The Korean contents industry is bustling with efforts to join the world's top five contents creator countries. Korea is the ninth largest contents supplier in the world and Korea needs to more than double its sales to make it into the top five. However, it is in fact quite an ambitious goal to reach given the limited size of the domestic market.
Korea IT Times met Lee Jae-woong, the president and CEO of the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), to discuss KOCCA's major projects in 2011 and their efforts to make the country the fifth largest contents provider in the world.
According to Mr. Lee, KOCCA will continue on their quest for excellent stories, which began in 2009, and turn those selected movies into a commercial project that has global appeal. "Our goal is to complete at least five stories out of the 11 that we discovered last year. Also, we are already working on detailed scripts for the "Chosun Shooter" and "A Night Watcher's Journal" after signing each contract, and also promoting investment for "Locus Midget", which won first prize in our competition, "he says.
The agency is planning to focus on inducing more investment for production of global projects as well. On March 10th, KRW 20 billion of the Global Fund for contents production - movies, TV dramas, and animation - was set up, in addition to MOUs with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and Kibo Technology Fund, etc. designed to expand the range of beneficiaries of the completion bond to smaller producers. The Global Fund will offer a stepping stone for reaching KOCCA's goal of exporting US$ 100 million worth of contents, while the completion bond program will help underfinanced contents creators with creative ideas.
Furthermore, KOCCA is preparing to cultivate contents that are suitable for state-of-art platforms such as 3D, smart gadgets, and virtual reality, in order to get ahead of rival countries in the market. "To do so," Mr. Lee explains, "We will set up the next-generation contents department within KOCCA, which will provide comprehensive support for infrastructure and individual projects. For the new contents market, KOCCA is planning to allot around KRW16 billion of the budget for Korean companies to improve their global competitiveness."
Other various projects are also in the works, a considerable part of which was designed to accommodate the legal system for more transparent business environment. The agency is going to not only help to resolve unfair transactions and other discriminatory cases, but it is also planning to extend the application of the standard form of agreement for digital contents supply to broader categories.
Also, a new regulation, the digital contents transaction authentication will come into effect soon and KOCCA is currently examining a project to create more jobs in the contents industry by improving the training programs and other activities.
Story market - driving force of contents industry's development
From the time he first took office, boosting the story market was one of the points that Mr. Lee emphasized. He believes that 'story' is the basis on which Korean contents can build competence in order to advance to the global markets. He explains discovering good stories and developing them into competitive products with well-executed production and scenarios are the key to improving the industry as a whole, adding that "in 2011, for the first time after I joined KOCCA, we are launching an integrated support program to find diverse stories from writers and help those stories enter the market as end products."
Good stories can be born only when the writers can focus on creating them in stable and supportive environment. For that reason, KOCCA decided to concentrate on two main projects: the first, named 'Story Bank' is to establish the biggest story competition in Korea with solid credibility; and the second project involves 'Story Creation Center' - a total support center where writers can nurture their story-telling skills and materialize them as commercial contents.
This year, a total of 11 winners from the 2010 selection will benefit from the support program, which analyzes each story before seeking professional consulting from the expert group, so that those stories, after necessary adaptation, turn into a competitive contents product. Also, the program will assist them with getting finance from investors for actual production.
Meanwhile, the Story Creation Center is going to introduce more concrete programs to foster good story tellers. After preparing the environment for the last one year, the focus can be now shifted to developing and galvanizing a diverse range of programs for storytellers of different genres from SF to fantasy, martial arts novels, and romance. The storytelling school will also provide lectures on topics like forensic medicine, criminal profiling, and martial arts to give the writers a chance to experience different genres, and also invite renowned international storytellers for a global storytelling workshop.
The U.S and Chinese market
From 2010, KOCCA has been striving to reach out to major markets such as the U.S and China, and for the long run, the agency has been establishing a cooperative network with these countries in order to secure routes for successful export. 'Hollywood Mentoring System' is one of the platforms established by KOCCA to help broaden the network, and the cooperation with the sixth major distributor in Hollywood will likely show tangible results soon.
For China, where the regulations are a huge parameter that determines the success of exporting, the agency puts more emphasis on cooperation with the authorities. KOCCA's MOU for the development of the contents industries with the Ministry of Culture in China in September 2009; and in December 2010, the two countries further specified the collaboration plan, which ranges from exchange of information and human resources to co-production and technological cooperation. This project will not only become a gateway to the Chinese market, but also enable the two countries to make use of their own advantages in advancing to global markets.
Apart from D-War, Korean contents that entered the American market so far have only found less than 30 screens out of the 30,000 in the country. The poor scores in the box office led to disappointing sales in other markets such as DVDs, PPVs, and premium channels, and although some of them are being distributed in the form of VOD from the internet cinema Netflix, it still falls short of a profitable business model.
For those reasons, KOCCA is making utmost efforts for the co-production project in order to maximize the profit from the American and Chinese markets. The four works - three animations, Gone, NutJob, Scan2Go, and a musical, Scandal - selected and sponsored for the global frontier project targeting the U.S market drew a total of KRW7.4 billion of investment and will soon be released in the U.S once production is finished.
For the Chinese market, on the other hand, KRW5.2 billion was invested for three co-production animation projects between Korea and China, namely Pororo Ice Racing, Pang Pang Rescue, and Tap - Little Wizard: Wizard School the second semester, which are currently in the production stage and planned to be in the box office within 2011. Moreover, KOCCA is planning to collaborate with KBS and CCTV for a TV program to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the treaty of amity between Korea and China this year as well as a special project aimed to enter China's online game market.