(ATTN: ADDS more details and comments in paras 4-5, 12-15)
By Kim Boram
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- Global streaming service Netflix said Thursday that it will funnel US$500 million into creating South Korean projects this year, including two films.
"Netflix has more than 200 million paid users across the world, including 3.8 million in South Korea," Kim Min-young, vice president of Netflix, said in an event streamed online. "For 2021, we will invest $500 million into Korean content and help the entire world enjoy Korean shows."
Since its Korean market debut in 2015, the U.S. entertainment giant has spent some $700 million on South Korean projects and made about 80 Korean originals, including the historical zombie thriller "Kingdom" and the horror series "Sweet Home."
It unveiled its 2021 lineup of 13 original series, films and variety shows, including "Hellbound," written by Yeon Sang-ho of "Train to Busan" (2016); "Kingdom: Ashin of the North," a special episode from the popular "Kingdom" series; and the sci-fi mystery thriller "The Silent Sea," starring Gong Yoo and Bae Doona.
Netflix's first sitcom "So Not Worth It" is also on the list, along with the drama film "Night in Paradise," directed by Park Hoon-jung and invited to the Venice film festival last year.
As Netflix has enjoyed success in the country on the back of its hit Korean titles, it has set up two filming studios in cities just north of Seoul as part of its strategy to expand original content production.
Moreover, Netflix said it will start producing Korean original films in South Korea for the first time since its entry into the country in 2015. Its 2017 original film, Bong Joon-ho's adventure "Okja," was produced in the United States.
They are the action film "Carter," directed by Jung Byung-gil, and the webtoon-based romance "Moral Sense" by Park Hyun-jin. But it did not elaborate on details of release schedules and the cast of the cited films.
The company has focused more on Korean TV series so far and just bought the distribution rights of five Korean films, including "Time To Hunt," "Call" and "Space Sweepers," to release them on its platform without theatrical runs.
The move came as Netflix has been making efforts to cement its solid position in the Korean and Asian streaming markets in the face of fiercer competition this year.
Walt Disney Co. announced its plans to launch its flagship streaming service Disney+ in South Korea, while homegrown streamers like Wavve and Tving are moving to splurge on original content.
"Korean content is the key to lead our growth in the booming Asian market," Kim Min-young from Netflix said in a separate online press conference. "Thanks to Korean content, many Asian people who like Korean shows have come to Netflix."
She said Netflix has recognized the global popularity and attraction of Korean content over the past five years, which helped the company increase investment to a large extent in 2021. Korean shows' uniqueness in presenting emotions appeals to foreign viewers, she added.
Also, the Netflix official said she has received a flurry of suggestions on collaboration with Korean content from her overseas colleagues, and a planned remake of "Money Heist," a hit Netflix original made in Spain, in South Korea will be a first step.
"As Netflix is a global streaming platform, there are no borders in making quality content targeting global audiences," she said. "We want to create local content that resonates with people across the world."
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