Some reasons for this huge budget for production include great sets such as what was used in Brunei and Osan, CGI with quality technology, and top-rated casts like Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ji-won, and Song Joong-ki.
At the time, the production cost for this movie was to be KRW 3 billion for each episode, while the overall budget was reportedly KRW 54 billion.
Synopsis: This a tale about love and loss in a fantasy land, Arth, inhabited by mythical heroes in prehistoric times.
2. The Legend (2007)
Overall Budget: KRW 43 billion
With an overall budget of KRW 43 billion, this movie is among the oldest shows on TV produced with a high budget. The Legend is a historical K-drama with top-rated actors such as Choi Min-Su, Park Sang-won, Oh Kwang-rok, and Moon So-ri. Several reports revealed that the main actor charged about KRW 250 million for the show.
And even more, the total cost of production went over the roof due to the lavish sets and expensive locations used for the movie, along with special effects and costumes.
Synopsis: This story is about the rebirth of the god Damdeok who leads his people to the kingdom of salvation. It is set in ancient times.
3. Bulgasal: Immortal Souls (2019)
Overall Budget: KRW 40 billion
This back-to-back action historical thriller has special effects throughout its 16 episodes. Recently, Bulgasal: Immortal Souls has been among the most expensive Korean dramas.
This TV show explores several unusual concepts like body transformation, which is part of the reason the budget is high to be able to get the proper visuals. Dan Hwal, played by Lee Jin-Wook, has been a human alive for over 600 years. He is cursed with immortality and bound to transform into a Bulgasal monster.
Synopsis: While there is Min Sang-Woon, played by Kwon Na-Ra, is also immortal but has reincarnated as a human. The whole show is basically about the two souls.
4. Kingdom 1 & 2 (2019 – 2020)
Overall Budget: KRW 35 billion
Kingdom 1 & 2 is a zombie-horror historical Korean drama by some of South Korea’s top-rated storytellers. The show was produced by Kim Seong-hun, the film director, and Kim Eun-hee, the TV writer.
The show was originally meant to be eight episodes. However, it was reduced to six due to budget management. Recreating Joseon’s scenes and including elements of apocalypse and romance were some of the reasons for this high budget.
Also, the show featured top-rated actors such as Bae Doona, Ryu Seung-Ryong, and Ju Ji-Hoon. The budget for a single episode of this show reportedly costs about KRW 3 billion, with an overall budget of about KRW 35 billion.
Synopsis: This show is about the crown prince of Joseon, Lee Chang, played by Ji-hoon, who is sent on a mission to discover how the zombie outbreak began. The show follows the problems Lee Chang faces on this suicide mission.
5. Snowdrop (2021)
Overall Budget: KRW 32 billion
Snowdrop is another historical Korean drama with a huge budget and some of the biggest actors in the industry headlining, like Jisoo Kim from K-pop band Blackpink, June Hae-in, Jang Seung-jo, Yoo In-na, and Kim Hye-Yoon.
In addition to the star actors used for this K-drama, the seamless action sequence and locations were expensive to shoot.
Synopsis: Snowfall is a romantic-action Korean drama based on South Korea’s Democracy movement in 1987. The show follows two actors, Im Soo-ho and Eun Young-Ro, played by Hae-In and Jisoo, respectively. They are both students in one of Seoul’s prestigious university, and suddenly their life dramatically changes after an incident that holds extreme importance for both.
6. Mr. Sunshine (2018)
Overall Budget: KRW 40 billion
The producers of this historical Korean show brought Lee Byung-hun as the lead actor. According to reports, each episode cost KRW 1.5 billion, which includes Lee’s salary, and the overall budget was KRW 40 billion. This drama was set in 1871, about guns and glory. It has a lot of well-choreographed battle scenes, which adds to its high budget.
Synopsis: The show is about Captain Eugene Choi, born as an enslaved person in Joseon but manages to escape the US and then returns home after many years as a United States Marine Corps Officer.
This show has some elements of romance between Eugene and a freedom fighter from an aristocratic family Go Ae-shin played by Kim Tae-Ri.
7. Jirisan (2021)
Photo credit: IMDb
Overall Budget: KRW 30 billion
This mammoth drama has a lot of action, mystery, and thrill themes. Some reasons behind its insane budget are the CGI, action scenes, and the wages of the show’s star actors, Jun Ji-Hyun, Ju Ji-Hoon, and Oh Jeong-Se leading to an overall budget of KRW 30 billion.
Choi Sang-mook, the cinematographer, and Lee Eung-book, the director, conceptualized the adventures on the Jiri mountant with special effects and amazing locations. The show was created by Studio Dragon, which ensures great video quality and exciting action sequences.
Synopsis: This Korean drama follows the story of an experienced ranger with a rookie, Seo Yi-Kang and Kang Hyun-jo, played by Jun and Ju. These rangers are on a mission to climb to the top of the untraversed and dangerous Jiri mountain. Other Jirisian National Park members later join them as they reveal several mysteries.
8. Sweet Home (2020)
Photo credit: Netflix
Overall Budget: KRW 30 billion
Sweet Home is a horror-thriller directed by Lee Eung-Bok, who has directed other expensive Korean dramas such as Mr. Sunshine and Jirisan. The show has ten episodes, and it was adapted from a webtoon.
Using high-tech CGI to design monster characters is part of the reason for its high budget. Each episode cost about KRW 3 billion, and the overall cost for the show was KRW 30 billion.
Synopsis: The show’s plot is based on the story of Cha Hyun-Su, played by Song Kang. A man is trying to cope with the loss of his family. He then ventures to the world to battle monsters and saves the human race.
9. Vagabond (2019)
Overall Budget: KRW 25 billion
Vagabond is an expensive Korean show with scenes shot overseas in places like Portugal and Morocco. The logistics for this shooting are part of its high budget of KWR of 25 billion. The show stars top Korean actors like Shin Sung-rok, Lee Seung-gi, and Bae Suzy.
Synopsis: Vagabond follows the story of Cha Dal-gun, aspiring to become a famous stuntman and, at the same time, looking after his nephew. Cha Dal-gun ends up chasing the mystery of a plane crash with Go Hae-Ri, a National Intelligence Operative.
10. Squid Game (2021)
Overall Budget: 22 billion
Squid Game brought incredible actors, such as Park Hae-soo, Lee Jung-Jae, and Heo Seong-Tae, that produced this historical drama series putting an ominous spin on games played by kids.
It was a Netflix collaboration that later became one of the most-watched TV shows across the world. The film producers rapidly recovered their capital and made enormous profits from this show.
Synopsis: Squid games follow the story of a divorced father, Lee, played by Seong Gi-hun, struggling to meet his needs. He later gets the opportunity to play a series of kid’s games with KRW 45.6 billion prizes for the winner. However, the penalty for failing at any stage of this game is death. The producers of this show are currently making a second season.
Recently, the seamless production quality ensures the best CGI and action films from K-drama. Top-rated film casts and elegant costumes are other reasons Korean dramas increasingly have higher budgets.
Bonafide stars in Korea, like Kim Soo-Hyun, charge around USD 440,000 for each episode in One Ordinary Day, and movie soundtrack Joong-ki receives USD 160,872 for each episode in Vincenzo. Production costs for movies are astronomically high.