The South Korean “wave” has gone global

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This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: The South Korean “wave” has gone global

Marc Filippino
Hello from the Financial Times. Today is Monday, October 25, and this is your FT News Briefing.

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Poland accused the EU of setting its head on funding and the rule of law. And Russian mercenaries are accused of committing atrocities in the Central African Republic. In addition, the successful series Squid game is the latest wave in South Korea’s global wave of cultural exports, but its biggest fans have long been in Asia.

Ed Blanc
Look at China, the face that receives the most requests to be copied for cosmetic surgery is that of Go Yoon Jung. She is a 25-year-old South Korean actress.

Marc Filippino
The Chinese government is not a fan of South Korean entertainment these days. We’ll see what this means for the Korean cultural industry. I’m Marc Filippino, and here is the news you need to start your day.

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The Polish Prime Minister has exacerbated tensions between Warsaw and Brussels. The EU and Poland disagree on the rule of law, and the European Commission has threatened Poland with legal and financial sanctions. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the FT that withholding funds was unfair and that the EU had a gun pointed at Poland. He urged Brussels to withdraw its threats. Morawiecki warned that if the European Commission starts World War III by withholding the money pledged in Warsaw, Poland will defend its rights with all the weapons at its disposal.

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Russian mercenaries invaded the Central African Republic late last year. Residents initially took them in for pushing rebel insurgents out of the towns. Now locals have reported horrific stories of rape, torture and murder at the hands of these heavily tattooed Russian private soldiers who have been linked to the Kremlin. FT West Africa correspondent Neil Munshi traveled to CAR to find out more.

Neil Munshi
Russia maintains that they only have unarmed instructors in the country. But UN officials, foreign diplomats, security officials in the country, civilians, opposition figures and just about anyone else you could name say that in fact , the Russian fighters who are in the country, most of them are mercenaries of this network of companies called Wagner.

Marc Filippino
Neil, what is the Wagner group doing there? What do they hope to accomplish?

Neil Munshi
So, according to analysts and others familiar with the group as a sort of informal extension of the Kremlin, it allows Russia, at very low cost both politically and financially, to somehow win back part of the global sphere of influence it had. during the Cold War. And they can do it with a plausible level of deniability because they don’t recognize, and the CAR government doesn’t recognize that there are mercenaries there. And they cannot be held responsible for any of the alleged human rights violations or alleged war crimes that the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Mercenaries and Others has accused the mercenaries of. to have committed.

Marc Filippino
Did the government say anything in response to these mercenaries? Do they want them to stay or go?

Neil Munshi
No, I mean, that’s the trick. The government, while it does not recognize the presence of these mercenaries, has no sign of being disappointed with the Russian presence or considering severing this relationship. And in fact most people, if you tell them from diplomats at the UN to security sources to civilians, would say the government stands today and in a lot of ways because of the Russian presence.

Marc Filippino
Neil Munshi is the FT’s West Africa correspondent.

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[‘PINK SOLDIERS’ FROM THE SQUID GAME SOUNDTRACK PLAYING]

Squid game is the biggest series launch ever for Netflix. Not only that, the South Korean drama has helped Netflix double the number of new subscribers in the past year. Corn Squid game is just a small piece of South Korea’s huge pop culture export industry.

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The 2013 song “Gangnam Style” gave Westerners a taste of what Asian consumers have been feasting on for years.

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There’s a huge menu of K-pop bands, video games, TV shows, and movies. Just remember the size of the movie Parasite was. And now the industry is worth over $ 100 billion a year. This is Ed White from FT.

Ed Blanc
Obviously, the Korean production houses have landed on a recipe that really works. I mean, it’s a mixture of drama, aspiration, romance, intrigue, comedy and audiences respond to it. For music, bands like BTS, a lot of people see success in that kind of versatility. They perform songs and dances that cross genres, pretty straightforward messages, it all seems to have pretty broad appeal.

[‘HOW YOU LIKE THAT’ BY BLACKPINK PLAYING]

Ed Blanc
When Koreans are successful, they are very, very good at replicating it. Now, it looks like they’ve found these recipes for success in games, film and television, and even music. And they’re starting to find new ways to produce them cheaply and on a scale that other people just can’t seem to do. Now what that looks like in the real world is that as we speak there are literally thousands and thousands of children, teens learning to sing, dance, dance, dance. to play. And they’re in basement studios across Seoul, training to be the next BTS or the next BLACKPINK or the next big K-Drama star. Seoul is also creating a kind of hub where it attracts a huge amount of talent from all over Asia. So young aspiring actors, singers and dancers from Japan, Taiwan, China, Southeast Asia, they’re all trying to get to Seoul to try to be successful here. It’s the exact same thing you’ve seen for years and years, with aspiring artists and actors heading to Los Angeles or Hollywood to try and make it in the United States.

Marc Filippino
So from a larger perspective, Ed, how important are pop culture exports to the South Korean economy in general?

Ed Blanc
Consider the context of South Korea as you know there is water on three sides. It has the heavily guarded North Korean border to the north. It really is essentially an island with quite limited natural resources, so this industry is becoming very, very important. And it was taken very seriously, not only by the public, but also by investors.

Marc Filippino
So, Ed, as you pointed out, China and the truly Chinese consumers played a big role in the success of the Korean wave. Can you talk about it a bit more?

Ed Blanc
China has played a vital role in the development of South Korea’s entertainment industry. The Chinese market actually accounts for over half of the industry’s sales revenue, and that’s because some of the most popular games in China have actually been developed by Korean companies. And then there have also been some very successful partnerships between Korean game companies and some of the biggest Chinese tech giants, like Tencent. There is also a lot of fallout from the popularity of Korean entertainment groups among Chinese consumers. And this has also been important for the marketing and advertising opportunities for Korean companies in general. Korean auto ads, for example, when Hyundai traditionally advertises in China, tries to use a K-pop group like BTS, and the same goes for Samsung electronics and many other products.

Marc Filippino
So it occurs to me, Ed, that this means South Korean companies might be vulnerable to the current crackdown in China right now, right?

Ed Blanc
Really, at the moment, we’re still assessing the damage over the past couple of months. There has been this unprecedented effort by Xi Jinping’s government in China to address what he sees as these social ills. And that encompasses the technology, that encompasses the gaming and entertainment industries. And so these are all key industries for South Koreans. Game developers are probably the hardest hit so far, purely from a monetary perspective. It’s not just an impact of the crackdown on the number of hours Chinese gamers are allowed to play online, especially children. And it’s also the fact that the licensing process for new games has become inherently icy. It has taken years and years, and so the growth opportunities for these traditionally successful businesses are really starting to dwindle. And with this pressure, you also start to see the South Korean entertainment companies that negotiated this, the way Chinese customers recognize Korean brands, it has started to be affected as well. Thus, advertising opportunities for Korean pop stars are slowly starting to disappear in China as well. And then the other thing is, it’s just generally you have the situation with the Chinese government and Chinese consumers really supporting more local content and industries. And it’s potentially going to have a much longer term impact, but it’s already starting to hurt businesses, Korean businesses, but I think it’s going to last a long time, a lot longer too.

Marc Filippino
Ed White reports on China and Korea for the Financial Times.

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Before you go, we’ve got a weather forecast for you, courtesy of Fox News. Lachlan Murdoch has invested $ 10 million to get Fox News to launch a 24-hour weather streaming app. Fox News is owned by Lachlan’s father, Rupert. The move comes as cable news networks have been losing audiences since Donald Trump left the White House. Now, some are concerned about Fox’s ability to report the weather accurately. Some of the network’s biggest personalities have questioned the threat of global warming. One of them, Tucker Carlson, called the threat of climate change a liberal invention.

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You can read more about all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News briefing. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript was generated automatically. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for correction to: [email protected]. We will do our best to make the change as soon as possible.

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