Drama spurs Chi­nese tourist boom in South Korea

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By BLOOMBERG in Hong Kong

What do an alien love story, a boy­band and the card game bac­carat have in com­mon?

They are help­ing to at­tract record num­bers ofChi­nese tourists to South Korea — a boon for the $1.3-tril­lion econ­omy and a stock mar­ket en­joy­ing its third year of gains.

Visi­tors from China rose 54 per­cent to 2.7 mil­lion in the first half, en­ticed by South Korea’s hit tele­vi­sion se­ries, My Love From The Star, K-pop singers and an ex­pand­ing casino in­dus­try.

The in­flux of Chi­nese shop­pers is help­ing shield South Korea’s econ­omy and boost­ing Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s ef­forts to lever­age pop-cul­ture suc­cess into thriv­ing fash­ion, cos­met­ics and ser­vices in­dus­tries.

Amorepa­cific Corp, the face­cream maker whose ad­ver­tise­ments in­clude Gianna Jun, the fe­male lead from My Love, surged 105 per­cent this year through Aug 20, while Ho­tel Shilla, which got 76 per­cent of sales from Chi­nese visi­tors last year, rose 92 per­cent.

Juhn Chong-kyu, a strate­gist at Sam­sung Se­cu­ri­ties in Seoul, says: “We’ve found the growth en­gine for the coun­try’s con­sump­tion mar­ket. Con­sid­er­ing that this trend will con­tinue for the next three to five years, it’s an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity you can have faith in.”

South Korea’s big­gest bro­ker­age by mar­ket value has Amorepa­cific, Ho­tel Shilla and casino-op­er­a­tor Par­adise among its top stock picks, ac­cord­ing to a July 29 re­port.

Amorepa­cific and Ho­tel Shilla both climbed 3.9 per­cent to records on Tues­day in Seoul, while Par­adise added 0.4 per­cent. The bench­mark Kospi in­dex rose some 0.9 per­cent.

The suc­cess ofMy Love in­China is the lat­est sign of South Korean pop cul­ture’s grow­ing ap­peal over­seas, af­ter rap­per Psy’s vi­ral mu­sic video Gang­nam Style and hits from K-pop bands such as Big­Bang, who ap­peared in a Korea Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­ver­tise­ment called Imag­ine Your Korea and at­tracted 114 mil­lion view­sto theirFan­tas­tic Baby video on YouTube.

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping drew ap­plause from stu­dents in South Korea last month af­ter cit­ing My Love in a speech on ties between the two na­tions, says the Xin­hua News Agency.

Views of the se­ries, a ro­man­tic com­edy about a beer-guz­zling Korean ac­tress in Seoul and a hand­some alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago, have climbed to al­most 2.7 bil­lion on Chi­nese video-stream­ing site iqiyi.com.

The show “got Korean drama boom­ing again in the China mar­ket”, says Mike Suh, head of global busi­ness for CJ E&M Corp, a Seoul­based me­dia and games com­pany. It plans to co-pro­duce two Chi­ne­se­lan­guage movies this year, he says.

Jing Ji, 25, of Bei­jing, trav­eled to SouthKorea this month to visit film­ing lo­ca­tions for the show and buy cos­met­ics worn by Jun. She says the strength­en­ing Korean won was no de­ter­rent. “I saved up for this trip. I’d like to visit again.”

Chi­nese cus­tomers buy Amorepa­cific’s mas­cara and whiten­ing creams at duty-free shops in South Korea as well as the com­pany’s Etude House and Laneige out­lets in Hong Kong and the main­land.

Sales in China may grow to 30 per­cent of Amorepa­cific’s to­tal by 2020 from 11 per­cent last year to make it the com­pany’s sec­ond-big­gest mar­ket af­ter South Korea, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer Kim Se­ung-hwan said in an e-mail in­ter­view.

SouthKorea will start tak­ing elec­tronic visa ap­pli­ca­tions from Chi­nese tourists in the first quar­ter of next year and cre­ate a Chi­nese-lan­guage TV chan­nel, the fi­nance min­istry said in an Aug 12 state­ment.

Kim Soo Hyun and Gianna Jun in MyLove From TheS­tar.

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