As South Korean dramas and films ride wave of international success, how long will China remain off-limits?

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Korean wave, deploying the US missile-defence system, Squid Game, Netflix’s most successful show ever, first non-English movie

When the 2013 Korean drama series My Love From the Star raked in 150 billion Korean won in China, the untapped potential of the Chinese market beguiled and enticed South Korea’s entertainment industry.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

The male lead of the series, Kim Soo-hyun, saw his popularity in China soar, and it was reported that he earned 3 million yuan for a single appearance on a popular Chinese TV show.

The extraordinary success of the series in 2014 resulted in South Korean studios and producers seeing China as a promising wild frontier, where their content could ride the “Korean wave”, or hallyu, referring to the popularity of the Korean culture abroad.

Global Tech News Daily

But less than a decade after the gold rush began, China is no longer the promised land it once was.

Instead, the Korean entertainment industry’s ambitions have grown beyond China, emboldened not only by recent worldwide success, but also by the rising amount of foreign and domestic investment that has been pouring in.

Global Tech News Daily

Korean wave, deploying the US missile-defence system, Squid Game, Netflix’s most successful show ever, first non-English movie

Korean star Kim Soo-hyun was reportedly paid 3 million yuan to appear on a Chinese TV show in 2014. Photo: Instagram

The first blow to the thriving export of Korean content to China came in 2016, when Beijing banned it in retaliation for Seoul deploying the US missile-defence system known as THAAD.

Industry watchers say that, before this, the Korean entertainment industry relied heavily on the Chinese market, especially when it came to drama series and movies.

“Sales in the Chinese market used to be an important factor in determining the profitability of a Korean drama series. This is because it was difficult to even recoup production costs purely from the Korean market. Back in the day, whether a Korean drama series could raise its production costs … depended a lot on its potential profits from China,” said Kim Young-jae, a professor with Hanyang University’s Department of Culture Contents.

Ahn Chang-hyun, another professor with the department, echoed that sentiment: “Even until recently, the likelihood of a drama series succeeding in the Chinese market was a big consideration when it came to things such as casting and planning sequels.”

For instance, the exclusive streaming rights for Descendants of the Sun, a 16-episode Korean drama, were sold to Chinese streaming platform iQiyi for 1.5 million yuan an episode in 2014, before the series had even begun filming in 2015.

The bet paid off for iQiyi, as the series garnered more than 2.6 billion views before its run ended. It was the first Korean drama to be simultaneously released in South Korea and China, and its popularity resulted in the government-affiliated Korea Creative Content Agency predicting in 2016 that it would add trillions of won to South Korea’s economy.

According to a 2016 report by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), China was the biggest export market for Korean movies in 2015, accounting for 31.5 per cent of its total revenue from exported films. The value of Korean movies exported to China reached a record high that year, as Chinese distributors paid around US$9.2 million.

Then came Beijing’s import ban. Three years later, in 2019, China accounted for only 3.1 per cent of the total revenue from exported Korean movies.

It seems reasonable that China’s relative influence on Korea’s content-creation industry has decreased

Lee Byung-min, Konkuk University

From 2015-19, Korean movies saw their profits in China dwindle by nearly 90 per cent, to a mere US$1.1 million, and until last year, no South Korean drama series had been imported by China since 2016, according to the KOFIC.

In its 2020 report, the KOFIC said 2019 was a “disappointing year”, and that the overseas sales of Korean films were “hardly recovering” from Beijing’s import ban. Then came the pandemic, which further hit the global entertainment industry.

But streaming services such as Netflix proved to be an unexpected boon for Korean film and television producers, giving them an alternative to the once-glorious China market.

“As the influence of [streaming] platforms such as Netflix has grown and, as a result, content distribution channels have diversified, it seems reasonable that China’s relative influence on Korea’s content-creation industry has decreased now,” said Lee Byung-min, a professor with Konkuk University’s Department of Digital Culture and Contents.

While the potential of streaming platforms gradually became evident to the industry when the overseas sales of Korean films increased by 13.3 per cent in 2020 due to global streaming sales, what sealed the deal was the unprecedented international success of the Korean Netflix series Squid Game.

After it premiered in September, Squid Game became Netflix’s most successful show ever, accumulating 1.65 billion viewing hours internationally in the first 28 days. The figure, which translates to 188,847 years of streaming time, is more than double the number of hours watched in the same time period for Bridgerton, another very popular Netflix series.

The growing appetite for Korean content, however, hasn’t come only because of its streaming success in the wake of China’s ban. Parasite, a Korean movie released in 2019, was not only lucrative globally, it also received countless international awards and was the first non-English movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

“China’s plan to strike a blow at the international distribution of Korean content … has failed,” said Lim Dae-geun, a professor with the Global Culture and Contents Department at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Now, big names in the Korean entertainment industry are making their ambitions clear, and in contrast to the industry’s rush to the Chinese market in 2014, they are not limiting it to a single country.

Last week, CJ ENM – the Korean entertainment conglomerate that produced Parasite and the drama series The Goblin – announced that it had finalised its US$785 million purchase of an 80 per cent stake in Endeavor Content, a Hollywood studio that has bases in 19 different countries in Europe and South America.

“The purchase of Endeavor Content will act as a key driving force for CJ ENM’s international growth,” CJ ENM CEO Kang Ho-seong said. “CJ ENM will use Endeavor Content as a global base to produce and distribute its independent content.”

The international outlook of Korean content appears bright as foreign investment continues to be aggressively poured into the industry.

In September, Netflix announced that it would spend US$462 million on producing Korean content in 2022. This is nearly three times the average it had invested in the Korean industry per year, since entering the market in 2016. Netflix also said that, by investing US$647 million in the Korean entertainment business between 2016 and 2021, it added US$4.71 billion to the global economy over that period.

“Korean content from Netflix and Korean creators go far beyond Asia – which is the traditional stage for hallyu – and is now positioned as a popular culture that literally the whole world enjoys, including in the Americas, Europe and Africa,” said Kang Dong-han, vice-president of Netflix Korea’s content.

The aggressive investment war between international streaming platforms is expected to intensify in Korea, as platforms such as Apple TV+ and Disney+ are already funding various Korean productions. HBO Max, another big player, is expected to enter the Korean market later this year.

Experts agree that such international investments will make Korean content even more competitive in the future.

“The influx of huge overseas investment resources, along with the expansion of global distribution channels through streaming platforms, will improve both the quantity and quality of Korean content production,” said Kim Young-jae, the professor at Hanyang University.

And Kenneth Kim Chi-ho, a professor with the Department of Culture Contents at Hanyang University, said: “Now we have the opportunity to present Korean content directly to the international audience. In any case, global investment will maximise the creativity and exposure of Korean content.”

The authenticity of Korean content is also important, according to industry insiders who expect that it will remain intrinsically unchanged and unaffected by whichever foreign markets their work is exported to. The Korean audience, they insist, comes first.

“We plan and produce drama series with the belief that if they are recognised within Korea, they will work for the world as well,” said Lee Ki-hyuk, the head of business strategy at Studio Dragon, a studio under CJ ENM that has produced Netflix dramas such as Vincenzo, Sweet Home, and Kingdom: Ashin of the North.

“I firmly believe that, for content to succeed internationally, it must first succeed in Korea,” said the director of a domestic production company who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s difficult to say that shows that eventually became internationally popular were created with the global market in mind. It might seem like this because Korean content has been so internationally popular recently, but succeeding domestically always comes first. Only then will the international audience find the content appealing.”

The director conceded that Korean content creators may increasingly consider what might work for an international audience, but “the core essence of the content will always be whether it contains a unique story that is informative and interesting, not whether it will work in a particular market”.

China is a precious market that should not be easily given up or neglected from the perspective of the Korean cultural industry

Ahn Chang-hyun, Hanyang University

Looking forward, industry experts see a positive future for the Korean entertainment industry, not only globally but eventually back in China as well.

Although the Chinese government’s import ban remains firmly in place, there are expectations that Beijing may gradually loosen its stance, as a South Korean movie was screened in Chinese cinemas last month for the first time in six years.

The two sides also agreed that 2022 would be the Korea-China Cultural Exchange Year, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic relations.

And insiders continue to stress that, despite the Korean entertainment industry’s drastic pivot away from China in recent years, there is still massive potential in China that remains untapped.

“China is a precious market that should not be easily given up or neglected from the perspective of the Korean cultural industry,” said Ahn at Hanyang University.

News Related


Alibaba's latest NFT launch features non-tradeable badges celebrating four Winter Olympics sports

Alibaba Group Holding has launched four non-fungible tokens (NFTs) featuring sports at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, expanding the offerings available in China’s closed, non-tradeable NFT world. The virtual badges, ... Read more »

Logistics start-up GoGoX's steps up Hong Kong IPO plan with investor education process after receiving HKEX approval

GoGoX, an Asian app-based logistics services provider, has started an investor education process for its initial public offering, according to a source familiar with the transaction. The IPO is reportedly ... Read more »

K-pop artists present special exhibitions that coincide with album releases

Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon (left) and boy band Treasure (S.M. Entertainment, YG Entertainment)While gearing up for their big returns to the stage, K-pop musicians have been preparing special exhibitions where visitors ... Read more »

Couple fight boy's brain cancer with natural remedies, reiki and alternative medicine – we believed his body ‘would not take' more chemotherapy, Hong Kong mum says

Shirley Johnson faced the biggest test of her life when her 18-month-old son, Max, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer in children, in November 2019. The Hong ... Read more »

Betting on tech firms like Nio and BOC pays off for communist officials in China's eastern city of Hefei

In early 2020, as the pandemic pushed it to the verge of bankruptcy, China’s highest-­profile rival to Tesla was shunned by the venture capital funds and foreign investors that had ... Read more »

Inside BTS members' US$1 million luxury watch collection: from Jungkook's Rolex Submariner, to Jimin's iconic Cartier Tank and the US$35,000 Jaeger-LeCoultre V's fans bought him for his birthday

There are perks to taking over the pop culture landscape – just ask BTS. As the richest group in K-pop with a net worth totalling around US$50 million between them, ... Read more »

Alibaba weighs on Hong Kong market on stock overhang concerns while China data disappoints

Hong Kong stocks fell as Alibaba Group Holding led losses in major Chinese technology companies amid concerns about stock overhang. A private report today showed China’s services industry grew at ... Read more »

BIGBANG to make a comeback in spring after four years

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) — Boy group BIGBANG will come back to the K-pop scene this spring after four years of hiatus due to the members’ mandatory military duties, the ... Read more »

Hong Kong developers are betting on London for its high rental yields amid BN (O) visa scheme, says K&K Properties boss

Hong Kong developers are increasing their investments in London, betting on higher yields as more Hongkongers head to the UK under the British National (Overseas) visa scheme. There has been ... Read more »

In Tesla-dominated Hong Kong, BMW eyes 50 per cent of its sales in the city to come from electric cars by 2024

BMW will launch at least three new electric car models in Hong Kong this year, as the German firm aims for battery-powered vehicles to account for 50 per cent of ... Read more »

Do right by foreign workers to preserve Hong Kong's competitive advantage

In recent decades, Hong Kong’s competitive advantage has been built upon diverse foundations. Some are obvious and repeated ad nauseam – low and simple tax rates, trusted legal system, unique ... Read more »

China's stock market is lacking one major ingredient to rebound from bear territory, US fund manager says

China’s policy-easing measures will need to go the distance to revive credit for businesses, before investors commit more money to the local stock market, according to US-based money manager Wang ... Read more »

A Channing Tatum-backed start-up reflects rise in manscaping – why shaving and waxing below the belt will continue to grow

Gone are the days when a quick jump in the shower followed by a brief spray of deodorant was all guys needed before heading out of the house. Male grooming ... Read more »

Chocolate, avocados, tacos – Mexico's culinary gifts to the world, and ways to use them in the kitchen

What would Italian food be without tomatoes, or Indian food without chillies? Imagine life without chocolate, or squash or beans. In México: The Beautiful Cookbook (1991), authors Marilyn Tausend and ... Read more »

As US stocks fall, a bear market is all but inevitable in 2022

Greed and fear are primal instincts, and greed has been red in tooth and claw in battling against fear during what amounts to the longest ever bull market in stocks. ... Read more »

Tencent restores Fight Club ending after censorship backlash in China on social media

China’s internet giant Tencent Holdings has restored the original ending of the popular dark satire Fight Club on its video streaming service after censorship of the final scene sparked widespread ... Read more »

How blockchain technology can help solve Asia's need for green finance

As the climate crisis worsens, governments and organisations are increasingly looking to green finance as a way to raise funds for sustainable projects and infrastructure. Yet despite growing investment in ... Read more »

What is the gut microbiome? How a diet high in fibre and plant-based foods helps keep yours healthy – experts explain

Looking after our gut health is important. Colorectal is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common in women worldwide. In Hong Kong it is the ... Read more »

How fake breasts, nipples, penis transformed Pam & Tommy stars Lily James, Sebastian Stan into iconic '90s couple for Hulu show

The task: transform actors known for playing Cinderella and Marvel’s Winter Soldier into a buxom blonde Playboy cover girl and her tattooed rock star husband. The resemblance of stars Lily ... Read more »

China signs up for treaty to protect industrial design IP

China has joined the World Intellectual Property Organization’s treaty on protecting industrial designs, which should help Chinese designers safeguard their work internationally, the UN agency said on Saturday. Beijing has ... Read more »

Year of the Tiger: Tesla's lead in China's EV market is whittled away by NIO, Xpeng, Li Auto and other home-grown brands

Tesla’s dominance in the world’s largest electric car market may come increasingly under pressure in the Year of the Tiger, as China’s home-grown brands develop new models to pick up ... Read more »

Hong Kong: haunting memoir of a fractured city and life on the edge

The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir by Karen Cheung, pub. Penguin Random House Among the acknowledgements at the end of her first book, The Impossible City: A Hong Kong ... Read more »

10 Things You Need to Know About "All of Us Are Dead" Star Cho Yi Hyun

© Provided by What would a high school story be if there wasn’t a character fulfilling the role of the studious class president? For All of Us Are Dead, ... Read more »

Hong Kong's property market sinks to 17-month low in January as Omicron wreaks havoc with deals

Hong Kong’s property market is expected to see even fewer deals in the coming month amid a fifth coronavirus outbreak linked to the Omicron strain, with the overall number of ... Read more »

US Treasury warns of illicit money percolating in high-end art

The US Treasury Department is looking more closely at potential money laundering and the financing of terrorism through trading high-value art. The way art is bought and sold – and ... Read more »

How China plans to lead the world in sustainable food with latest five-year agricultural development plan

China’s decision to include alternative proteins in its five-year agricultural development plan shows Beijing’s desire to nurture home-grown technology to ensure sustainable food supply, industry watchers say. Lab-grown meat, plant-based ... Read more »

4 of Asia's richest celebrity power couples: from Bollywood's Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh to K-drama's Kim Tae-hee romance with K-pop's Rain

When an actor reaches a certain level of fame, their whole life becomes a movie – with fans as fascinated with their off-screen antics as their next screen role. And ... Read more »

Hold deg fast – Netflix kommer til å lansere én film i uka i 2022

© Netflix Chris Evans spiller Lloyd i Netflix’ «The Gray Man» Netflix har nå avslørt et helt drøss av filmer de kommer til å lansere i 2022 – og kjære ... Read more »

K-drama midseason recap: Ghost Doctor – medical drama starring Rain and Kim Beom delivers comic banter and smooth emotional beats

This article contains spoilers. Sometimes all a show needs is enough of a story to fuel a fun concept. This is exactly the balance that Korean medical comedy-drama Ghost Doctor, ... Read more »

‘No money, no new year': Chinese developers remain mired in debt even after financial lifeline

As millions of Chinese headed home last week to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Michael Lin had to break the bad news to his 7-year-old daughter: she would not be ... Read more »

Stress, anxiety, trauma: how Hong Kong Covid-19 travel curbs affect the mental health of expat families, for whom there are few upsides to isolation

An ambulance pulls up outside one of the austere blocks at Penny’s Bay, Hong Kong’s quarantine camp, where arrivals to the city and close contacts of Covid-19 cases are confined ... Read more »

Who is Irene Zhao, the Singapore Instagram influencer who made over US$5 million selling her photos as NFTs – and caught Logan Paul's attention in the process?

NFTs continue to take the world by storm and social media influencers are starting to catch on to the trend. Case in point: for Irene Zhao, one of Singapore’s biggest ... Read more »

Why Federal Reserve's hard pivot over inflation has stock markets spooked

Capital markets have had a turbulent start to the new year as they adjust to more active central banks and tighter monetary policy. The US Federal Reserve has kick-started the ... Read more »

Covid-19 looms large over Hong Kong's office market as companies implement work-from-home

The office market in Hong Kong will continue to be disrupted by the work-from-home trend this year as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, a UBS real estate analyst said. With ... Read more »

US-China tech war: Top Chinese university pulls report that concluded China would suffer more from tech decoupling with US

A think-tank at China’s prestigious Peking University has pulled a report that concluded China would likely suffer more in a tech decoupling from the US. The 7,600-character report was published ... Read more »

Disbandment not the end: GFriend members to redebut as Viviz

Concept image of Viviz’s first EP “Beam of Prism” (BPM Entertainment)Putting behind their years as GFriend, members SinB, Eunha and Umji are embarking on a new journey together. As ironic ... Read more »

Hong Kong approves spin-off of Chinese metals and plastics firm Karrie International's property arm, paves way for listing

KRP Development, the real estate business of Chinese metal and plastics manufacturer Karrie International Holdings, is heading for a listing in Hong Kong after the city’s bourse approved the unit’s ... Read more »

Beijing 2022: the best and worst Winter Olympics outfits to look out for from Adidas, Columbia, Uniqlo, The North Face, Kim Kardashian's Skims and more

Millions of people around the world will be turning their eyes to the Chinese capital for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the Paralympic Winter Games that follow soon after. ... Read more »

[Today's K-pop] Dawn proposes, HyunAh says ‘yes'

(Credit: P Nation)HyunAh and Dawn announced via Instagram that they are tying the knot. Late Thursday, Dawn wrote “Marry Me” with a heart, uploading a short video that showed the ... Read more »

Why era of self-driving cars is still far off despite Elon Musk's big talk

It was almost six years ago that I harrumphed against the exuberant predictions about the imminent autonomous vehicle takeover of our roads. Today, quietly and without hubris, I can sneak ... Read more »