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Netflix to invest $2.5 bn in South Korean content

Over the last few years, South Korean content has taken the world by storm, with over 60 percent of Netflix viewers watching a show from the East Asian country in 2022

Update : 25 Apr 2023, 11:46 PM

Netflix will invest $2.5 billion in South Korean content over the next four years, the streaming giant's CEO Ted Sarandos announced after meeting with the country's President Yoon Suk Yeol in Washington.

South Korea has cemented its status as a global cultural powerhouse in recent years, thanks in part to the explosive success of the Oscar-winning film "Parasite" and the hit Netflix series "Squid Game".

"Netflix is delighted to confirm that we will invest USD 2.5 billion in Korea including the creation of Korean series, films, and unscripted shows over the next four years," Sarandos said in a statement given to AFP on Tuesday.

"This investment plan is twice the total amount Netflix has invested in the Korean market since we started our service in Korea in 2016."

Sarandos said that Netflix had "great confidence" that South Korea's creative industry would continue to tell great stories, pointing to the recent success of global hits such as "The Glory" and the reality show "Physical 100".

"It is incredible that the love towards Korean shows has led to a wider interest in Korea, thanks to the Korean creators' compelling stories. Their stories are now at the heart of the global cultural zeitgeist," he added. 

Over the last few years, South Korean content has taken the world by storm, with over 60 percent of Netflix viewers watching a show from the East Asian country in 2022, company data showed.

Netflix, which spent more than 1 trillion won ($750 million) developing Korean content from 2015 to 2021, had previously said it would be expanding its South Korean show output, without giving details of spending plans. 

Yoon, who is on a six-day state visit, hailed what he described as a "very meaningful" meeting with Sarandos, according to a transcript shared with AFP by the president's office.

The president said the new investment "will be a great opportunity for the Korean content industry, creators, and Netflix. We sincerely welcome Netflix's exceptional investment decision."

Yoon will meet US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.


'Wise decision'


Many of Netflix's biggest global hits in recent years have been from South Korea, so the company is making a "wise decision" to double down financially, Regina Kim, an entertainment writer and expert on K-content based in New York City, told AFP.

"Netflix has played a huge role in disseminating K-culture and K-content around the world."

The firm's latest investment means viewers worldwide "will continue to witness Netflix's Korean contents change the landscape of global screen culture", Areum Jeong, a film expert and visiting scholar at Robert Morris University, told AFP.

But the move could raise concern over "how big Netflix is becoming in Korea as local streamers struggle to keep up", Jason Bechervaise, a Seoul-based film scholar, told AFP.

Netflix is also one of the companies embroiled in a "usage fee" debate in South Korea. 

The country's internet companies are seeking to force major data users -- such as the streaming giant -- to pay more for bandwidth, something Netflix has strongly pushed back against.

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