Posted : 2013-06-19 17:49
Updated : 2013-06-19 17:49

Korean stars faring well in China

Choo Ja-hyun acts in the Chinese drama "Wood House Storm," aired in 2012. / Courtesy of Zhonghua TV

Effective localization leads to success despite ebbing hallyu

Chae Yeon left Korean entertainment business in 2007 to explore the Chinese market.
/ Korea Times file
Super Junior M, a sub-group of the popular Korean boy band Super Junior, was formed targeting Chinese audiences.
/ Courtesy of SM Entertainment
By Park Jin-hai

Korean culture, including its catchy pop music videos, is gaining popularity across the globe, especially in China. This phenomenon, called "hallyu," has introduced many people to Korean culture, but a recent poll predicts the popularity of K-culture could lose steam within five years.

A survey conducted by the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange shows about 71 percent of Chinese respondents believe hallyu's popularity will dissipate in their country within the next five years. About 24 percent of them said Korean products are no longer considered cool.

However, while many pop stars got their start as a result of hallyu, they aren't necessarily doomed to lose their Chinese fan base. Some stars are assimilating into the Chinese culture in an attempt to boost their popularity.

They are now mastering the Chinese language and carefully altering their preferences to match the locals'.

Lee Chae-yeon, better known as Chae Yeon, 34, is a fine example. She left the Korean entertainment business to explore the Chinese market. Recently, the singer updated her photos and improved her social media presence, which suggests she's faring well in China. In fact, her success is often regarded as hard earned, compared to other Korean colleagues.

Although the popularity of her hit song "The Two of Us" brought her to China in 2007, she was hardly recognized among Chinese citizens when she toured there.

However, the star beefed up her social media interaction, engaging and communicating with local fans online. Chinese fans still request the song on the radio, a decade after it debuted in Korea.

Four years later, she started a career as an actress. She was cast in the Chinese drama "Victor" in 2011 and landed another role this year in a spy drama "Severe Winter."

She also currently takes part in a reality diving competition show, "Celebrity Splash China." During the program, she's won the hearts of Chinese viewers by publically overcoming her fear of heights and water.

Her success is outstanding, considering the toughening circumstance for hallyu stars in China. Some believe there is a growing anti-hallyu sentiment among Chinese citizens. Some claim hallyu hurts their national pride.

During the first quarter of this year, only three to four Korean dramas were broadcast in China. This marks a sharp decrease from years ago when a few dozen Korean dramas were broadcast.

Despite the decreased number of Korean dramas in China, actress Choo Ja-hyun, 34, is also successful there. She debuted in 2007 in CCTV's martial hero story "The Big Flag Hero" and then became the heroine of CCTV's "Wood House Storm" and Hunan TV's "Temptation of Going Home," a remake of SBS' "Temptation of Wife."

The "Temptation of Going Home" brought in the highest ratings, making her one of the most sought-after hallyu stars in China. She garnered the International Cooperation Award at CCTV's 2012 Chinese TV Star Ceremony of the Year. This year she is shooting a China-Myanmar epic drama about bilateral cultural exchanges, "Legends of Song and Dance."

"Unlike other foreign stars shuttling between their home country and China, Choo has put all her stakes in Chinese drama. Choo's dedication and tenacity made her who she is today. Every time her fans visit the set, she makes time to chat with them," said a local fan who declined to be named.

Lee Tae-ran, 38, is another model case, winning over audiences in both China and her home country. After "Famous Princesses" aired in China in 2009, she landed leading roles in several other Korean and Chinese dramas.

In 2010, she was cast with Kangta, a former member of Korean boy band H.O.T., in a historical drama "Di Jin." Recently, she started filming a drama "The Way We Were," produced by Huayi Brothers, a big-shot Chinese entertainment agency. This year, she also returned to SBS in the new drama, "Goddess of Marriage."

While some Korean stars have hit it big in dual counties, new groups are now forming with Chinese fans in mind.

Super Junior -M, an eight-member sub-group of the popular Korean boy band Super Junior, also shows what localization can do.

The group comprises six current members and two new members who have Chinese backgrounds, Zhou Mi and Henry. The "M" in the group's name stands for Mandarin. Living up to the group's name, all members now speak the language.

Super Junior -M released its second album "Break Down" in January. The group has been very successful in China for the past five years, and will soon tour in Mandarin-speaking countries.

The group is busy bouncing between Korea and China and enjoys a firm fan base in both countries.

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