Streaming giant Netflix has unveiled a plan to invest a massive $2.5 billion, or over 3 trillion won, into Korean content over the next four years. Despite the economic downturn, the company has never wavered in its commitment to investing in Korean content since its entry into the market in 2016. In fact, it has already invested more than 1 trillion won ($748 million) in the country’s creative industry, and this latest move underscores its unwavering confidence in Korea’s artistic ecosystem as a collaborative partner.
Netflix is making strides in Korean popular culture through collaborations with local creators, resulting in groundbreaking content. The recent success of Squid Game, breaking records as Netflix’s top-grossing series to date, showcases the artistic and commercial value of Korean content. In addition, Netflix’s Q1 earnings report revealed The Glory as the 5th most-watched non-English content among all Netflix TV series, with a total of four Korean titles appearing among the top 10 non-English content on Netflix, including Squid Game at No. 1, All of Us Are Dead at No. 4, The Glory at No. 5, and Extraordinary Attorney Woo at No. 7.
Netflix’s investment in the Korean content industry is unique in that it not only focuses on producing high-quality works but also on supporting the Korean creators who bring them to life. This approach has created a “virtuous cycle” structure that fosters mutual growth between Netflix and Korean companies engaged in various aspects of content production, including special effects (VFX), makeup (SFX), post-production, production finance, on-site support, and more.
The success of Korean content on Netflix has had a significant impact on the dubbing and subtitling industry responsible for localizing content. In the past, dubbing was not considered a high-value industry, but it has seen a surge in growth as Korean content exports have become more prevalent overseas. The leading media group specializing in dubbing and subtitling, iYUNO SDI Group, for instance, partnered with Netflix in 2015, providing support for approximately 10 languages. Since then, the company has experienced substantial growth, expanding into a global organization with the infrastructure to support dubbing in around 60 languages as of 2021.
Companies involved in specific stages of content production, such as special visual effects, special makeup, color correction, and sound, have also experienced growth in the wake of Korean content’s success on platforms such as Netflix. This trend has been particularly significant since China’s banning of Korean trade and culture, as new channels for content distribution have emerged, resulting in the creation of new growth engines. Notably, companies like Cell, a special makeup company, and Liveton, a subsidiary of Dexter specializing in sound, have seen significant increases in their global portfolios and content volume for entertainment streaming services. The VFX specialist company Westworld has experienced substantial growth, increasing its employee count from 10 to 170 since its establishment in 2018. Meanwhile, Dexter Studio’s Color Correction (DI) Business Division has grown to handle approximately 40 percent of annual domestic movie DI work as of 2021.
The success of the Korean content industry has led to the growth of related industries such as webtoons, web novels, music, and other cross-industry fields like fashion, beauty, and tourism, as IP-centered contents carry high added value. A 2021 survey by global consulting group Deloitte revealed that the worldwide success of Korean content has created approximately 5.6 trillion won ($4.1 billion) in economic ripple effects and generated around 16,000 jobs in related industries beyond the domestic content industry.
Undoubtedly, the content production and distribution industry is where the ripple effect of the Korean content industry has been most directly observed. According to the report, the economic value generated in this field through collaboration with various domestic creators, such as filming, editing, dubbing, and special effects, amounts to approximately 2.7 trillion won ($2 billion). Additionally, the Korean works introduced by Netflix have contributed to the global spread of K-culture, and it has been demonstrated that an economic effect of around 2.7 trillion won has been generated in various other industries such as food, beauty, fashion, and tourism.
The changes brought about by the success of the Korean content industry have also resulted in a shift in public perception of the ‘Korean Wave’. According to a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries on public awareness of the spread of the Korean Wave, over half of the respondents stated that the global presence and influence of the Korean Wave has increased by over 40 times since its emergence in the early 2000s. Notably, a majority of respondents attributed the worldwide spread of the Korean Wave to the development and diversification of platforms.