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Gov't urged to increase support for creators when K-culture is hot

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This is the fourth in a series of contributions from experts to highlight various issues President Yoon Suk-yeol and his administration should address during his presidency. ― ED.

Growing influence of cultural content to enhance global image of Korea

By Choi Jung-wha
Choi Jung-wha, professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and president of Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Choi Jung-wha, professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and president of Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

The global influence of Korean art and culture is more powerful than ever, with Korean content easily being mentioned in overseas media, be it YouTube videos by individual creators or international news outlets. The new administration needs to strike while the iron is hot and use this to its advantage in smart diplomacy.

Looking back at the viral sensation of PSY's "Gangnam Style" in 2012, Korean culture has since gained a strong following worldwide, especially with the internet, social media and streaming platforms which have helped people all around the world discover more Korean content online.

Back in 2003 when I started my organization, Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI), Korea was known more for its cars and electronic devices, but in recent years the country has been increasingly recognized for its art and culture.

Seeing the fans of idol groups such as BTS and BLACKPINK, Oscar-winning films like "Parasite," and Netflix's hit "Squid Game" last year, it seems every year Korea is gaining a greater reputation in the cultural world.

It is not only music and films that have gained global popularity, but games, reality shows and webtoons as well, which shows the strength of Korean storytelling and the fascination for it by audiences all around the world.

Last year, not only did "Squid Game" score the top spot in 94 countries within the first four weeks of its release but also "Single's Inferno" became the first Korean reality show to make it onto Netflix's top 10 TV shows.

In the webcomics world, the widely used Naver Webtoon app announced it has a total of 82 million monthly active users worldwide as of January, and will be opening a European branch in France to further expand into the global market. Recently the popular thriller webtoon series "Money Game" even became the first Korean webcomic to be made into a web-based entertainment show in the U.S.

No matter how good a product or idea may be, if there is not enough interest in it, it will most likely not yield any positive results even with great promotion. In recent years, Korea has proven the competitiveness of its content, as storytellers and producers, and Korean culture is now standing in the spotlight with an abundance of interest coming from all directions internationally.

The new government should take this into account and empower creators and also provide them with more support to make full use of their creativity, only making adjustments when necessary.

Financial support for creators is crucial. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic, many artists have struggled with issues such as travel bans, the cancellation of events and an overall decrease in spending by consumers. This has impacted the livelihoods of many creators, which of course impacts their creative work directly.

Support for creators, especially those who have proven their competitiveness, should be given enough to assure their freedom to create. This will help meet the demands of audiences around the world quickly and immediately as well, which will maximize the influence of K-culture, prompting the growth of Korea's influence in other fields of K-style as well, from politics, diplomacy and economy to arts and culture.

It is amazing how Korean culture has become somewhat mainstream internationally. It shows the strength and development of Korea's soft power, which we should all take pride in. I hope the new government will explore the power and influence Korean culture has at the moment and give adequate support.

The growth in awareness of Korean popular culture today has already seen it branching into other fields, such as a boom in people taking more Korean language courses, leading to more Korean language education programs worldwide. With the right support, it is not difficult to imagine K-culture will be able to positively influence other fields of K-style, and that it could also boost the economy and influence abilities of Korea around the world indirectly.

Again, I stress, one must strike while the iron is hot. Immediate actions should take place while K-culture has the attention of the world. I think a positive change and the benefits of Korean culture is that it strengthens the image and brings greater consideration and respect from other countries.

It stimulates other countries to emulate what Korea has achieved. This alone can bring greater partnership opportunities and provide alternatives to what we may have seen as dictated by the major traditional regional influencers.


Choi Jung-wha is a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and the president of Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI), who authored several books including "K-Style: Living the Korean Way of Life" (2016). She is also the secretary general of Korea-France Club.


Dong Sun-hwa sunhwadong@koreatimes.co.kr


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