Choi detours to schmooze with Alibaba’s Ma

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Choi detours to schmooze with Alibaba’s Ma

Korean Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan met the CEO of the world’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, on Wednesday to request more aggressive investments in Korean cultural content.

It was unusual for a Korean finance minister to visit a Chinese IT company.

“I hope Alibaba makes more aggressive investment moves in Korea, as [legal and regulation-wise] the bases have been prepared with the Korea-China free trade agreement sealed last year,” said Choi at the meeting.

The two figures met at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, as Choi was en route to the Korea-China Economic Ministers Meeting held later in the evening in Beijing.

The Korea-China FTA is currently waiting to be signed in early February, after which details of the trade deal will be disclosed and fine-tuned.

The Wednesday meeting was held to discuss follow-up measures in cultural cooperation between the two countries, which was brought up at a meeting between President Park Geun-hye and Ma in August 2014 at the Blue House.

According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Ma said he wants to invest in Korea’s cultural content industry, such as movies, drama series and games, and is communicating with Korean companies in the area.

Ma also expressed interest in investing in the government-led Korea-China joint cultural content fund, the Finance Ministry said.

The two governments have started working on expanding joint production of cultural content and establishing a joint fund to support co-produced content since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Seoul last July.

As a follow-up measure last September, the joint fund was set at 200 billion won ($184 million), with 100 billion won coming from each country. Of the 100 billion won, each government will chip in 40 billion won, and the 60 billion won will come from each country’s private sector. Private-sector investors will be selected between May and June, according to an official at the Culture Ministry.

President Park encouraged Ma to invest in the fund at their Blue House meeting last August.

The fund is expected to help local content producers find foreign consumers and to cut through China’s broadcast regulations, which are a lot tighter for foreign content.

“The two countries haven’t set up detailed rules on content produced with money from the fund, but it is highly likely that jointly produced materials can avoid the Chinese government’s broadcast quotas on foreign material,” said an official from the Culture Ministry in a telephone interview. “Joint production content is also pretty popular in the Chinese market.”

Chinese media outlets reported last week that the Beijing government decided to tighten up broadcast and distribution regulations on foreign-made cultural content. Starting in April, the government said only foreign dramas that have received government permission can be aired online.

The government is also reported to be implementing a broadcast quota for drama series similar to the one for movies. Under that regulation, Korean dramas would be restricted compared to Chinese-made dramas.

Choi and Ma also agreed on the need for the two countries to develop cooperative business relationships in product shipping and distribution, said the Finance Ministry.

“Korea is growing into an attractive base for global companies as the country completed partnering through FTAs with the world’s three largest economic zones, China, the United States and the European Union,” said Choi.


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