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Netflix to Spend $500 Million on Korean Content This Year

Patrick Frater
·4 min read

Multinational streaming giant Netflix is positioning itself to be a dominant force in South Korean entertainment, a country where films, TV shows and K-pop music have become global successes.

The company said Thursday that it will spend close to half a billion dollars on Korean content in the current year and expand its production slate.

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New elements include two stand-alone films: “Moral Sense” and “Carter.” The former, to be directed by Park Hyun-jin (“Like for Likes”) depicts a male-submissive and female-dominant BDSM relationship that develops between two office workers. “Carter” is a one-scene, one-take action film directed by Jung Byung-gil about a man who wakes up in a motel room with a voice in his ear that orders him to go on an exhilarating kidnap rescue mission.

At a regional presentation, Netflix revealed that it had accumulated 3.8 million paid memberships in the country at the end of 2020. That tallies with recent estimates published by analysis firm Media Partners Asia and equates to a penetration rate of approximately 20% of Korean households.

The nearly $500 million production figure also means that South Korea may account for close to half of Netflix’s estimated $1 billion Asia-Pacific content budget.

That figure may be justified by increasing overseas audiences for its increasingly diverse lineup of Korean content. “Audiences around the world are falling in love with Korean stories, artists, and culture,” Kim Minyoung, VP of content for Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, said in a blog posting. “The K-Wave, or Hallyu as we call it here in Korea, is a huge moment of national pride and we’re proud to be part of it.”

Netflix’s current year slate includes Korean dramas, reality series, documentaries and the platform’s first Korean sitcom.

Earlier this year, Netflix said that it was taking long-term leases on two studio facilities near Seoul in order to be able to house ramped-up local production.

With screenwriter Kim Eun-hee (“Kingdom”); director Yeon Sang-ho (“Train To Busan,” “Peninsula”) and stars Yoo Ah-in, Park Jung-min, Yang Ik-jun and Bae Doo-na (“Cloud Atlas,” “The Host”) in attendance, the event included status updates on other previously announced shows that are expected to be delivered in 2021.

These include:

  • Series “Move to Heaven,” which revolves around the routine of a pair of trauma cleaners, directed by Kim Sung-ho (“How to Steal a Dog”);

  • Series “D.P.,” based on a webtoon by Kim Bo-tong, which follows the story of army private who becomes a member of a special unit that tracks down military deserters and encounters the realities of confused young soldiers. The series is directed by Han Jun-hee and stars Jung Hae-in, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Sung-kyun and Son Seok-koo;

  • Series “Squid Game,” which features people who join a mysterious survival game that has a dangerously large $40 million dollar first prize;

  • Series “Hellbound” about a self-assured lawyer who goes up against the New Truth Church and its extremist Arrowhead devotees. Directed and co-written by Yeon Sang-ho with Choi Gyu-seok, author of the popular “Songgo” webtoon;

  • Series “The Silent Sea,” which follows members of a special team sent to an abandoned research facility on the moon. It stars Bae Doona, Gong Yoo and Lee Joon;

  • Original series “All of Us Are Dead,” which follows a group of students trapped in a high school under attack from a zombie invasion. It stars Yoon Chan-yeong, Park Ji-hu, Cho Yi-hyun, Lomon and Yoo In-soo;

  • Series “My Name,” which follows a mobster’s daughter who joins a cartel and later becomes a mole in the police force in order to find the truth behind her father’s death. It is directed by Kim Jin-min (“Extracurricular”);

  • “So Not Worth It,” depicting the youthful adventures of students with multicultural backgrounds in a college dorm. Created by Kwon Ik-joon, it stars Park Se-wan, Shin Hyeon-seung, Choi Young-jae of K-pop group GOT7, Minnie of the K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE and Han Hyun-min;

  • Standalone episode “Kingdom: Ashin of the North,” an origin and side-story companion piece to hit zombie series “Kingdom.”

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