Is Modeling in Korea Financially Stable?

One of the questions I get asked the most as a full-time model in Korea is: – is modeling financially stable? When I talk to people and they find out about the languages I speak, and the fact that I hold a master’s degree many people wonder why I would choose modeling instead of a more traditionally financially stable career. Can working as an entertainer really allow you to make ends meet? Is it profitable? Is it just a temporary gig or a lifetime career? I understand the curiosity. So, I thought it might be more effective to explain it all in an article that I can refer people to, rather than constantly having to explain myself. 

Current Financial Issues of Modeling in Korea

Lowering Rates

In recent years rates have lowered considerably. People with no experience have come into the field without knowing the standard prices (Click Here to learn more) models should expect to be paid. So, many new talents accept much lower rates than they deserve. However, some take lower rates willingly. Many decide to go as far as to undercut fellow models to build their own portfolios

Unfortunately, in addition to being taken advantage of themselves, this has also led to general rates agents will offer for jobs being lowered. They do not fully understand how much this damages the whole system and everyone’s financial situation in the long run. 

Additionally, it has led to Korea’s modeling scene becoming contractless. Contracts ensure worker safety and are very useful in making sure your images are not misused. They can protect you if any legal issues arise. However, I have not received a single contract for any of my jobs in over two years. This is largely because so many models are willing to accept jobs without them, employers do not need to take on the added responsibility of contacts. 

Greedy Agents and Shady Practices

What is the issue of modeling in Korea and not receiving contracts? Well, mainly the issue with not receiving contracts is that many agents are taking huge commissions. Much more than the 30% commission that they are legally allowed to take. 

For jobs where talents should be paid things like usage, royalties, channels, plus our day fee, most agents just offer a standard (and low) fee. The practice is so widespread and there are no legal safety nets so most models can not help but accept these injustices.

Often, talent is receiving perhaps 10% or less of the amount that companies are paying. Plus, they never see the ongoing income for things like royalties that they should be continuing to receive payment for.

Inconsistent Work and Overly Long Paying Processes

Working as talent is hard. You never know when the next job might come in. You might be extremely busy, going without proper sleep for even weeks at a time. But then you can also have no jobs for several weeks. Work is very inconsistent, changing, and many times, last minute. Which means that it is hard to plan anything in your personal life. 

We constantly worry about when the next paycheck will come or if we will be able to pay all our bills on time. It is quite hard to have a good life-work balance. 

Plus, it is not uncommon for agencies to take at times MONTHS to pay you for a job you have already completed. As entertainers, we sometimes have to wait three or four months to get paid. And even after that long wait, it is not unusual for certain agents to pay only a portion and tell you that you will be paid the rest later. Getting paid for the work you do is almost always a struggle.

How Do Models Make it in Korea?

Although it is not always easy to make things work. If there is a will there’s a way. 

It is almost always difficult at the beginning. Competition is fierce and you will have to work hard not only to make your money but also to receive it. Yet once you are a bit more settled and you have made a good portfolio, things will come more easily. Indeed, modeling is not as financially stable as receiving a monthly check from a company every month. Yet if you are good at what you do, you can make it work, just as in any other field.

So, how can you make it big by modeling in Korea? Here are some of my tips:

  • Build a good portfolio
  • Learn many different skills
  • Have a good attitude both on and off set
  • Be professional
  • Network
  • Research agencies and try to work with good agents
  • Do not accept being underpaid
  • Befriend other models
  • Keep perfecting your craft
  • Have a financial cushion 
  • Have patience

Need help creating a modeling portfolio? Click Here to learn more!