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Six Strategies for Sustainable Growth of New Korean Wave

Six Strategies for Sustainable Growth of New Korean Wave

SEO Min-Soo, JUNG Tae-Soo, JOO Young-Min, LEE Hae-Wook

June 24, 2013

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Now in its 15th year, the Korean Wave, or hallyu, is reaching new heights with the global popularity of rapper Psy at the forefront of K-pop performers circling the world. And dramas, movies and games have been enjoying steady success. In 2012, culture-related exports topped those of imports for the first time since related data began to be compiled in 1980, booking a US$85.5 million trade surplus.

With cultural promotion one of the key policy goals of the new government installed in February, the Korean Wave now is seen as a stepping stone to having culture become a bigger contributor to Korea's economic growth. The effort follows similar campaigns in neighboring China and Japan in recent years as well as a trend among advanced countries, who are trying to cope with the fragile global economy and resultant weakness in manufacturing and service sectors. To them, the creative convergence of national features under a cultural umbrella is a potential "golden egg" as they face protracted low economic growth.

Yet, there are lingering doubts about the sustained popularity of the Korean Wave. Korea's robust IT industry and proliferation of social media outlets give the cultural industry an edge in grabbing the attention of global audiences. The YouTube parodies of Korean songs and dance movies by fans around the world and websites devoted to Korean serials and movies mirror high, ongoing penetration. But various opinion surveys show somewhat more negative sentiment on the resilience of the Korean Wave.

Inside Korea, consumers are getting bored. The main issue is content and variety. The plots of drama serials are similar and predictable and the concepts and styles of singing groups and individuals are becoming uniform. And with pop culture oriented towards stars, the Korean Wave's personality lacks variety.

Internationally, xenophobia and counterfeiting are obstacles. In countries that are key consumers of Korean Wave, including China and Japan, there is an escalating feeling that the indigenous culture is being diluted or even overwhelmed by Korean culture. As for counterfeiting, illegal download of Korean Wave content and distribution of illegal DVDs are leading to declining returns to copyright holders.

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