Drama spurs Chinese tourist boom in South Korea
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.