The Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Korea Game Industry Agency have just released the latest whitepaper on the Korean game industry – The Rise of Korean Games 2007.

The document contains industry figures for 2006 (a shame to be just getting this now!) and outlines government policy trends and strategies for the industry. It can be downloaded from the Korean Game Industry Total Information Service System website.

An addendum, the volume does appear to be published mid-2007. It has only just been listed on the GITISS website as of 8 September 2008, so perhaps this publishing date refers to the original Korean language version?

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Changes to media ownership laws have been proposed by the Korea Communications Commission according to a Variety article on 3 September.

Korean President Lee Myung-bak has followed this up with a statement that indicates the government’s desire to have a globally competitive media player with the scale to make an impact in international markets.

The government should create an environment to enable the advent of a world-class media firm with global competitiveness by drastically loosening the string of regulations on the broadcasting and communications sector.

From the KCC report, the government’s strategy to achieve this appears to be not through lifting foreign investment limits but by loosening cross-media ownership laws.

The stringent regulations on ownership and multiple ownership prohibit the broadcasting sector from expanding through new investments and mergers and acquisitions”

New media environments have challenged the legitimacy of incumbent cross-media ownership laws, but one does have to wonder if the way to a more globally competitive media conglomerate would not be best achieved by relaxing foreign investment restrictions, no matter how unpalatable that may be.

In other words, despite ideological resistance in Korea to opening up the media industry to foreign players, this may provide an avenue of providing greater diversity in the Korean media while not restricting plurality and freedom of speech. This is particularly the case in Korea where censorship law are stricter than in many other democracies, and a further concentration of power in the media – and big business groups in general – is precisely what successive administrations have been fighting to reform.

On the 9th March during a visit to Seoul, the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the establishment of an animation centre in the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) town of Cyberjaya.

The press release on the MSC website indicates the Malaysian Government’s belief that the content industry can be a significant source of growth, innovation, and augment economies to produce higher value-added products and services to compete internationally.

The content industry has a huge global market and the setting up of the centre will give our people, who have a high level of creativity, numerous opportunities to venture into the existing market.

And in a move to an intellectual property-driven economy, animation appears to be the ‘industry of choice’ for various governments to make a foray into supporting content industries. The dominance of Japanese animation in world markets and the emergence of Korea as a competitive ‘animation-nation’ has undoubtedly prompted various policymakers in Asia to adopt a “me-too” (?) approach. This combined with the steady rise in international animation trade, and the ‘ease of entry’ into animation (both from technical and export market adaptability perspectives) has resulted in a number of countries looking to animation as a key to entry into international media content markets.

Another notable item in the press release was the announcement of collaborative agreements and MoUs between Malaysian and Korean animators, and the Malaysian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and the Korea Culture and Content Agency (KOCCA)
With more and more nations looking to morph their inward-looking local content industries into ‘vibrant’ ‘competitive’ industries situated in ‘global media cities’, one has to wonder about the potential for “success” in an environment where multinationals, investors, and creative talent have an ever expanding suite of options to choose from.

Is there a hint of location tournaments in the air? The issue raises a series of questions.

  • What policy instruments are governments using to attract industry players?
  • How much effort is being placed on the development of human capital and building of capacity locally?
  • To what extent are generic policies that encourage free movement of capital, freedom of expression, education, and a high standard of living being used compared to specific industry policies that provide incentives, tax concessions, and subsidies for local firms or multinational entrants?

The answers to these questions are a start to deciphering some of the government rhetoric and determining which policy settings are suited not just for foreign investors but for the growth of domestic industries and local economic development.