Kpop fever was raging throughout the world in 2014, thrusting some relatively new faces into the spotlight while old favorites basked in the limelight once again. Some K-pop idols trotted off to Hollywood to rub elbows with the likes of Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger in blockbuster films. Others kept busy touring Japan or selling out concerts closer to home. Still others kept their noses to the grindstone in the recording studio to work on new albums or to collaborate with fellow artists, and a lucky few seemed to enjoy a relatively calm year while reaping the rewards of past fame as the money kept rolling in.
So go the lives of the world’s most successful K-pop artists. What were your favorite idols up to in 2014? Did they rise to the Top 10 or get bumped down by a newcomer? Find out below as we dish on all the details of what made the Top 10 K-pop artists of 2014 sing all the way to the bank.
10 Rain ($3.8 Million in 2014)
Jung Ji Hoon, known as Rain in the K-pop world, had a busy year in 2014. He started the year with the release of his seventh studio album, Rain Effect, on January 2. The album quickly rose to the top spot in South Korea’s Goan Weekly Albums Chart. Rain spent much of the year focusing on several acting roles, including parts in The Prince, For Love or Money, and the Korean musical drama My Lovely Girl. His increasing popularity in both the music scene and on the big screen make it likely that we’ll see Rain much higher on next year’s list.
9 JYJ ($4.5 Million in 2014)
Kim Jae-joong, Park Yoo-chun and Kim Junsu may still be known as “former members of TVXQ,” but they certainly haven’t reached their peak. Reformed under the stage name JYJ, these K-pop stars released their third album Just Us in July 2014. The album garnered incredible—and immediate—success when the single “Back Seat” soared to the top of six different music charts just one hour after it was released. The members have also enjoyed lucrative acting careers and solo tours, making 2014 another windfall year for the trio, who famously live next door to each other in their million-dollar homes!
8 Lee Byung-hun ($5.5 Million in 2014)
South Korea’s favorite singer-turned-Hollywood-star Lee Byung-hun was in the spotlight in late 2014 when he was revealed to be a victim of a blackmailing scandal, briefly making him the center of some unwelcome attention. But the dust soon settled on the controversy when the perpetrators were found, and as far as we can tell, Byung-hun had an otherwise low-key year out in California, filming for roles in the upcoming movies Terminator Genisys and Memories of the Sword. With his movies sure to be successful blockbusters, Lee Byung-hun is sitting pretty on his 2014 earnings.
7 Lee Seung-gi ($6 Million in 2014)
Known for his music, acting roles, endorsement deals, TV appearances and hosting gigs, Lee Seung-gi is a true jack-of-all-trades in the entertainment industry. He spent 2014 primarily filming for the television drama You’re All Surrounded, in which he plays the lead role as gruff detective Eun Dae-gu, as well as for the variety shows Healing Camp and Three Meals a Day. Seung-gi may not have been prominent on the music scene in 2014, but there’s no doubt that he still raked in an impressive salary through his endorsement deals with Pizza Hut, Bayer Korea, the Hanwoo Board, WEMAKE, MarketO, CJ Group, Mundipharma and Marley Coffee, among others.
6 Yoona ($8 Million in 2014)
A star of the beloved K-pop group Girl’s Generation, Yoona has recently earned a reputation as a skilled actress as well as a singer. But apart from filming for the TV miniseries The Prime Minister and I, Yoona spent 2014 on tour in Japan with Girl’s Generation. The best-selling K-pop girl group also released their 4th EP in 2014, Mr. Mr., as well as a Japanese album, The Best. Yoona also continues to appear in advertising and endorsements for products, including Innisfree’s beauty products, which have launched her further into the international sphere with appearances in magazines like Cosmopolitan and InStyle.
5 IU (10.5 Million in 2014)
This young K-pop singer and actress has quickly risen to fame. In 2014 she released her sixth EP A Flower Bookmark and also performed a concert at Sogang University Mary Hall titled “Just One Step … That Much More.” She also toured Hong Kong to promote her latest album, Modern Times, and also made time to collaborate with several artists, including Yoon Hyun-sang and Seo Taiji. IU is immensely popular, and her songs have stayed at the top of the charts for weeks on end. Her popularity has also landed her several endorsement deals, including Sony electronics, Sbenu sneakers and Qdsuh cosmetics.
4 Psy ($12 Million in 2014)
There was definitely a time when you could barely get online or flip on the TV without hearing Psy’s “Gangnam Style” or seeing someone mimic his famous dance. The entertainer had already been adored by South Korean fans for his humorous style and stage presence before he rocketed to international fame. But things had calmed down once again for Psy in 2014 … until “Gangnam Style” reached a record two-billion views on YouTube, that is! Psy also released a new single “Hangover” in June. Despite his relative inactivity during the year, Psy’s past success continues to pay off, earning him a solid spot among the Top K-pop Earners of 2014.
3 G-Dragon ($13.5 Million in 2014)
As the iconic lead singer of the group Big Bang, G-Dragon stays busy doing what he loves: writing songs, collaborating with other artists and, of course, performing. In 2014, G-Dragon saw the release of several singles, toured South Korea and Japan with Big Bang, and also won 2 prestigious awards at the World Music Awards: World’s Best Entertainer and World’s Best Album. G-Dragon is known for his charismatic personality and stage presence, as well as for the tenacity and ambition he has exerted since the young age of 11 to get as far as he has. Don’t be surprised if next year he rolls in at number one!
2 BoA ($16.5 Million in 2014)
The Queen of K-pop, otherwise known as BoA, had a busy year in 2014, so it’s really no surprise that she has landed the number two spot on this list of Top K-pop Earners of 2014. With the Japanese release of her album Who’s Back?, BoA toured Japan and Seoul, and she also released her third collection of Winter Ballads later in the year. As if a grueling tour schedule weren’t enough to keep busy, BoA also filmed three movies in 2014, including the Hollywood dance film Make Your Move 3D in which she starred as the leading lady Aya.
1 Choi Siwon ($18 Million in 2014)
K-pop’s highest earning star of 2014 is none other than Choi Siwon of the group Super Junior. The musical group released their third EP Swing earlier in the year and their seventh album Mamacita later on, but music honestly wasn’t the main focus of Siwon’s year: he was busy filming blockbuster movies! He co-starred alongside Jackie Chan and Adrien Brody in Dragon Blade and also acted in To the Fore and The Heirs. Needless to say, his lucrative acting career carried him above and beyond his already substantial Super Junior earnings to take the top spot in 2014’s Top K-pop Artists by Earnings.