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. 😉

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