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‘We need to shed the Western stereotype that Asians are only good at maths and playing the violin,’ says Korean media firm boss

D. J. Lee of CJ E&M talking at Asia TV Forum

D. J. Lee of CJ E&M talking at Asia TV Forum

One of the top executives at Korean media and entertainment giant CJ E&M said today that after relying Western content for a long time, the time has now come for Asia to create more entertainment formats that find a global audience.

D. J. Lee, the company’s president, said at Asia TV Forum today that the region’s ideas and talent were underrepresented in the West and there was an “incredible opportunity” to expose Asia’s diverse cultures to the world through content.

“We need to shed the Western stereotype that Asians are only good at maths and playing the violin,” he said, qualifying the remark as a joke to make a point.

Lee shared the statistic that 30 per cent of tourists who visit Korea now do so because of the content the country produces.

He likened the popularity of Korean content with kimchi. After a lot investment and perseverance, Kimchi is now recognised as a Korean product, he noted. “Branding kimchi and content is much the same,” he said.

“We want to show off our culture in Asia and beyond,” Lee said, adding that success to his company was increasingly in producing content that crosses borders.

CJ E&M, which produces, distributes and broadcasts TV shows, films and music, has risen to prominence on the back of local content, having moved away from a reliance on Western content for fill its channels just under a decade ago.

In 2006, the company began investing in local content that was “provocative” in nature, but changed tack two years later to focus on general entertainment, Lee explained. The consumer market responded quickly, and pretty soon the company was producing formats that travelled.

Lee said that while quality content was key, a large part of the company’s success to shrewd use of social media to raise the profile of its content and develop a fan base online.

Now a focus for the company was developing more formats that will reach a global audience, but that will require time and further investment in talent, Lee said.

“We want to make global IP. And from that we want to create a market place overseas. Most of our creators are focused on the domestic market. They are talented, but they’re not yet to produce global content,” he said, pointing to British broadcaster ITV as a model for how media companies can successfully export their wares.

“You need to make your own kitchen,” Lee said, continuing the culinary analogy for how to build a successful media brand. “If they like it, they’ll come back and order something else from your menu.”

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