Savvy K-pop displays help businesses shine on global stage

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Savvy K-pop displays help businesses shine on global stage

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Visitors experience LG Electronics’ 3-D smart television while watching a live concert by popular idol group Kara at the K-Pop zone in COEX, Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. LG has been promoting its 3-D televisions by showing K-pop. Provided by LG Electronics


At IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung), the largest consumer electronics show in Europe, which was held in Berlin earlier this month, Korean technology firms including Samsung and LG kept visitors captivated with savvy displays that put K-pop in the spotlight.

LG Electronics, Korea’s second-largest electronics firm, showcased its latest products with an 80-minute video featuring scenes from the lives of celebrities such as Seo Taeji, Big Bang, and 4Minute that are part of the Hallyu, or Korean Wave.

“The demand for K-pop content is growing continuously, and sharing high-quality cultural content with global consumers enables us to attract more attention worldwide,” said Seo Young-jae, head of the company’s smart TV division.

Like Samsung and LG, more and more companies are taking the rising popularity of K-pop as an opportunity to expand into global markets, which could have significant benefits for the domestic economy as a whole.

While the nation’s export economy is mainly driven by petrochemicals, shipbuilding and automobiles, industry officials have cited the Korean Wave as one of the country’s newest economic growth engines. They believe pop culture content can not only improve the country’s image overseas but also help fuel exports.

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This year alone, the government has set a trade target of more than $1 trillion, which includes $557 billion in exports and $528 billion in imports. If the goal is achieved, Korea would become the world’s ninth economy to reach the $1 trillion mark.

“K-pop has expanded beyond Asia and has begun to enter the United States and Europe,” the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) said in a recently released report. “The popularity of K-pop groups such as Super Junior, Girls’ Generation and the Wonder Girls helps Korea to increase its exports by generating positive publicity.”

The report also noted that the popularity of pop culture overseas will allow Korea to increase tourism revenue ahead of global events such as the 2018 Winter Olympics that are to be held in Pyeongchang, Gangwon.

In fact, the number of international tourists visiting Korea in 2006 surpassed 6 million, and the figure increased to 8.8 million in 2010. The number of foreigners applying to take the Korean Language Proficiency Test also increased from 2,692 in 1997, when the first test was administered, to 189,261 in 2009 - largely due to the spread of the Korean Wave.

According to the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange and the Samsung Economic Research Institute, the Korean Wave brings the country an estimated 3.8 trillion won ($3.4 billion), which includes revenue from music and film exports as well as tourism. The Korean Wave has also created 42,000 new jobs, according to the foundation.

But there are many challenges ahead.

According to the HRI, in order to maintain the momentum created by the Korean Wave over the long term, Korea should promote more groups and singers, rather than relying on just a few, and develop new attractions around existing content.

“K-pop needs to adjust to all of the demands of global fans,” said an official from the institute, citing as an example the failure of Japanese animation to weather changes in the industry. “Japanese animation wasn’t able to survive the changing market for 3-D technology and failed to sustain its popularity.”

In particular, the Japanese animation market significantly decreased in value from 21.3 billion yen ($277 million) in 2006 to 18.4 billion yen in 2007.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency also said last month that there should be a clearer strategy for introducing Korean content to new countries and promoting it in emerging ones.

The agency said that for major markets like Japan, China and Thailand, there should be regular events around existing dramas and bands.

But there should be a different strategy for North America, the Middle East and Russia, where K-pop is beginning to take hold, and yet another plan for African and Central American nations that have not yet been exposed to K-pop.

“It is now time to reap the economic benefits of the Korean Wave,” the agency’s president, Hong Suk-woo, said.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]
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