China-Korea Show Business Bonds Run Wide and Deep

The two countries’ entertainment industries are intertwined and dependent on each other

20 Once Again Chinese Korean Cinema.jpg
Courtesy of CJ E&M Film Division

Despite newly emerging political complications between South Korea and China, showbiz collaborations between them have a long and fertile history.

Relationships began in the ’90s with the simple import and export of movies (“Musa the Warrior,” “Failan”). More recently, it has grown to involve full-scale co-productions (“Blind,” “20, Once Again!”), co-development (“Witch”), remakes, and an exchange of on-screen talents.

Since 2013’s “Where Are We Going, Dad?”, China has bought a handful of Korean TV show formats to remake or co-produce Chinese versions. In 2015 alone, as many as 20 Korean TV properties such as “Running Man” and “I Am a Singer” were remade in China. “Descendants of the Sun,” a massively popular Korean TV series, is set for a feature film adaptation in China.

Korean dramas and pop music also enjoy huge popularity in China. Producers from both countries are keen to make use of the cultural wave. Many recent K-pop bands have tended to recruit Chinese members to appeal to the Chinese fan base. Among the latest is Victoria Song, a Chinese member of K-pop girl group f(x), one of the leads of “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” the Chinese remake of the American romantic comedy of the same name.

China’s direct investment in Korean companies and launch of joint ventures are the newest forms of collaboration. Korea’s showbiz industry has seen a major influx of Chinese money — some $2.7 billion over five years — a move welcomed by Korean companies looking to expand to the Chinese market.

Examples of such collaborations include Huace&NEW, a joint venture set up by Korea’s leading distributor NEW and Chinese media group Huace Media, and Chinese giants Alibaba and Tencent’s investment in Korean music major SM and YG.

Pictured above: “20, Once Again”