'Hallyu needs next big thing'

The popularity of Korean culture and entertainment in some Asian countries, namely pop music and TV dramas, has generated much excitement at home over the past few years.

The entire country is intent on figuring out the best way to capitalise on it.

Yet, for the Korean Wave, or "hallyu," to continue amid the rising tide of cultural protectionism overseas, Korea must create the next big thing in the near future, said the chief of the Korea Creative Content Agency.

"The next three years are crucial.

We must come up with big killer content (in order to cement and deepen hallyu)," Song Sung-gak, the president of KOCCA, said at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.

As a state-run agency dedicated to helping develop local creative industries, KOCCA will lead the way in searching for it, he stressed.

"Our annual budget is 211 billion won ($200 million), which is half the amount an automaker spends to develop a new model," he said.

"That's why we need to be selective in how we spend money and really concentrate on the projects deemed more promising," he added.

When asked to elaborate on "big killer content," the official gave the example of SMTOWN@coexartium, a five-story complex in Seoul's Samseong-dong.

Opened by SM Entertainment, one of the two leading K-pop labels and talent management agencies, the building is a K-pop fan's paradise come to life, featuring a hologram theatre, a cafe, a merchandise shop and a virtual reality studio where fans can digitally interact with their idols.

"Watching the hologram musical featuring SM artists there, I thought that (the killer content, whatever the format or genre), should be something that could be mass-consumed, just like that hologram musical," he said.

Hallyu first hit Japan about a decade ago with a series of megahit soap operas, and soon spread to other Asian countries including China.

Now K-pop is at the forefront, with a handful of idol groups enthralling a growing number of global fans with their addictive songs, dashing looks and flashy dance moves.

While stressing the need to further expand hallyu's global reach, Song admitted that hallyu creators should be realistic about their chances in the mainstream market in the US or Europe.

"(Other than the US or Europe), there are many countries out there where hallyu is not yet established but has a lot of potential for success," Song said.

"We need to devise strategies for such markets."

Song, 56, took office as chief of the Naju, South Jeolla Province-based agency in December after working more than 30 years in various creative fields, from TV and film to advertising.

He will serve for three years.

"I was a creator for more than 30 years.

I will draw on my past experiences in various cultural fields to lead the KOCCA for the next three years," he said.