When people think of the richest Koreans they might think of K-Pop idols who have taken the globe by storm. When they think of wealth in Korea, they might think of Samsung Electronics and their T.V.s and smartphones. However, people don’t realize that Koreans love their sports, especially their sports stars. They are treated like gods in Korea, which you can see clearly when one goes to a game in Korea. This is why big companies pay these sports stars huge amounts of money to endorse their company/products. Their influence reaches their loyal fan base, who worship these stars as much as K-Pop stars. The richest Korean sports stars tend to be those who have made it globally.
Businesses have been cashing in on Korea’s pride in their countrymen/women for quite some time now, and it doesn’t seem like it will let up anytime soon. The richest Korean Sports Stars tend to be those that have gone on to global success. However, many have stayed solely in Korea and still made lots of money. Whether they are retired or still active, these Korean Sports Stars continue to generate include based on their “brand name” alone. Here are the top 10 wealthiest Korean sports stars of all time.
Shin-Soo Choo was a South Korean professional baseball right fielder for the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball. He is the richest Korean sports star of all time. However, Hyun Jin Ryu is not far behind. In 2013 Choo signed a 7-year $130,000,000 contract from ( 2014-20). He has played for the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, and Cincinnati Reds. In 2018, Choo made the MLB all-star team. He holds the longest single-season streak for the Texas Rangers of 52 consecutive games of safely reaching base. Shin-Soo Choo is in South Korea and signed a one-year deal with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization.
Endorsements: Hanmi Bank
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $85 Million
Hyun Jin Ryu
Hyun Jin Ryu is a South Korean professional baseball starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball. He signed a 6-year, $36 million deal with the Dodgers in 2012 and a 4-year, $80 million contract with the Blue Jays. Ryu led the Majors in 2019 with a 2.32 ERA and finished second to the Met’s Jacob DeGrom for the Cy Young award. This was the largest deal given to a free-agent pitcher by the Blue Jays. Therefore, many expect that in a few years, Hyun Jin Ryu will be at the top of the list for the richest Korean Sports Star ever.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $75 Million
Son Heung Min
Son Heung Min is a South Korean footballer who plays for the English club Tottenham Hotspur and the South Korean national team. He was paid over $27 million to move from the German club Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham in 2015. He is one of the highest-paid South Korean athletes in the world. Son Heung Min makes $170,000 weekly on his latest contract (6-year/ $60 million), which will expire in 2023. He is expected to get a new contract that will pay him close to $250,000 weekly through 2026. He has a strong 11.9 million followers on Instagram.
Endorsements: Adidas, Gatorade, and LG.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $57 Million
Park Chan Ho
Chan Ho Park is a former South Korean professional baseball pitcher. He played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, and Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. In December 2012, Park signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers. These days, Chan Ho Park is looking to give back to the Korean startup ecosystem by being a venture partner of Seoul-based global accelerator SparkLabs.
Endorsements: Sprint, Hanhwa, and Sambo
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $45 Million
The most famous sports star named Kim in Korea is Kim Yuna. She is a former South Korean figure skater. She was the 2010 Olympic gold medalist and the 2014 silver medalist in ladies’ singles. In 2010, she received the Sportswoman of the Year Award from the Women’s Sports Foundation, and that same year she was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In addition, Time magazine named her as one of the world’s 2010s 100 most influential people. She was given the nickname “Queen Yuna” for her graceful and elegant performances. Kim Yuna was named one of the highest-paid female athletes in 2014. She is the only notable figure skater from South Korea.
She retired from figure staking in 2014 but played a major role in promoting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Korea. What many might not know about Kim Yuna is that she is also a great singer. She recorded a duet with Kpop stars Lee Seung-gi and the popular Kpop boy group Big Bang. According to Forbes, Yuna Kim earns an estimated $9 million yearly through endorsements.
Endorsements: Lac Vert, J.Estina, Hyundai, Hite, Prospecs W, Samsung Anycall, Kookmin Bank, Nike, Korean Air, Hauzen, and Maxim Coffee.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $26 Million
Park Ji Sung
Park Ji Sung is a former South Korean footballer serving as a club ambassador at Manchester United. He played for Manchester United from 2005 to 2012. Park signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth $ 475,000 annually – the biggest ever awarded to an Asian sportsman. He has also enjoyed a long-running sponsorship deal with Asiana Airlines 2007 worth $175,000 a year. The deal includes free first-class tickets for himself and his family members. His investments include a museum, football academy, and charity called JS Foundation in South Korea. He also bought a house for his parents worth $2.8 million.
Endorsements: Asiana Airlines, Air Asia, Korea HUG Corporation, LG, GS Caltex, and Gillette.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $17 Million
Park Inbee is a South Korean professional golfer who plays on the LPGA and the LPGA of Japan Tour. What put her on the map was when she became the youngest-ever winner of the US Women’s Open in 2008 at 19. She has won 7 major titles, 20 overall victories, and more than $15 million in earnings. She was even named the LPGA’s player of the decade. Therefore, she is currently the best Korean female golfer in the LPGA.
Endorsements: Srixon Golf, Fila, and Panasonic.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $17 Million
Pak Se Ri
Pak Se Ri is a South Korean professional golfer on the LPGA Tour. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in November 2007. Pak is regarded as the “Godmother” regarding Korean women’s golf. She has paved the way for female golfers in Korea to break it onto the global stage. Every golfer in Korea knows who Pak Se Ri is. Therefore, she is regarded as the greatest Korean golfer of all time. Furthermore, she has career earnings of$12,563,660.
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $14 Million
Lee Chung Yong
Lee Chung Yong is a South Korean footballer who plays for K league Ulsan. He previously played in the Premier League club Crystal Palace and the South Korean national team. He played in Europe for over a decade and is now playing in Korea. In January 2009, The Times named Lee as one of the top 50 rising stars in football. Moreover, he was also named in the top 10 rising stars of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by Sports Illustrated. Ulsan Hyundai FC announced they signed Lee to the largest contract in the club’s history. The amount was undisclosed.
Endorsements: Samsung’s flagship notebook Sens Series and Nike CF
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $7 Million
South Korean pro golfer Im Sung-jae is currently the highest-ranked Asian player on the PGA. He is now ahead of Japanese star pro golfer Hideki Matsuyama. Im Sung-jae is the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. On the money list, Im is in second place behind Justin Thomas with $4 million. He has already signed with Lagardere Sports for global management and marketing representation. The agency manages some of the top pro golfers around such as Phil Mickelson. Therefore, expect to see Im Sung-jae rise these rankings as he is one of the top rising young golfers on the PGA. On a side note, if Sung-jae Im wins a major, he will be allowed to forgo South Korea’s mandatory two-year military service.
Endorsements: Coming Soon!
ESTIMATED NET WORTH: $5 Million