Posted on: 2/16/2023

South Korea: The Asian Entertainment Superpower


South Korea has a sophisticated entertainment eco-system and a rich vein of talent who can operate on an international level.

I have to admit, when it first came out 10 years ago, I thought the video for “Gangnam Style” was brilliant; the music, the signature dance moves, and the comedy-laced video gave a small glimpse into South Korean fashion and lifestyle. Although the movie Oldboy came out a lot earlier when I was at University (and still remains in my top 3 favourites), I didn’t really know much about the country.

I can’t claim to be a Korean entertainment expert, but I enjoy the original storytelling and family-dynamic themes of its films (check out Snowpiercer, The Host, Okja, Vengeance Trilogy, and Train to Busan for a few examples). I have been intrigued to see the global explosion of KPOP on the music side and the mainstream successes of the likes of Parasite and Squid Game on the broadcast end. The “Korean Wave” is nothing new, but it certainly seems to have picked up speed lately.

Working with SRI has given me a deeper insight into the regional entertainment market, and in the year or so I have been in Singapore, it has become quickly apparent that there is a great synergy between North Asian (and in particular South Korean) content and Southeast Asia (SEA).

Korean entertainment brands like SPOTV and SM Entertainment Group have launched a presence in Singapore, KC Global (which spun out from Sony Pictures) is heavily involved in Korean content, and Paramount’s Korean head has relocated here to drive its streaming business for Asia.

In addition, Korean music is wildly popular across the international and local streaming platforms across SEA and just this week KPOP group BLACKPINK launched their own flavour of Oreos (available only in South Korea and SEA).

While Korean content has typically been exported, we are also seeing more international content being imported. IP content providers such as A+E Networks, BBC Studios, and Moonbug have witnessed great growth in the country, and Disney’s APAC President is based in Seoul.

We are also seeing large scale investment in the offline space . US entertainment giants AEG are working in partnership with local conglomerate CJ Entertainment on a new purpose-built live music venue in Seoul, while another large-scale resort with arena is being constructed in adjacent city, Incheon, by Mohegan (another US-headquartered developer).

As a result, there is an uptick in our recruitment projects based in South Korea and Singapore, but with an increased focus on the former.

South Korea has a sophisticated entertainment eco-system, and while it isn’t a huge market, it has a rich vein of talent who can operate on an international level and are receptive to job opportunities (a challenge that can be faced when recruiting in the neighbouring Japanese market).

With the reopening of its traditional economic ally, China, and the popularity of its innovative content drawing from its rich cultural heritage and legacy of creativity, there is no doubt that Korea will continue to play a major role in the regional – and indeed global – entertainment industry for years to come.


Tom Watterson