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Cultural exports draw $800 million in 2011

Korea raised nearly $800 million from the export of television dramas, movies and K-pop content last year, the Bank of Korea said Monday, raking in the highest amount of revenue since overseas sales began in 1997.

The culture industry generated a total of 890 billion won ($793 million) from the Korean Wave or hallyu in 2011, the highest overseas profit since the central bank started collecting related data in 1980. The industry generated no revenue from selling cultural content abroad up until 1996.

“The industry posted a dramatic increase in sales after K-pop started to appeal to the mainstream in the U.S. and Europe last year,” a BOK official said.

Explosive growth in overseas profits began in 1997 when the industry raised $5 million from selling Korean dramas. The figure jumped to $268 million by 2005 and to $637 million in 2010.

Such rapid growth is attracting heavy government investment. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism plans to spend 33.5 billion won this year to promote Korean culture.

Separately, overseas construction orders raised $15.16 billion last year, up 26.8 percent from a year earlier. Contractors such as Ssangyong Engineering & Construction, Samsung C&T Corp., Hyundai Engineering & Construction won major contracts in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, expanding even as the local industry shrank 5 percent.

Overseas sales for logistics and insurance companies fell however, as trade shrank on slower growth in the advanced economies. The transport industry earned $37.1 billion from abroad last year, down 4.9 percent from 2010. Insurers earned $419 million in the same period, down 18.7 percent from 2010.

By Cynthia J. Kim (
Korea Herald Youtube