The Armchair Observer

I too could not resist it. Every single friend of mine urged me to watch Squid Game and finally I gave in...

  • Samir Mehta

Hallyu - 'the Korean wave'

I too could not resist it. Every single friend of mine urged me to watch Squid Game and finally I gave in. In my opinion, it was predictable (good usually triumphs over evil), sometimes torturously (excuse the pun) slow but I did enjoy a novel experience. Women starring in strong roles in a Korean production; an immigrant featured quite prominently; tackling entrenched societal issues around class; inequality with rising indebtedness; capitalism with a winner takes all approach - can free will exist in these conditions? 

Two decades ago, with the aim of diversifying its economy, South Korea set its sights on developing its cultural industries. In 1994, a government white paper famously noted that a single blockbuster movie, Jurassic Park, earned the equivalent of selling 1.5 million Hyundai cars. And so, the government abolished strict censorship rules, established a new commercial broadcasting system and developed legislation like the Korean Film Promotion Act of 1995. “They realized that a single good cultural product could be very lucrative and would probably sustain the Korean economy in ways that maybe car sales, with all the competition, might not. And that investment was necessary” said Associate Professor Maliangkay – Channel News Asia October 2021.

The cultural impact of Korean movies, dramas, songs and now serials has long been in the making. Nothing ever happens overnight but Koreans can certainly bask in this glory.

My approach to investments in South Korea was fashioned in the world of capital-intensive, old school, cyclical businesses, usually burdened by debt. The 1997/98 Asian Financial crisis bankrupted many but also provided the starting point for a renaissance in the arts. These creative industries, along with fintech, online games and crypto-related businesses are the likely hunting grounds for newer investments.

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