‘Squid Game’ and K-pop fuel South Korean marketing push in Japan

The growing presence of global pop culture in South Korea, from boy band BTS to TV drama squid gameis driving another marketing push in Japan, as consumer goods companies leverage the country’s soft power to boost sales of everything from alcohol to clothing.

Hite Jinro, South Korea’s leading beverage maker, announced this week that it would launch new products in Japan to appeal to young drinkers after its exports of Korean firewater Soju jumped 27.2% the last year to reach 28.5 billion won ($23 million).

The company said a new generation of Japanese drinkers are buying Soju due to the growing popularity of Korean movies and TV shows featuring the rice-distilled liquor, usually served in a small cup a bit larger than a 2 oz shot glass.

Hite Jinro launched a TV campaign in Japan for its new sparkling fruit-flavored Soju last week. The campaign comes after the viral success of a Japanese ad parodying Korean romantic dramas which has been viewed nearly 3.5 million times since December.

“We aim to lead the trend of Japanese liquor market with various marketing activities and stronger sales power,” said Hwang Jung-ho, head of overseas business operations of Hite Jinro, about taking the decision. a larger share of Japan’s $35 billion alcohol market.

Japan has been through different waves of Korean pop culture mania. Korean companies are stepping up efforts in the country as hopes for improved bilateral relations rise, according to officials from the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra).

The agency held an online event on Wednesday to advise about 300 Korean small and medium-sized enterprises interested in entering Japan.

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who takes office on May 10, called for a “forward-looking approach” to bilateral relations and plans to send a delegation to Tokyo this week, marking the first visit of this type at least five years.

According to a recent survey of 327 groups by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, two out of five companies expect improved bilateral relations while more than half plan to increase trade. and their investments with their Japanese counterparts.

“Japanese people’s love of K-pop and Korean dramas seems to be increasing their preference for Korean food and other products,” said Baak Saang-joon, a professor at the School of International Liberal Studies at the University. Waseda University in Tokyo. “We’ll probably see more Korean companies using it for their marketing campaigns in Japan.”

Musinsa, the fast-growing South Korean e-commerce clothing platform with over 10 million users and 2.3 tn Won in gross merchandise value, is keen to expand into Japan. The company created a Japanese subsidiary last year and is currently negotiating the takeover of Dholic, a competitor specializing in the sale of clothing to young Japanese consumers.

“South Korean fashion worn by K-pop idols is attracting more and more interest in Japan,” a Musinsa official said. “As Korea is increasingly seen as a stylish country thanks to the popularity of its cultural content, its fashion is also becoming increasingly popular with young Japanese people.”

Musinsa uses Korean actors such as Yoo Ah-in and Jung Ho-yeon, who starred in the hit Netflix series Hell and squid game, respectively, as his models in advertising campaigns. It plans to launch an online ad featuring Korean pop stars and celebrities this year as part of its campaign in Japan.

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