KOCCA: Korean content gains global momentum heading VSWW

The popularity of Korean content is up again in the global marketplace, and a proof of this is a stronger presence of companies in different markets during 2021, as well as own-organized event that are being support by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). Prensario interviews Do Hyoung Lee, general director, Broadcasting Division, who highlights the big presence of Korean companies at Virtual Screenings Worldwide (September 21-30), building this global momentum.  


The total amount of export in the Korean content industry was about USD 10.8 billion in 2020, showing an increase of 6.3% YOY, and as of 2020, gaming accounted for the biggest portion of export amount (66.9%), followed by Knowledge Information (6.8%), character (6.8%) and music (6.4%.).

But the not only the export volume is growing, there is also noticed a diversification of the sources. The profile of the companies has changed from terrestrial networks (KBS, MBC and SBS EMD) to program providers (CJENM, JTBC, etc.), and it has also been driven by the rapid progress of their subsidiaries like CJ ENMStudio Dragon or JTBC’s JTBS Studios

The competition in the Korean market gets fiercer among local and international online streaming services like wavve and TVING, among the first, and as Netflix and Disney +, among the seconds, generating a bigger volume and quality of originals for the international market. 

‘The demand has increased and more investment in production has been made. Such trend has stimulated, specifically, the “diversity” of Korean drama with series of 10-30 minutes minutes —short-form or mid-form— becoming more relevant. First, with series like No, Thank You and Lovestruck in the City in 2020, as well as Mad for Each Other, How to Be Thirty and Start Up the Engine in 2021, that recorded in every episode +3 million views, getting good response’, describes Do Hyoung Lee, general director, Broadcasting Division, KOCCA.

Second, by producing dramas in the formats appropriate for their subject matters and concepts such as season and short drama, the needs of viewers are met. SBSPenthouse, tvN’s Hospital Playlist and TV ChosunMarriage & Divorce are getting lots of popularity, ready for the next season. They have earned the “win-win effect” in terms of improving quality and being under the spotlight by making seasons, which allows to control and reorganize how the story will be developed’, he adds.

Short drama, once faded into history, is coming back in various ways. He further explains: ‘Last year, tvN’s Drama Stage was grabbing attention. Its various genres ranging from thriller to black comedy and to romance were attractive enough to catch the eye of viewers. New drama/movie writers, in particular, added freshness to it. MBC’s Got a Goal and Check Out the Event broadcast on Wednesday and Thursday led the story with only 4 episodes’.

Lee believes such short drama appeals to viewer with its creative subject and story: ‘Some of them deal with social issues including gender. For example, viewers empathize with No, Thank You, the story about facing in-law family by a daughter-in-law, and Lovestruck in the City showing realistic romance among those in 20s and 30s. And The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim is a story about a shaman, was viewed by more than 3 million in just 3 days since its release, presenting a high-quality exorcism drama’. 

Third, dramas showing many more vividly are coming in as focusing on how to deliver a story more effectively rather than on age ratings. ‘This trend has been supported by the competition with a variety of global content via OTT platforms and the behavior change related to TV watching from terrestrial to cable and general programming channels. Popularity over R-rated dramas has continued, starting from JTBC’s Beyond Evil (16x’70), tvN’s Mouse and SBS’ Taxi Driver. When showing the scenes where cruelty needs to be, they focus on the flow of a story and the feelings of characters rather than on violence, itself, in order to help viewers understand in better ways’, Lee remarks. 

Fourth, the IP of webtoon/web-novel has become the essence of the content industry. ‘2021 has been dominated by the dramas based on webtoons such as Love Alarm 2 and Navillera, etc. Almost 20 webtoon originals are about to be dramatized this year. The reason for that is they have proper conditions for secondary creation into dramas, movies, etc. It is much easier to make images from webtoons as they can serve as a storyboard, itself, and to predict whether it will be hit or not as the public response to webtoons is easily observed through their recommendation and comments’, he completes. 

Some of these dramas are available to screen this month at Virtual Screenings Worldwide (September 21-30). Along with them are three shows from kt alpha: the dramedies Twenty Hacker (‘104) and Revenge Note 2 (16x’50) and the short-form drama Green Life (7x’8); Kang Contents’ drama K-School (13x’10 or ‘120); KBS’s To All the Guys Who Loved Me (16x’70); JTBC StudiosUndercover (16x’70).

Regarding formats, the executive underlines its originality, looking for new stories and trying out new programs, as well as universality, being able to gain the empathy of people in the world: ‘Those in the broadcasting industry in the Americas, leading the global trend, are watching programs from all over the world, getting proposals and reviewing them but still, eager to find something new. Some K-formats are MBC’s The Masked Singer and CJ ENM’s I Can See Your Voice and KBSGood Doctor because they try something new, not seen in existing formats, and are attractive enough to fascinate people around the world’.

‘As we witness the success of, for example, signing the contract with FOX Studio of the U.S. terrestrial TV network last year for the music gameshows Lotto Singer (16x’120) and Battle in the Box, the interest in K-formats has continued’, underlines Lee.

Since COVID-19, the Korean content demand has been getting larger and larger. The continuous success of K-broadcasting content has driven it including Kingdom, The Masked Singer, I Can See Your Voice and Good Doctor, and the global popularity of K-Pop stars like BTS and Blackpink and the prize-winning by Parasite and Minari in film awards also have added more heat to the craze. 

Apart from Series, TV movies and Formats, KOCCA highlights a great documentary selection with The Last Wildlife – Anan, Wangpeng & Me (’50 or ’80) from Hong Pictures, and Fisher Queen – Women vs. Nature (’52) from Min Production.

Lee concludes: ‘During the lockdown period people stayed at home and binge-watch shows on global OTT platforms, which makes those not that interested in K-content tap and fall into it. COVID-19 has led to increasing the demand for content and the hours consumed to watch, in particular, streaming content on OTT platforms, which allows more access to high-quality K-content, eventually fascinating people in the world’. 

The Korean programming offer is being showcased this fall at Virtual Screenings Worldwide, taking place on September 21-30. Registration is open and can be done for free here: www.virtualscreenings.com

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