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Monday, April 15, 2024

Disney+ are now feeding viewers Korean content with class and meaning

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Soyoun Kim, managing director of the Walt Disney Company Korea, speaks during a press conference at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Soyoun Kim, managing director of the Walt Disney Company Korea, speaks during a press conference at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

 

Gone are the days of makjang (Korean soap operas) and chaebol romances parading the local channels. Global streaming platforms like Disney+ are now feeding viewers Korean content with class and meaning.

“We focus on quality, not quantity,” Soyoun Kim, managing director of the Walt Disney Company Korea, said during a press conference at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday.

Disney+ holds a press conference at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday.[WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Disney+ holds a press conference at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday.[WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

Emphasizing Disney’s century’s worth of experience as a storytelling powerhouse, she added, “In our vetting process, we look for content that isn’t just clickbait and that can go beyond the narrative to touch people’s hearts and draw empathy.”

The essence, however, must remain Korean.

One of its growth strategies is to “focus on telling Korean stories to the global audience,” according to Kim.

Poster of Disney+'s original Korean series "A Shop for Killers" [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Poster of Disney+’s original Korean series “A Shop for Killers” [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

That doesn’t leave out Korean audiences, though, and it is to the company’s benefit as well, Carol Choi, executive vice president of original content strategy for the Asia Pacific at the Walt Disney Company, said.

“We closely monitor the evolving change of consumer preference in Korea and want to make sure these stores first resonate in the local market […] So as long as they are hits here, we think the global audience will also appreciate it.”

Carol Choi, executive vice president of original content strategy for the Asia Pacific at the Walt Disney Company, speaks to the press at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Carol Choi, executive vice president of original content strategy for the Asia Pacific at the Walt Disney Company, speaks to the press at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

Launching its services in November 2021, Disney+ doesn’t have as many members in Korea as do other global and local streaming platforms. But, it made notable progress last year with the fantasy-action show “Moving” and the crime-action show “Big Bet.”

The platform has eight more new original Korean content slated for release this year: “Uncle Samsik,” “Blood Free,” “Unmasked,” “The Tyrant,” “Gangnam B-Side,” “Light Shop,” “Red Swan” and the third season of the reality show “The Zone: Survival Mission.” “A Shop for Killers” and “The Impossible Heir” have already been released in January and February.

“This is a high-quality lineup with scale and star power, centered on great storylines,” Choi said.

Poster of the upcoming Disney + original series "Light Shop" [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Poster of the upcoming Disney + original series “Light Shop” [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

She also expressed her excitement about the undergoing change in Disney+’s APAC office.

“Now in our third year of launching our services [in Korea], we are still in the very early stage of our creative journey,” Choi said. “Disney Korea is evolving, from playing the role of distributor of global stories to creating and producing it here and taking it outside.”

She added that among the top 15 best-performing international original titles released on Disney+ last year, nine of them were Korean titles.

“This is a significant and important data point as it reinforces the global resonance of Korean storytelling and how stories produced in Korea are world-class and captivating audiences worldwide. Disney’s creative excellence and commitment will remain key pillars of the company’s future, and we will continue to invest in Korea’s creative economy and nurture and support its local creative community.”

As it continues to scale its creative enterprises in Korea and the Asia-Pacific, the company is also actively supporting Korean content and its creators.

Shin Yeon-shick, director of Disney+’s upcoming series “Uncle Samsik” set for release in May, was also in attendance at the press conference and said that the decision to take his work to the streaming platform came naturally, though neither he nor the lead actor Song Kang-ho had ever worked through one in the past.

“People often ask me if Song and I discussed whether the script would be a movie or a film, but there was no discussion and it was a mutual understanding,” he said. “We wanted to develop Song’s character to the best of our abilities and have that portrayed on screen. So the decision to pitch the script as a series came naturally.”

Lee Kwon, co-director of the streaming platform’s action series “A Shop for Killers,” left, and Shin Yeon-shick, director of Disney+’s upcoming series “Uncle Samsik,” speak to the press at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
Lee Kwon, co-director of the streaming platform’s action series “A Shop for Killers,” left, and Shin Yeon-shick, director of Disney+’s upcoming series “Uncle Samsik,” speak to the press at JW Marriott Hotel Dongdaemun Square in central Seoul on Tuesday. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

Shin teased the story “Uncle Samsik” during the conference as well: It is a period piece heavily based on Korea’s history, but people today all around the world are sure to relate to the characters and maybe even deepen their understanding of Korea, according to the director.

“I always create content in hopes for a better world,” he said. “I am profoundly interested in the basis of human pain and joy, and who we are as individuals and society. There are a few moments in Korea’s history that I think shaped Korean identity and society today. […] I think the early 1960s was a critical time that shaped Korea’s modern history, and ‘Uncle Samsik’ is about characters who live through these times and are aware of the weight of their choices and the impact that they can have on Korea’s future. Consequently, the story is full of passion. Viewers may feel like they have gone back to the past, but they will also be able to relate beyond time.”

Apart from original Korean content, some films and series that will be exclusively available on Disney+ include the Star Wars franchise series “The Acolyte” starring Lee Jung-jae from “Squid Game”; season 20 of “Grey’s Anatomy”; and “Taylor Swift The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version).”

BY LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joongang.co.kr]