The Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) said Wednesday it will provide loans and credit guarantees worth 1 trillion won ($917 million) to entertainment and food firms over the next three years to promote hallyu, or the Korean culture wave, overseas.
"The firms badly need such financing because an increasing number of people around the world are being attracted to Korean culture and food," bank CEO Kim Yong-hwan told reporters.
"We believe Korean dramas, pop songs and traditional dishes have huge growth potential. Exporters of such cultural content deserve more investment and financial support."
Kim noted that hallyu was having far-reaching effects on the country's tourism, culture, education and medical industries as it is serving as a catalyst for stronger diplomatic and economic relations between the country and the rest of the world.
"In this age of globalization, Korea is being understood through its pop culture. It should be carefully fostered and developed," Kim said. "We plan to select about 10 promising firms and nurture them into globally competitive players. We need to make hallyu sustainable and more globally accepted."
Meanwhile, the state-run lender said it will provide 74 trillion won this year to Korean exporters in the form of loans and credit guarantees. It's the largest-ever yearly amount since the bank was established in 1976.
The bank is now seeking to transform itself from a one-dimensional export finance provider into a global investment bank that covers a wide range of financial products. To that end, it has called for a revision of related laws, and is moving to change its name.
"At the moment, major foreign banks and Korean commercial lenders can't afford to increase investments due to unfavorable market conditions. But we can," said the former finance official.
He also vowed to increase financing for Korean shipbuilders and shipping firms, which have been hit hard by a global recession in the industries and are being challenged by Chinese competitors.
President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged to set up a state-run ship financing institution, which will be tasked to provide loans to and buy ships from cash-strapped ship owners. Her pledge has triggered worries at the Eximbank and private lenders that the functions of the new institution, if established, may overlap with theirs.
"As the No. 1 financier for Korean shipping firms and shipbuilders, we are ready to assume a bigger role to help troubled firms. We will cooperate with the government to set up a new blueprint for the industries," Kim said.