As people’s interest in Korean popular culture is expanding around the world, the trend of spreading Korean Wave contents is changing. After the period when dramas and movies led the popularity of the Korean Wave, interest and consumption in other genres of Hallyu content such as webtoons and animations are also increasing. In addition, Korean popular culture from Northeast Asia such as China, Japan, and Taiwan in the past to North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In particular, ASEAN regions, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines are also gaining spotlight as a forward base for the Korean Wave. In addition to this, the spread of the Korean Wave is evolving from the conventional method of exporting completed cultural products to a method of simultaneously disseminating the world through digital platforms. In addition to the classic method of determining the export price per episode of a drama or movie, a new entry pattern is emerging. For example, the majority of Korean drama is sold on Netflix, and Netflix has tried the so-called “binge-watching” method, which allows consumers to watch a comfortable amount at a convenient time by providing many Korean dramas. In the era of COVID-19, while each country is struggling to produce and distribute new cultural contents, Korean Wave content is seeing a significant reflection effect by quickly making full use of overseas expansion strategies suitable for the era of digital platforms. As such, the Korean Wave is facing a new phase in many ways.
Therefore, in the face of the rapidly changing digital platform era, this study aims to raise the awareness on the necessity of preparing a policy for the continuous expansion of Korean Wave contents centered on the ASEAN region. The ASEAN market is a large-scale content market showing rapid growth as well as an economically and politically important diplomatic target area for Korea. In order to continue and expand the consumption of Hallyu content in this region, it is necessary to review the competitiveness of Korean Wave content based on an understanding of local contents consumption status and institutional conditions. Accordingly, this study raises the necessity of preparing new policies for the Korean cultural industry in response to the demands of the times in line with the potential of the ASEAN cultural content market. In addition, with the rise of Korean Wave 3.0, this study aims to prepare policy support measures for stabilizing the cultural industry and increasing the expansion of the content field into overseas markets.
The subjects of this study are as follows. First, spatially, among ASEAN member countries, six countries, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, were selected as target countries for analysis. Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos were excluded because of the limitations of the Korean Wave consumption survey and the fact that the size of Korean Wave exchanges and their own cultural industries were relatively small compared to the selected countries. Second, with regard to the genre of cultural content, the focus was on six areas: K-Pop, broadcasting (drama and entertainment), film, animation, webtoon, and gaming. Third, in the analysis of each country's content genre, we paid attention to three major aspects, such as planning, licensing, and distribution.
Meanwhile, the study utilizes various approaches such as analyzing the audience aspect in the light of the new media environment and conducting expert interviews with those who have experience in the Southeast Asian market, unlike previous studies that showed a tendency to focus on local market status surveys related to the advancement of Korean Wave content to the Southeast Asian market. In particular, the digital ethnography technique was applied to analyze the cases of Indonesia and Singapore. Based on this research approach, researchers tried to derive policy directions and support tasks that can continue reciprocal exchange along with continuous consumption of Hallyu content.
The results of analyzing the regional characteristics of six countries in the ASEAN region and the current status of Korean Wave content consumption are as follows. First, Vietnam's cultural content industry is expected to continue to grow based on its demographic structure with a large proportion of young people, open foreign policies, and ICT policies including e-commerce and 5G commercialization. Control factors such as content regulation in online spaces such as the Cyber Security Act, regulations such as “conditional investment field” in foreign investment exist, but the potential of the cultural industry also exists as can be seen in cultural industry policies such as “2020-2030 Vietnam Cultural Industry Promotion Strategy” and broadcasting policies related to digital transformation, among others. It can be seen as an active Korean Wave consumer destination, with co-productions and IP exports continuing in the field of broadcasting and entertainment, co-production of remakes and theater advances in movies, and localization such as local audition programs and discovering local artists in music.
In the Philippines, the proportion of young people and children who are active in Internet use in the total population is large, and the government is actively pursuing digital transformation, and consumption potential is increasing as the economy continues to grow. Although the Foreign Investment Act and the domestic industrial protection policy are being implemented, the digital transformation policy is rapidly being implemented in the broadcasting sector. Hallyu content is are recognized in the broadcasting area, leading to attempts of localization through remakes or production of Filipino broadcasting programs using Korean materials, and music being a representative part of Korean Wave contents, idol groups with Filipino members are being nurtured. In the film field, it is a country where joint film production is attempted.
Thailand has a high level of awareness and consumption of Hallyu cultural content. The Korean Wave was formed amid favorable conditions, including Korea emerging as Thailand's major economic cooperation country and growing interest in the Korean language in Thailand. The demand for reproduction of Korean Wave content based on the Thai context is high, and the Korean Wave is consumed in various fields such as dramas, movies, and music. In particular, as Thailand is a representative Korean Wave consumer among Southeast Asian countries, a localization strategy that actively reflects Thailand's peculiarities is required.
Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia has a higher income level and diversification of consumption trends, which has a high potential for the growth of Korean Wave cultural contents. However, it is necessary to closely examine its Islamic culture and different cultural lifestyles and regulations. Dramas, movies, music, webtoons, and games all show interest in the Korean Wave, and in the case of K-pop, they are actively consuming Korean Wave content by creating their own cultural community. Accordingly, there is a need for a plan to increase the business cooperation model by enhancing the cooperative relationship between the two governments.
Indonesia has recently been regarded as the country with the most attention among the Southeast Asian markets. Indonesia is a large population country and has the peculiarity that most of its cultural contents are produced in local languages, but the investment of Korean companies is active and its potential as a content market is highly appreciated. However, despite the democratic system, there were restrictions on freedom of expression such as online defamation and blasphemy, and as the world's No. 1 Muslim population, conservative society caused controversy over the Korean Wave. In particular, Korean dramas are popular with all classes, and Korean-style web dramas are being produced locally. The music sector is also very popular with the Korean Wave, as it actively appoints K-pop stars for local corporate marketing. In the case of movies, CGV is advancing into the theater industry, and webtoons have gone beyond the popularity of domestic webtoons, and LINE webtoons are applying a system to discover local authors. What is distinctive is that “influencers” are remarkable, and they are emerging as the leading roles in civilian diplomacy in recent years.
Singapore is a multicultural society with a multilingual, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic population in the background, and has developed mobile and internet infrastructure. It is a country with high literacy and purchasing power for overseas cultural contents including Korean Wave content by revitalizing cultural consumption. The government's active support policy is in progress to increase its own content production capability and infrastructure, but there is also the ambiguity of media content regulation and censorship. In particular, it is one of the countries that respond quickly to Korean Wave content as competition intensifies on the OTT(over-the-top) platform. Therefore, it also plays a role as a “test bed” for global competitiveness of Korean Wave contents. As it has an English-based global fan culture and serves as a base for performing arts in ASEAN, it is also necessary to pay attention to the consumption trend of K-pop music.
As a result of analyzing the current status of the Korean Wave contents market in Southeast Asia and the cultural industry policies and social cultures of major countries, the infrastructure such as platforms and movie theaters of Korean contents companies have been established, but it is linked to the limited aspects of foreign investment. Therefore, rather than co-investment or collaboration, IP-oriented exchanges including format exports have been mainly formed in recent years. Also, although the popularity of the Korean Wave is high, it has tended to attract attention mainly to artists and Hallyu stars. This was confirmed in in-depth interview analysis with experts with experience in the Korean Wave content market in Southeast Asia. Overall, the market potential of the ASEAN region is very high, but due to local production conditions, IP exports or indirect advances are being attempted rather than co-production methods, and more recently, the expansion of the OTT market has been identified as a major issue. In addition, compared to the movie, broadcasting, and music genres centered by large private companies, the government's support policy is effective for indirect entry using platforms such as the webtoon genre, and direct entry of small and medium-sized enterprises appears to be very limited due to the structure of the Korean Wave contents ecosystem.
Based on the above analysis, this study suggested the following policy directions and activation plans. First, the relevant government ministries and public institutions should establish the principle of “reciprocity” and adjust the tension between the two seemingly conflicting trends of “market” and “exchange,” while supporting the Korean Wave content projects in the ASEAN market from a mid- to long-term perspective. It is necessary to prepare support measures for each genre to secure high-quality IP with a strategic roadmap for supporting Korean Wave contents. Strategies for this can be “raising public awareness and interest in ASEAN member countries,” “expanding exchanges between the two governments and ministries,” “creating a virtuous cycle of Korean Wave content ecosystem,” and “a mutual cooperation between the private sector and the government by genre.” In addition, due to various constraints in this study, on-site interviews could not be conducted. Accordingly, this study suggests that a more comprehensive and specific research be carried out in the future as a follow-up project of full-scale field research, as well as the continuation of ethnographic research.