Not Feeling the Love from the Korean Entertainment Industry

And don’t I deserve love? Really.


Korean dramas and Korean music are big business in Korea. Asian countries, especially Japan are bigger markets than the homeland. In fact, according to Bernie Cho, president of the DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based agency specializing in the marketing and distribution of digital media, Korean artists can make as much money in Japan in one week as they make in a year in Korea.

Korean fan sites are currently geared for this audience as well, with translations in Japanese and Chinese and often entire sites dedicated to the fan-bases in those countries.

As the Hallyu wave sweeps the Americas, phenomena like the B.A.P. selling out their entire U.S. tour in an hour happen with increasing frequency. Interestingly, though, the Korean entertainment industry seems unprepared for the enthusiasm shown by English speaking fans. Although the Americas seem to be a market that interests them, not much effort seems to be given to catering to English speaking clientele, much less Spanish speakers. To be sure, K-pop groups tour the Americas with great success. But trying to join a fan club or view official websites is an exercise in frustration.

Logo_of_SM_EntertainmentSM Town’s website is notoriously difficult to navigate. Despite the enormous popularity of groups like Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, SHINee and EXO here in the US, there is no offer anywhere on their page to translate into English, nor is there an “official” place for English speaking fans to go, merely after-market fan-made sites.

**Update: Down at the bottom of the SM front page (right hand side) there is a small “English” box that will translate the site to English. It’s easy to miss, so look for it! Once clicked, much of the site is translated.

Want to join a fan club? Good luck. While English translations on that page may direct you to the fandom of choice, once you get there, you’re out of luck entirely.

Familiar with E.L.F.? The Super Junior fans? If you’re Korean, you can join E.L.F. for $15/year. If you’re American, you’re going to have to shell out $45/year. Why the discrepancy? Good question. It almost makes you wonder if SM is really interested in the American market after all. Or are they actively trying to discourage American fans?

Logo_of_YG_EntertainmentYG entertainment has recently added an English tab at the top of their website. There are some amusing translation errors, though, and no official fan club info, in case you were wondering how to join Big Bang’s VIP’s.

JYP_Entertainment_LogoJYP also has an English tab. Their website has much in English that’s translated pretty well. There are English profiles on the artists and overall, it’s relatively easy to navigate. The fact that the FanCafe is in Korean with no way to translate may be program related.

Cubeent Cube Entertainment’s Front page shows up in English but it’s a dangerous proposition clicking any further than that. Very little beyond that front page sport anything other than hangul.

FNC_ENTERTAINMENTFNC  Entertainment’s website does a lovely job of making life much easier for their American fans. Aside from a few side trips to google translate, I was able to sign up to join the CN Blue fan club (for free!) and enter the site. I took a look at the shopping area and while it’s not entirely translated, they did have a “Guide for Foreigner” tab that gave a step by step tutorial with screen shots, guiding the purchaser through the shopping and check-out process. Again, FanCafes, sadly, are not translated.

What about those networks that air all of those popular dramas?

kbs_rss_logoKBS World Website now allows you to select English as a language on the front page. Once you do, entire news world opens up to the English speaker. I highly recommend this website as they have a wide variety of informational areas as well as Korean Language learning pages. Everything is translated and translated well. Kudos to KBS for for their welcoming, informative and educational site. A full 10 soju shots awarded by the DramaQueen!

sbs_kr logo_mbcSBS and MBC, on the other hand, cater not at all to English speakers. Not at all. Nada. Nil. Opsoyo. Want to know more about your favorite SBS or MBC dramas direct from the source? Better learn Korean.

naverEven sites like Naver, the popular South Korean search portal, have made it pretty much impossible for an American to create an account. While difficult before, it is now appears impossible. However, Naver-Japan allows an American to easily sign up for a Naver account. Go figure.

So the question is why does much of the entertainment industry ignore (or in the case of SM – actively diss) English speaking clientele?

  • Are they unaware that the market exists or that there is an interest? (Nope, this can’t be – I doubt anyone is unaware.)
  • Have they just not “gotten around to it?” (Possibly. Translating effectively takes time and money.)
  • Are they actively shunning English-speakers – in other words, are they entering the market somewhat reluctantly? (Although rumors exist that some anti-Americanism may exist, my guess would be $$$ trumps that – always.)

I am honestly perplexed at the lack of effort shown by the Korean entertainment industry in trying to gain (or actively block?) my internet attention. In this day and age of instant information, it is increasingly frustrating trying to access accurate content directly from the source when the source is hiding.

I am actively working to learn Korean, but it’s slow going. And I really hate the idea of having to wait for fluency before I ‘feel the love.’

Rant over.

The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of KKonnect, although anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot. 😉


Interview with Bernie Cho, Executive Producer for DFSB Kollective

Marketing Genius & King of Music Promotion


BernieChoBernie Cho is an interesting man. Raised and educated in the U.S, he moved to Seoul in search of a graduate degree. What he found instead was a serendipitous offer to work for MNET and MTV(Korea), which he did for a few years, becoming a Senior Producer Manager. At some point he saw the Korean music scene had a niche that needed filling and he promptly took on the task.

The DFSB Kollective began in 2008 focusing on exporting Korean music to the world. Within the first year they had signed distribution contracts with Apple’s iTunes and began full-scale international promotion of their artists’ music. His company has since been responsible for launching literally hundreds of Korean artists and groups into the international arena.

DFSB_iconlogoTheir mission is simple: They want to be an artist-friendly music service that artists the best profit percentage in the industry. They want to provide the most efficient solutions for selling music worldwide and provide expert promotional services. The service encompasses protecting the artistic rights to the music, as well, and the DFSB Kollective has successfully shut down the largest Kpop piracy sites worldwide, collecting over $1 million in judgments and settlements from offenders.

Bernie Cho is a man who appears to be passionate about his mission. He believes live music is where the potential lies. There are a lot of great Korean artists and he wants to protect and promote them. The genres covered by the Kollective span everything from Indie Punk to Gospel.

seoulsonicThat passion takes him on tour annually with Seoulsonic, a live tour that began in 2011, bringing Korean Indie rock music to the U.S every spring. Indie music has a big market in the America. It goes without saying that rock is big here. Bernie feels that the strength of Korean music is its diversity with an emphasis on originality. The live experience is irreplaceable, and bringing the musicians to the U.S. is great experience, not only for the eager audiences, but for the musicians, as well. The artists learn to be comfortable expressing themselves to a larger audience in a foreign language. They begin to realize that Americans are ready to embrace them and are happy to hear them, even if their English isn’t perfect – in fact, less than perfect English endears them to their American fans.

No BrainSeoulsonic seems to be gaining strength each year as its fan base grows. This year with stops that included performances at SXSW in Austin, the Korean-American Film Festival in New York (KAFFNY) and Toronto, Canada for Canadian Music Week, the tour is force to be taken seriously. High energy acts like Goonam (2012 Korean Music Awards : Modern Rock Album of the Year – Nominee), Lowdown 30 (2013 Korean Music Awards : Rock Album of the Year – Nominee), and No Brain (2007 Korean Music Awards : Band of the Year – Winner) definitely draw crowds. Ask a fellow Korean if they know No Brain and they’ll likely respond in the affirmative. No Brain has been around since 1996 when they began in the Hongdae region of Seoul, famous for producing indie bands. As an added bonus, traveling alongside Seoulsonic this year were 2011 Seoulsonic campadres Galaxy Express, whose album “Noise On Fire” won Best Rock Album at the 2009 Korean Music Awards.

So what’s the future of Korean and music and the DFSB Kollective? “Wide open”, says Bernie. With the diverse and incredible talents coming from Korea and social networking opening the path wide, the need for marketing, protecting and promoting will remain in high demand. Live music will always be a huge draw. The time is ripe for bringing acts that already have internet-based international devotees into the heart and homelands of their waiting fans.

And they’ll certainly generate a few more K-disciples along the way.