Positioning the Korean Wave as ‘Lifestyle’ for a Sustainable Business Model in China
May 30, 2016

china

Where are the momentum that will lead the next decade in the consumer market in China? One advised to pay a good attention to the ‘Post-8090’ generation. The Post-8090 generation, often named balinghou (Post-80) or jiulinghou (Post-90), refers to the people who were born between 1980s and 1990s in China after the Chinese government has introduced ‘One-child’ birth-control policy in 1979. The Post-8090, also named Small Emperors (xiaohuangdi), can be viewed as a pivotal generation of the China’s future as they take up 25% of the Chinese population. In fact, they also took up half of the Chinese tourists in Korea last five years and are considered to be the major consumers in Chinese market.

At the same time, the Korean Wave are still acting as a major object throughout the process of discovering and expanding new services and brands for the rising generation in Chinese market. The Korean TV series and movies as a core impetus of the Korean Wave are being consumed fiercely by the numerous video platform companies in China. Also, various lifestyle products and services such as beauty products, fashion items, and plastic surgeries that have derived from the Korean Wave are considered to be the driving force of the consumption-pattern of the post-generation in China.

There are sufficient grounds to refocus on the Korean Wave—the phenomenon that has once been predicted to be fading away into the history among the cynical critics. Last spring, the Korean TV series 'Descendants of the Sun' has successfully acquired simultaneous broadcast in China and Korea for the first time, and have reached up to 7.5 Billion cumulative hits in the Chinese video platform Weibo. In fact, the sales of the beauty product ‘BB Cushion’ that Song Hye Kyo has used in the scene has increased up to 10 times in March than the previous month while more than 160,000 ‘Two-tone Rip Bars’ have been sold in the Aritaum stores in Korea. Moreover, cross earrings and triangular earrings that Song Hye Kyo has used in the scene, and the products used as an indirect advertisement such as Korea Ginseng Corp. Jung Gwan Jang, Hyundai cars, and Lotte Chilsung beverages have all experienced sales boom. Additionally, the BBC News has also broadcasted the popularity by mentioning cases such as Chinese Authority warning the dangers of watching Korean dramas after a woman who triggered acute glaucoma after 18-hour marathon session of watching.

At the same time, on 17th May, the investors and entrepreneurs who were looking for opportunities in China-Korea Cross-boarding fields have gathered together in the Conference 'The Korean Wave Leads Asia' which took place in the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing, China, to socialize and share ideas to upgrade China’s consumption trend with the Korean Wave as the pivot. This conference has been co-sponsored by China-based internet investment platform Dasbank and the Startup Media beSUCCESS which around 200 people including Neoply China, Taihe Global Institute, and Iyiou Wang have participated.

Furthermore, about a dozen of Korean Startups including Swizzlelabs, Korea’s AI technology-based New-Data Analyzing Firm, Meizhihan, the first domestic medical-treatment tourism platform for Chinese, Kbeat, the Korean Wave based MCN Startup, and FashionGo the fashion B2B platform which attracted tens of thousands of dollars of investment from NAVER, have participated. Lee Munki the founder of Meizhihan has mentioned, Meizhihan sets Korea’s medical-treatment, tourism, and travel related services as a business model. Korean TV Series such as “My Love from the Star”, and “Descendants of the Sun” have been continuously supporting in service-branding and expandability field.

The common topic of discussion among the investors and entrepreneurs during the conference “The Korean Wave Leads Asia” were about the process of seeking for alternatives to gain expandability and sustainability in business models within Chinese Market while aptly implementing the Korean Wave as a psychological matter into the physical products and services.

Concurrently, the author wants to focus on the insight of Lee Eun-sae the partner of the Eleven-Zulu Capital who has participated the conference as a panel. The partner Lee Eun-sae has emphasized the strategy of establishing and focusing on the ‘Intention’ in a long-term viewpoint whereby settling ‘what significance would I bear’ rather than ‘satisfaction of individual needs’ during the process of entering uncertain markets through the contribution in beSUCCESS, “Starbucks and Uncertainty”. Such approaches are very effective in the process of modeling sustainable business while utilizing psychological matters such as the Korean Wave as resources for branding. According to the partner Lee Eun-sae, coffee has only been ‘something’ for Americans that provided caffeine to wake up half-asleep brains on the way to work and that made bored hands and mouth busy on the way back from work before the emergence of Starbucks. Coffee has only been sold at the convenient stores in the street or gas stations, and several liters of coffee brewed at once had become tasteless after being left there several hours until the Venti size coffees were sold in $0.99. For Americans, coffees were natural ‘habit’ rather than a ‘beverage’.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks supposed that even for the Americans who were familiar with coffees would retain the new coffee-culture where one enjoys coffees comfortably if ‘the third place’ provides proper coffees (according to him) and are established somewhere between home and workplace. He intended to develop Starbucks as a ‘beginning point of a culture’ rather than ‘another coffee shop’. In another words, Starbucks has been maintaining consistent growth by positioning themselves in the market with the concept of ‘new culture’ and ‘place’, and by conducting services as Starbucks Evening which sold seasonal beverages and wines along with coffees.

Likewise, establishing a vision that gives impressions of developed values in lifestyles to the customers by positioning the Korean Wave as a ‘Culture and Lifestyle’ with a long-term viewpoint rather than as a tool that increases demands of the products from the Korean TV Series and contents are considered to be the major topic that both Korean Startups and whoever wants to build a new ecosystem within the Korea-China Cross boarding framework must concern.

Dr. Hongying Dong, the founder of Dasbank has also agreed to similar visions and has announced, “The ‘new consumption’ field that the Korean Wave influences comprises of education, medical/beauty-treatment, food, and tourism which comes under the field of ‘Lifestyle’. This era is a good period to build cooperation between Korea and China through exchange of such factors while maintaining peaceful political and social relationships. Dasbank will cooperate well with beSUCCESS and Neoply China and will endeavor to connect entrepreneurs and investors from both countries by bridging at the bilateral ‘new consumption’ field.

Meanwhile, beSUCCESS, the co-sponsor of this conference, and its representative James Jung has expressed, “I hope for an expansion of opportunities for Korean Startups in attracting foreign investments upon this cooperation, and I expect that cooperation with trustful foreign partners may become a steppingstone for growth.

이 한종
이한종은 연쇄 창업자로, KBEAT의 공동창업자이자 CXO. 스타트업을 위한 초기투자 심사역 및 엑셀러레이터로서 경력을 보유하고 있으며 디지털 콘텐츠 및 뉴미디어 플랫폼 영역의 오랜 경력을 바탕으로 연세대학교, SKP, 한국과학기술연구원 등의 멘토 및 심사위원으로 활동 중이다. 2006년 런던 영화학교를 졸업했고, 2011년 국무총리표창을 받았다. (walterlee79@gmail.com)