Korea’s promotion of content industry proves effective


An old castle in South Korea.
An old castle in South Korea.

Another “hanryu” (Korean boom) is spreading throughout Japan. The influential Chosun Ilbo reported last November, “A third Korean boom is going on in Japan.” The first boom was triggered in 2003 by the explosive popularity of TV drama Winter Sonata, followed by the second one in 2010-2011 which was kicked off by a rage of Korean pop music dubbed as “K-POP”.




A Japanese dictionary defines hanryu as “a furor of Korean pop culture that has hit East Asia”. In the first boom that began in Japan with Winter Sonata, Bae Yong-joon, the leading actor in the drama series, generated wildly enthusiastic fans among middle-aged and elderly women. K-POP in the second boom won over younger generations in Japan. It became so popular that Korean girl singer groups KARA and Girls’ Generation were invited to perform in NHK’s Kohaku Utagassen, the celebrated annual year-end song festival. Korean food like cheese dakgalbi which became something of a fad in Japan last year, is certainly playing a part in the latest boom, which was sparked by Korean-made cosmetics.




The development of the Korean pop culture, including music, drama, movie and food, is supported by the growth of the country’s content industry. According to the Japanese trend information magazine Nikkei Entertainment, the Asian currency crisis in 1997 threw Korea into economic doldrums, forcing the government to map out a far-reaching reconstruction strategy, which included promotion of the culture industry. Under this policy, a faculty of utility music and a faculty of video were newly set up at various universities along with many vocational colleges. They have successfully nurtured leaders who are now active in K-POP and TV drama. According to data made available in March 2017 by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism and Korea Creative Content Agency, the content industry’s annual sales totaled a record 100,486.3 billion won (about ¥10.36 trillionin 2015, proving that the government’s promotion of the culture industry has produced a great result.





Speaking of the Korean cosmetics industry, Japan used to be its third-biggest market after the United States and China. Now, “K-Beauty”, the collective term of Korean cosmetic products, is said to be regaining popularity in Japan. According to data released by the Cosmetic Importers Association of Japan (CIAJ), Japanese imports of Korean cosmetics totaled ¥2.68 billion in the January-September period of 2017, up 10.5% from the same period a year ago. Imports of skin-care products, at ¥10 billion worth, were up 14.6%.




Besides cosmetics, K-POP singer groups TWICE and BLACKPINK are enjoying popularity in the current boom. Korean-style cafes also seem to be catching the eyes of many Japanese customers. Those colorfully decorated shops serve colorful dishes.




The third Korean boom is likely to stay for a while.

(Written by: Yuto Yawata)