Who is the true friend of the content creator?

A deep dive into the state of content creators in Korea and the Philippines

By IM Young-a

MULTI-AWARDED DARK COMEDY The cast of Parasite at the 2020 Academy Awards with director Bong Joon-ho in the middle. The Korean film won best picture

Recently, I attended the International Film Industry Conference 2022 held by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). The conference addressed concerns and solutions for the film industry, which has experienced a recession since the outbreak of the pandemic. Experts from Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea participated in the discourse on the film industry’s current status, and on each country’s policies and ways to increase the number of moviegoers. Experts and attendees acknowledged the achievements of the Korean film industry, especially the government and the Korean Film Council’s policies to support the film industry and the filmmakers.

Since Korean pop culture such as Korean films and dramas have received worldwide attention, recognition, and love, various international and foreign presses have mentioned the investment and constant support of the Korean government to the cultural industry since 1998. For instance, in film, the Korean government required a certain number of days for Korean films to be screened in theaters (more than 146 days in a year from 1985 to 2006. It is now down to 73 days) through a policy called “Screen Quarter,” thereby creating a channel for Korean films to communicate with the audience.

FILM ON Participants of the International Film Industry Conference 2022 at the Novotel Manila Araneta City (Photo from IFIC)

Currently, the Korean Film Council, or KFC, is assisting in the creation, distribution, and consumption, which we call the “whole value chain.” In line with this, KFC manages an academy for the training of filmmakers, funds film planning and production, operates a real-time box office information system, and supports independent artistic cinemas and culturally underprivileged sectors to enjoy the film culture.

The reason these government policies and supports are mentioned concerning the significant growth of Korea’s pop culture industry is that these policies, which directly invested in the cultural industry, are noticeable externally. There is a hovering question, however, on whether this alone is enough to explain the accomplishments of the Korean cultural industry. What is often easily overlooked are the pain and effort of artists to create, in some cases called imitation and recreation, or distinct Korean sensibility—is what I want to emphasize as the key factor for Korean content to resonate with a global audience.

LOVE’S EMERGENCY LANDING South Korean romantic comedy television series Crash Landing On You

Of course, changes in Korea’s social environment allowed artists to openly express their intended messages and thoughts. Moreover, it created an atmosphere for them to play freely in the creative playgrounds. The appearance of a democratic government guaranteed the exercise of freedom of expression and reduced both visible and invisible censorship placed on films and dramas. On top of that, creators were able to display and criticize Korean society without hindrance through their works. The works tell the stories of common people, like the gap between rich and poor, never-ending competition, and the harmful effects of capitalism. 

The economic growth and acceptance of diverse cultures led the young and talented individuals to become more interested in culture, which resulted in their engagement to the creative industries. The adventurous youth in the 1990s, who personally experienced diversity, broke new grounds by integrating distinctly Korean touches into foreign influences, now leads the cultural industry. Bong Joon-ho of Parasite, Hwang Dong-hyuk of Squid Game, Park Ji-eun of Crash Landing on You, and Bang Si-hyuk of BTS were all born around the early 1970s. The generation that experienced the economic prosperity and cultural diversity of the 1990s.

DON'T GET CAUGHT Red Light, Green Light scene of Squid Game

Let us go back and talk about the artist’s painstaking creation. For your favorite Korean drama writers to debut on public TV, it usually takes them around 10 years. There are many ways to become a drama writer, but to debut as one, they have to go through a few steps in the fierce and intense competition. These steps include completing education (Korea TV and Radio Writers Association Academy, for example), gaining experience as an assistant writer, writing scripts and organizing a drama as the main writer, and being chosen by the broadcasting company or the OTT (Over-the-top) platform. Being a creator in Korea is not only about having talent but also having to take on challenges, refining ones’ talents, and having constant awareness of the trends to be chosen by the consumers of the market.

Young and talented creators in the Philippines should be given opportunities to rise to challenges, succeed through trials, and learn from failures.

Some would ask me, whether the government interferes with the content or relays which topic or value it wants to include in exchange for its support to the cultural industry. Let me answer this now: the government only supports and does not interfere. The contents that are currently being produced are works that embody the audiences’ preferences and the creator’s own spirit as a writer. Until the creators are equipped with skills and bloom their talent, the government remains as the creator’s umbrella for them to travel through the long tunnel. 

THE BANGTAN BOYS Bang Si-hyuk with BTS (Soompi)

I know that there has been an active discussion in the Philippines recently regarding the importance of the creative industry and the government’s support. I believe that increasing interest in the creative industry is essential in itself and that will serve as a foundation for a good start. Young and talented creators in the Philippines should be given opportunities to rise to challenges, succeed through trials, and learn from failures. I hope that there will be more valuable opportunities for us to share our experiences with Filipino talents and Korean artists to gain inspiration from the extensive history and abundant cultural resources of the Philippines. Through this exchange, I desire Korea and the Philippines to be the cultural powerhouses in the world.

The author is the director of the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines