SEOUL • South Korean military drama Descendants Of The Sun is proving to be another moneyspinner for the country after products seen in the hit romance registered increased sales or interest.
Among the products are Hyundai Motor's sport utility vehicle Tucson, which lead star Song Joong Ki uses in the drama, cosmetics by South Korean brand Laneige, worn by his co-star Song Hye Kyo, and health products.
Observers say the 16-episode series, which ends its run in South Korea this month, will generate more than three trillion won (S$3.5 billion) worth of economic effects in terms of exports, domestic spending and tourism.
That estimate is based on what is believed to have been generated by 2014's K-drama hit My Love From The Star. But Descendants is expected to have much more far-reaching power, observers say.
The drama tells the love story between a soldier and a surgeon and is a departure from the traditional plot of Hallyu (Korean wave) dramas as it weaves a humanitarian tale with romance.
Industry watchers and officials - including even South Korean President Park Geun Hye - are excited about the drama as it is expected to boost Hallyu again, particularly as it exposes major export items such as Samsung phones, Hyundai cars and lipsticks by cosmetics firm AmorePacific.
Hyundai, among companies that invested in the drama, expects the show to generate 110 billion won worth of advertising effects for itself as well as help raise its market profile in China, where the show has been viewed more than 440 million times cumulatively through streaming website iQiyi. Sales of the Tucson has risen 10 per cent in the local market, it says.
Another beneficiary is AmorePacific, which owns Laneige. "The number of times the so-called Song Hye Kyo lipstick was searched on the Internet surged 11 times after the drama started to air," it said in an e-mail statement. "The lipstick (Laneige's Two-tone Lip Bar) became a bestseller in March and has sold out in some stores."
According to 11st, a South Korean online retailer that runs a Chineselanguage site, sales of Laneige's BB Cushion blemish balm pact surged tenfold between March 14 and 20.
"Korean dramas are usually released in China at least several months later and sales of related products reflect that time lag," says Mr Yoo Sang Woo, a sales director for 11st's Chinese shopping site. "As Descendants is being aired in South Korea and China simultaneously, customer response is almost instant."
Even sales of Cheong Kwan Jang Red Ginseng Extract Everytime, a 10ml packet of ginseng extract, grew 176 per cent from a year ago, said Korea Ginseng Corp. The product appears as a health supplement for characters in the drama.
South Korean film company Next Entertainment World produced Descendants for 13 billion won, with three billion won reportedly secured through product placement investments, and the rest funded partly by the South Korean government.
The drama has been exported to 27 countries so far, with China paying US$250,000 (S$337,000) and Japan US$100,000 for an episode.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK