SEOUL - As K-pop continues to lead the Korean Wave, or hallyu, singers are enjoying their sharpest ever increase in income, government statistics show.
According to the National Tax Service, the average yearly income of singers had the sharpest hike among all South Korean celebrity groups between 2010 and 2013.
The average annual salary of singers came in at 46.74 million won (S$57,700) in 2013, about 70 per cent more than that earned in 2010.
Over the same period, the average for all celebrities - including singers, actors and other public figures - grew by just 24 per cent, from 31.82 million won in 2010 to 39.56 million won.
Actors, in particular, reported a mere 11.6 per cent increase in their average earnings, which stood at 37.18 million won in 2013.
Experts attribute the sharper hike in singers' wealth to the increased focus on revenue-generating activities overseas by K-pop stars.
"Hallyu provided K-pop stars a greater opportunity outside Korea to turn their fame into profits, mostly through concert tours and album sales," said Kim Hun Shik, a pop culture critic.
A small number of actors may have taken home fat pay cheques after landing major advertisement contracts, but in general, the average actor does not have the typical earning potential to match the climbing revenues earned by singers performing in K-pop concerts and tours, an entertainment industry insider said.
The official also noted that the average income of singers may seem like a shockingly low salary when thinking of celebrities, as a huge chunk of a K-pop act's earnings is allotted to their managing agency and split among members.
The growth in average income does not necessarily mean that Korean singers are generally better off now, Mr Kim pointed out.
"The hallyu has deepened the polarisation of earnings among Korean singers," he noted.
Over the past few years, K-pop has boosted its global music market prowess and continues to expand its fan base on a more internationally sustainable level.
Last year, Forbes Korea revealed that the highest K-pop earners in the first half of last year were none other than the powerhouse hallyu stars of Super Junior, Girls' Generation, Big Bang and 2NE1. All four acts are well known for their tremendous popularity among Asian fans, notably the Japanese and Chinese. These stars spend a large part of their time outside South Korea, promoting their albums and holding large-scale concerts throughout Asia.
Not indicative of each member's yearly income, though, Super Junior managed to rake in nearly 31.4 billion won in the first half of last year, followed by Girls' Generation at 30.3 billion won, Big Bang at 29.4 billion won and, finally, 2NE1 with nearly 27.5 billion won.
In the first nine months of last year, the three major K-pop labels - SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment - all reported record-high profits. The three are scheduled to report their fourth-quarter results in the coming weeks, with some analysts forecasting a continuation of the record earning streak.