Korea eyes Mideast, E. Europe for hallyu sales

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The Middle East and Eastern Europe are the next strategic long-term markets for Korean cultural content, the Korea Communications Commission said Wednesday.

Through its sub-organization Korea Internet Security Agency, the KCC spends about 800 million won ($730,000) every year to showcase Korean TV content, which has been one most popular types of Korean cultural product overseas.

Sponsored by the KCC, a group of KISA officials held four one-day showcases each in Turkey, Bulgaria and Jordan between Nov. 2 to Nov. 7, to promote Korean TV entertainment programs including popular soap operas.

Korean officials from broadcasting associations and eight TV broadcasting firms were invited to showcase their products.

The showcases include showing highlights of Korean TV programs to buyers from foreign broadcasting and publishing companies, followed by business consulting sessions.

"Korean broadcasting firms are trying to spot new markets of developing countries with high potential for popular Korean TV programs but currently lack market capacity," said Cho Joon-sang, head of KISA's overseas operation unit, who joined all three showcase events.

"So far, the major markets for hallyu content have been limited to Japan, China, Taiwan and the Southeast Asian countries," Cho said. "But the government is trying to pioneer potential markets in other countries, accepting requests from the TV broadcasting firms."

The Korean TV broadcasting firms chose Turkey, Bulgaria and Jordan this year, in an attempt to make inroads in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Turkey has been selected for two consecutive years because of its significant role in the sales of hallyu content, Cho said.

"Turkey has very strong independent capacity to produce its own TV content, and it broadcasts a lot of foreign TV programs to countries in the Middle East and Eastern Europe," he said. "We need to penetrate the Turkish TV content market in order to reach both the Middle East and Eastern Europe."

Jordan, which is a relatively small market, was chosen because, like Dubai, it has many TV content-producing companies. KISA held a showcase in Dubai last year.

Cho said that Jordan will be the new hub for promoting Korean TV content in the 22 Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East. "The broadcasting firms chose Jordan by consensus," he said.

The accompanying TV broadcasting firms also insisted on having a showcase in Bulgaria as a milestone of pioneering the Eastern European market.

"In fact, Eastern Europe has a constant demand for Korean TV content. We had showcases in Romania, Poland and Hungary last year as well, and the accompanying firms insisted on Bulgaria this time."

The overseas showcase and business consulting sessions usually do not instantly lead to business deals. These events are ice-breaking network builders, after which Korean firms estimate the buyers' purchase power and discuss deals with local buyers for about six months to one year, Cho said.

Korean historical epic drama "Sangdo" is already being aired in Jordan.

"Jordan companies have higher demand for epic dramas, largely because of cultural restrictions," he said, noting that the trend applies to all Arabic-speaking countries in general.

The Eastern European countries have high demand for temporary action or romantic comedy genres, he added.

The biggest change in the hallyu trend worldwide is that there has been a huge increase in the fandom of Korean pop culture, thanks to YouTube and other Internet sources," Cho said.

"Our foremost mission today is commercializing this freely distributed Korean cultural content and creating value-added products out of it."

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