Carmen Voinea [KF]

Hallyu: Media Gateway to Korean Culture

Written by Carmen Voinea [KF]. Posted in Coreea azi, English, Hallyu, Recenzii Koreafilm

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Published on iulie 28, 2011 with Un comentariu

Mr Sean Lee is a social media expert who is currently working at EC21, one of Korea’s largest New Media Marketing firm with the world’s 2nd largest B2B Online marketplace (portal) website. He was kind enough to respond to a few of our questions and queries regarding this phenomenon that has caught our attention: the Korean Wave. More information about him is that his responsibility at EC21 is strategic marketing planning, online marketing planning (including Social media marketing, Search engine optimization and Search engine marketing) and business planning/development including partnership and product management at EC21. Before joining EC21, he had previous experience of web design, online marketing/market research and talent acquisition over APAC region at an executive search firm. He has also been part of the 2010 social media campaign of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) for promoting Korea as a tourist destination.

KF: Starting with a warm-up question of interest to our readers, are you a K-pop fan and of Korean dramas? If so, what are your favourite bands and movies?

Sean Lee: For your information, my favourite K-pop singer is Lena Park known as Park Jung Hyun and my favourite K-drama is IRIS, as well as Winter Sonata. For Korean Movies, I would select Joint Security Area – JSA as my favourite among the Korean movies I have ever watched.

KF: Besides the content of the dramas and songs, do you think for the European fans the Korean Wave conveys more than just the cultural product themselves, like for example promoting Korean values, customs, and cuisine?

SL: Yes. In my point of view, the Korean Wave (Hallyu) plays a role of a gateway connecting people who used to be unaware of (or unfamiliar with) Korean culture to the brand sphere of Korean culture. The “Korean Wave” conveys more than just the cultural product themselves. Positive perception on the Korean Wave encourages people to be interested or to be curious in Korean culture and Korea.

It is similar to corporate branding in some ways. As an example, let’s say a consumer started to have positive perception on his/her iPod Touch after purchase. In this case, iPod Touch plays the role of a gateway between the consumer and the Apple brand. Positive brand perception created by the iPod Touch would often greatly affect the consumer’s brand preference: to follow Apple, the brand and finally to keep purchasing Apple’s other products.

KF: The first stage of the Korean Wave started in Asia in 1997, another one being around the 2002 Football World Cup that helped promote even more Korean pop culture. Are we now in a third stage and would the European expansion mark this new stage?

SL: I am not a cultural expert. Hence it is difficult for me to say it is the 3rd stage. However, the Korean wave was concentrated in the Asia region so far and the Korean Wave’s big success in carving niche markets in Europe is quite recent. I can say a clear thing that some of the recent success of the Korean wave expansion in Europe indicates that Europe is the next place where to try the Korean wave’s new possibilities and opportunities.

KF: Until recently, especially in Europe, the fans were only consuming K-pop products online. The concert in Paris, where the tickets have been sold out in just 15 minutes might mark another stage from online to offline events. What is your opinion about this evolution?

SL: Europe is still a new venture and geographically-remote world for the Korean Wave, so Korean entertainment companies wouldn’t dare to spend large amount of budget to execute offline advertising or promotion.
According to the interview with SHINee & SM Deputy Kim Young Min [1] (SM is the entertainment company which organized the concert in Paris, also one of the largest Korean entertainment company), their marketing using SNS and YouTube had great success on the concert advertising. I believe their marketing success was based on the right selection of marketing platforms and effective communication with shares / invites on the social media platforms.

KF: Do you have any predictions about the spread of the Korean Wave and the platforms and media that will help it move forwards? Also, as it started with the dramas and now, according to some articles, the driving force is the music, what do you see as the next step?

SL: Well, I personally hope the spread of the Korean Wave (Hallyu) keeps going on.
I predict the marketing importance of SNS platforms as well as video sharing network, YouTube, will continuously increase in the Entertainment industry, especially more in the international environment. I agree with what SM Deputy, Mr. Kim, said about SNS: “in the SNS world, what starts in a minor fandom can spread to the whole in an instant”. I think the characteristics of social media platforms are great match to international entertainment marketing solution.
As the Korean music’s success in Europe is still recent, it might  be too early to see the next driving force. I think we need to see first how Korean music goes in Europe.

KF: As an interesting fact, there have been articles reporting that K-pop reached as far as Peru where there is a Korean pop culture club called Mundo Asianik that organizes events where fans gather and watch the latest Korean dramas. Also, the Korean Wave managed to breach through the security of North Korea where smuggled DVDs and CDs are being sold on the black market. Do you have a comment about this situation especially the North Korean case where there was no help from the online platforms?

SL: I would comment that there’s no help from the online platforms in North Korea, but the situation there goes quite similar to what happens online. Despite the official media controls, media contents are shared in any form, as long as there is demand for those media contents.

KF: And now we will need an insider’s view on the Korean wave. What do the Koreans think about this Wave sweeping Asia and entering Europe and US? Is this huge success a reason for national pride? What is the feeling and what are the opinions expressed in the online environment (networking sites, blogs)?

SL: In Korea, its cultural influence and reputation have not been large compared to the neighbor countries – China and Japan. The spread of Hallyu can raise the national cultural pride for Koreans with the feeling Korea is getting a culturally competitive country. Indeed, I have seen comments saying they’re proud quite many times in the online environment such as Twitter, Facebook and Blogs.

KF: You were saying in an interview that finally Cyworld collapsed and the Koreans started to turn towards Facebook and Twitter. How do you think this will impact the promotion of Hallyu? Will it be easier for foreign fans to get in touch with Korean fans and change impressions?

SL: In my opinion, it impacted the promotion of Hallyu somewhat but I am not sure if it will make big affluence on international Hallyu promotion in the future. It’s necessary to keep watching more how the situation is going.
First, Korean celebrities make each profile or fan page for international and local on Facebook or on Twitter which means Koreans who have a certain level of English skill will access the international SNS channels.
Second, the fast growth of Facebook and Twitter in KR shown in the beginning of 2011 in Korea has moderated since the first quarter of 2011. Cyworld’s heyday is over but it’s still the largest SNS in Korea.

KF: Founded in 2006, Soompi is one of the largest online K-pop communities in English, with around 5 million monthly visitors from some 150 countries. What is your expert opinion on such websites and do you have other similar examples for our readers?

SL: The founder of Soompi pointed out their success comes from the following points at the interview with Korea times. [2]
 Covering such a wide variety of topics (entertainment news & forums, fan clubs and beauty & fashion, etc)
 Interactive contests and events
 Active User Generated Contents production
 Member feedback system
 User-friendly interface

I believe the above are quite similar to Social media’s features and characteristics. I see is a user-based website which has evolved very close to Web 2.0 website pursuing interactive communication, not like .com websites of one-way communication.
As a similar example, I would comment about
Allkpop is another one of the largest K-pop communities in English, the website also has powerful user participation. Check out its forum section, there are over 2 million posts by 240K members.

KF: The Mashable Awards 2010, for the connoisseurs no presentation is needed of this leading social media website, had three Korean winners: Super Junior – Must follow personality; Jay Park – best web video; Must follow brand: AllKPop. I believe these results speak for themselves regarding the great influence of social media in promoting K-pop. How much is this owed to the fans outside Korea?

SL: I think the answer to the question,”Do you have any predictions about the spread of the Korean Wave and the platforms and media that will help it move forwards”, can replace the answer.
In addition, I believe social media is one of the best marketing tools for promoting K-pop in consideration of the main characteristics social media has. Reach, Immediacy (or recency), Accesibility, Usability, and Permanence.

KF: The Korean Tourism Organization signed a cooperation agreement with Yahoo, in 2010, to promote online the country as a key travel destination for Asia, a campaign known as “Korea: 100 Sparkles”. As “Korea’s bright stars”, K-pop singers and actors helped promote the country’s attractions for travelers in China, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. Targeted for Asia as an interactive campaign, do you see this initiative as feasible outside Asia and do you know of any future plans in this direction?

SL: I see the initiative as feasible outside Asia. A month ago, I read an article about group of 40~50 French fans who visited Korea. That is a very unusual event because so far, there was no record of a group of Hallyu fans that visited South Korea from Europe before.

Regarding the Korea Tourism Organization(KTO)’s future promotion plan, although I participated in the KTO’s social media campaign project last year, I am not actually aware of their strategies of interactive campaign employing Hallyu stars.
As a part of the promotion campaign, a video titled ‘Haru’ (A day of Korean stars) was promoted through YouTube and websites and the video view hits were quite a lot without massive advertising campaigns as starring many Hallyu stars.

KF: In Romania, Hallyu had the breakthrough with “Jewel in the Palace”. Broadcasted by the national TV channel this has brought more fans but also helped create a community, we hope to think around What advice would you give to the people behind the website for a better promotion and a deeper involvement of the readers?

SL: I would say Soompi and Allkpop cases can be good examples for As I answered in the previous question, those communities got the largest Hallyu communities by active user participation and interactive communication.

I see website has exclusive and high quality contents about the Korean Wave. Plus on this, what about adding system or place that user can participate in, interactively communicate with and share or evaluate each other’s content.

We thank Mr Lee for his expert opinion and regarding the last point we hope that we have already started applying his advice with our users’ review contest.


[1] Europe has no dancing idols [] last access on 2011. 6. 15

[2] Founder of largest English K-pop site ‘Soompi’ [] last access on 2011. 6. 15

Despre Carmen Voinea [KF]

Carmen Voinea [KF]

Carmen Voinea (n. 1983) a studiat Stiinte Politice in cadrul Universitatii Bucuresti (2002-2006). A lucrat pentru o perioada in presa, insa dorinta de a iesi putin din zona de confort a facut-o sa caute programe de voluntariat in Africa doar pentru a ajunge sa lucreze ca profesor asistent de engleza in Coreea de Sud (2008-2009). In prezent se bucura de viata corporatista si tanjeste dupa un chamchi gimbab.

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  1. Thanks for the english translation ;)

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