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Korean 'hallyu' hits MIPTV 2005

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CANNES: If it has been the Latin American telenovellas that have impacted global television programming in the last few years, it could well be the Korean wave (hallyu in local lingo) that could hit TV screens in the coming year.

Korean TV dramas, like Winter Sonata, have already been dubbed in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam and adapted in countries like Ghana, Uzbekistan and Mongolia among other countries and producers Korean Broadcasting System is already beginning to eye other Asian and western markets.

The Korean cultural fever hasn't yet hit the Indian market, but a contingent of Korean independent production houses and the three broadcast terrestrial stations that make up Korean TV will be visiting India in May to make the initial presentations.

Winter Sonata, a KBS produced three year old drama about first love, separation and eventual reunion, has in fact generated mass hysteria in all the countries it has aired, and has already earned $20 million for its producers. DVD sales have already fetched $143 million and its popularity has also reflected in increased tourism into Korea, says Korean Broadcasting Commission head Hwee Boo Yang.

Yearly exports of Korean TV programmes are maintaining an increase of 40 per cent every year, with the drama genre constituting 91.8 per cent of total exports in 2004, followed by animation that had a share of 4.6 per cent. According to the commission, in 2004, Vietnam (1.5 per cent), Malaysia (1.8 per cent) and the US (2.2 per cent) emerged as growing markets for Korean TV products.

The Korean wave is riding high on several factors. Hot competition among production houses is yielding high quality drama, the most preferred genre in Korea, and over 30 TV dramas are produced per week. The stories are universal, love oriented and family related stories, targeted at tugging heart strings of middle-aged women that form the bulk of their audience.

Korea is also banking on the fact that they are producing 'high quality dramas at reasonable rights fees.'

Another 2003 Korean MBC production Jewel in the Palace, a historical drama set in the Chosun dynasty about 500 years ago, has hit the popularity charts in Japan, Latin American and Middle East countries and made an income of $2.3 million by selling in eight countries, leading to the 'Hanbok' - traditional Korean costume becoming the latest in the wave of Korean products to gain popularity in Taiwan.

Korea is now eyeing co-productions with countries like China, where Korean scripts are being married to Chinese stars and locations and ensuring a ready market in both countries.

TV dramas apart, Korea, which has been in focus at this MIPTV with its cultural presentations and a Korean Day on 12 April, also plans to launch Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB), a Korean version of 'mobile broadcasting' by the end of this year. The 'ubiquitous connectivity' envisaged by this service means that people can utilise 'any device, anywhere, anytime' via 'U-home, U-office, U-government, U-education' services. Although it sounds a tad futuristic, Yang sounds confident that the service (to be transmitted via satellite and terrestrial) will allow all information devices and household appliances to be connected to the wired/wireless home network. Services will include TV VOD/ Interactive TV, healthcare, visitor identification, broadband Internet as well as control of house appliances.

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