Innovative Minds Part VIII: Koh Dae Hwa

Koh Dae Hwa
Koh Dae Hwa

As part of our "Innovation Series" the Korea Center met up with Mr. Dae-Hwa Koh, one of the most prominent figures in the Korean entertainment industry, to discuss his recent venture into the Internet drama market and also about his growing reputation in China. Mr. Koh is no stranger to the Asia Society as he was the recipient of our Cultural Diplomacy Award in 2013 in recognition of his efforts in promoting Hallyu while increasing global understanding of Korean culture. Hallyu refers to the recent surge in Korean entertainment, particularly television dramas, movies, and popular music. In the interview Mr. Koh spoke about the growing popularity of Korean entertainment in China, the challenges in collaborating with Chinese companies and his hopes for the future.

1. You were recently involved in producing and making an Internet drama. What are some benefits that an Internet-based drama has to offer and is there a potential to grow the market?
Recently I produced dramas through the cooperation of South Korea and China in collaboration with Alibaba. As the dramas are first aired on large Chinese portal websites such as Sohu and Baidu, they have been termed Web dramas. The conventional broadcasting stations, that is, the terrestrial broadcasting stations, are based on advertising revenues. They have to continuously air a fixed quantity for a fixed period of time in order to attract advertisements. Thus, they have to make dramas into series; a series may consist of 100 episodes that are 30 minutes in length or 20 episodes of 60 minutes. However, an Internet-based web drama has no limit in relation to broadcasting time meaning you can make a variety of dramas with one episode even being as short as 10 or 20 minutes, for example. As a result, the media are extended to make content that can meet the viewing patterns and taste of viewers and therefore I believe the potential of Web dramas to be very great.

2. Did you have any difficulties in making the dramas in partnership with Chinese companies?
Well, there is obviously the language barrier in addition to cultural differences in the production process. In addition there are also considerable differences in techniques. However, I think we are learning to understand each other through this cooperation. What is important is to understand the value in viewing a drama; what the public consider important about what they want to see in a drama. In this aspect the Chinese producers are excellent and very capable.

3. Are you currently working on any other projects?
I am continuing to develop dramas and build on this cooperation with China. In the very near future we will be producing and airing a show called “The Best Couple” which will be in partnership with Alibaba and Hunan TV. I am also preparing for several joint productions between South Korea and China which includes the production of a film which will target the Chinese market next year. I am hoping that my Korean drama will be aired sometime in the spring.

4. When you see the rapid growth of China, how do you think this will affect the future of the Korean wave?
I think a huge number of Chinese viewers have only just started to know and understand the Korean wave. The Korean wave does not just mean highly paid Korean actors such as Kim Soo-hyeon appearing in Chinese advertisements; the Korean wave relates to the various values of South Korean dramas that have been recognized and accepted globally. I think now is the time when an omnidirectional cooperation with China in planning, music and fine arts can springboard this global recognition even further.

5. Many say the content for South Korean dramas is being exhausted. What do you think is needed for South Korean dramas to become innovative again?
I do not think that the content is being exhausted but rather that major drama producing firms are making copies of their own dramas for other productions without deep consideration. This is a very important issue and the most dangerous element in bringing down the Korean wave. The competitiveness of the content is in the diverse stories and creative ideas. With that being said, the work of content producers is really important right now. We need to give a lot of support to the creator groups and a lot of research of stories is needed. I also believe that for Korea to maintain its competitive edge we really need not only the efforts of the private sector but also we need ideas and creations coming from the public and national sectors too.