Netflix to spend US$500 million to create Korean content this year

Jun Ji-hyun in the special spin-off episode from period zombie epic Kingdom, titled Kingdom: Ashin Of The North.
Jun Ji-hyun in the special spin-off episode from period zombie epic Kingdom, titled Kingdom: Ashin Of The North.PHOTO: NETFLIX

SINGAPORE - Streaming giant Netflix announced on Thursday (Feb 25) that it will spend US$500 million (S$659 million) on Korean content this year to boost its expanding Asian slate of series and films.

In the last five years, it has spent around US$700 million on Korean content and the efforts have paid off. Viewership numbers of Korean content increased fourfold in Asia from 2019 to 2020.

The figures were announced at an online press event held from Seoul. Netflix also said that it would begin production on its first two original South Korean films - an action movie, Carter, and a romance film, Moral Sense.

Carter is a one-scene, one-take action movie about a man who wakes up in a motel room with his memory wiped and a voice in his ear calling him Carter and directing him to save a kidnapped girl. It will be directed by Jung Byung-gil (The Villainess, 2017).

Moral Sense will be helmed by Park Hyun-jin (Lovers Of Six Years, 2008). The film is about two co-workers who develop a male-submissive and female-dominant relationship.

Ms Kim Min-young, Netflix's vice-president of content (Korea, South-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand), also revealed the popularity of Netflix's South Korean slate, with the survival thriller Sweet Home (2020) racking up 22 million views worldwide in its first 28 days.

Space Sweepers, a space opera film starring Song Joong-ki which Netflix released this month, edged into the top 10 most-watched titles in 80 countries.

There are 3.8 million subscribers to the service in South Korea and the Korean content scheduled for release this year includes new dramas, reality series and a sitcom from the creators of High Kick! (2006 to 2007).

Referring to the success of previous Netflix originals like the period zombie drama Kingdom (2019 to present) and the high school crime series Extracurricular (2020), Ms Kim said: "In the past, people thought that to make content global, it had to be in English with English-speaking characters, and we thought that too. But with these two series, it's clear that even Korean-language series can receive huge responses from the global audience."

Also present at the event were actors involved in Netflix projects such as Yoo Ah-in, Bae Doo-na, Jung Woo-sung and Lee Jung-jae and screenwriters like Kingdom's Kim Eun-hee.

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