EARS on trends: K-wave, Asia’s festival boom and Digital comics

In Asia, urbanization and the growing online population are driving the demand for culture and entertainment and generating new innovation. But what are the trends emerging in the market and affecting the creative economy? Folks, it’s time to put your EARS glasses on and take a look. 


K-wave refers to “Hallyu” or the ‘Korean wave’. It’s a term coined for the increasing popularity of Korean culture across Asia and globally over the past few decades. K-pop or Korean pop(ular) culture has taken Asia by storm since the 1990’s and has continued beyond almost everyone’s expectations and has dominated as a global entertainment and culture export.

K-pop started with music, but has extended to all forms of entertainment from TV to movies to dance, food and fashion. With its strong influence especially on Chinese consumers, K-wave has become a major consumption force that is impacting the global consumer world.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these K-wave questions: In what ways are Korean celebrities and content driving the sales of different brands in Chinese and global markets? What possibilities does K-wave present? What have been the driving forces of K-wave?


In Asia the amount of festivals has exploded in recent years. The rising level of income in the whole region and the rise of social media has allowed better access and interaction with international entertainment for youth around Asia. In addition, relaxing policies towards large events like music festivals and the music industry’s increased focus on live music have increased artists’ interest towards developing markets.

Looking at China alone, the amount of music festivals has increased from a handful of festivals to hundreds of music festivals in less than 10 years. But considering that China has around 160 cities with populations over a million there’s plenty of room to add more.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on Asia’s music and festival scene: Who are the main players? How does the decision making process work? What are the differences between regions within Asia? What genres are more popular, and how do you build a long-term relationship with audiences?

Take a look at the top notch music industry pros taking the EARS stage here.


Digital online comics consumed on smart devices have become hugely popular in South Korea. This can especially be seen in metros where people commute with their heads tucked tightly into the comic strips, also called webtoons, which have also been forecasted to be the country’s next booming export.

According to KT Economy Research Institute, South Korea’s webtoon market, with over 6 million daily readers and nearly 150,000 cartoonists, was worth around 96 million ($) in 2012. Korean companies are now making their way into global markets having already received a lot of international attention.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on digital publishing: What should you avoid when wanting to create cross-cultural content? What is the future of digital comics? What are the key forces driving the globalization of Korean animation?

Insight will be shared by Sehoon Chang, head of Animation Global Business at CJ E&M, South Korea’s leading content and media company.


EARS on trends is an article series presenting the latest developments from Asia’s creative industries. A deeper dive into the trends will be taken at the next EARS event. Want to learn the fundamentals of Asia’s creative industries, strengthen your knowledge with the latest trends, and meet Asia’s key professionals? Come to EARS on Helsinki, 27-30 August

SIFF: Finnish Krista Kosonen awarded best actress

Finnish Krista Kosonen has won best actress at the 18th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). Kosonen was awarded for her role in the film The Midwife (Kätilö), a Finnish-Lithuanian drama film directed by Antti J. Jokinen.

The Midwife, based on Katja Kettu‘s bestseller novel, tells the story about a love affair between a Finnish midwife and a Nazi SS officer, set midst the Lapland War in Finland 1944-45. The Midwife was also shortlisted for the SIFF’s respected Golden Goblet award. The selection of 15 films was made out of a record-breaking 2096 submissions.

The Shanghai International Film Festival, founded in 1993, is China’s only A-category international film festival accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF). Other festivals in the A-category include for example the festivals of Cannes and Berlin. SIFF is one of Asia’s biggest and the world’s fastest growing international film festival.

SIFF is organized by Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & TV and Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group. As globalization affects China’s rapidly growing film industry, Shanghai International Film Festival aims to build international platform, and promote the exchange and cooperation between Chinese and foreign film industries.

Photo: Solar Films

EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. Next time leading creative industry professional will meet at EARS on Helsinki, 27-30 August. 

Interview with Kyung-sook Shin and Taru Salminen

The collaboration between South Korea’s award winning author Kyung-sook Shin and the country’s most famous Finn, Taru Salminen, kicked off at Taru’s Seoul-based restaurant. Dialogue over food expanded to a literature collaboration, and there’s more to come.

Please look after mother is the first South Korean book published in Finnish. How did it all come about?

Kyong-sook: The book was first published outside of South Korea in English for the US markets. After success in the States, European agents took interest in the book and slowly but steady the recognizability reached Finland. I’ve only heard positive feedback about the novel from Finnish readers but I actually had no idea that it is the first Korean book translated into Finnish. What a happy surprise!

Our collaboration with Taru started when the president of the Finland- Republic of Korea Association recommended Please take care of mother to the Embassy of Finland in Seoul. He thought it would be great idea to publish the book in Finnish. The embassy contacted Taru, and we kicked off our collaboration at her restaurant in Seoul.

Taru: As the author and the translator, we’ve been in contact throughout the project: in the translation process you have to think about cultural differences. For example, names of South Korean cuisine and some elements of the spiritual life needed to be explained a bit more thoroughly in Finnish. For Koreans, it is natural to think about passing on to the next reality from another, but for Finns existence is more simple.

How do you see the future of literature in South-Korea and Finland?

Kyong-sook: The situation is changing in Asia as it is in Europe also. Traditional books are not selling as much as people are finding easier accesses to written word by new medias. The general interest for literature has not decreased and its status in South Korean culture is still very strong.

The two countries have more in common than one could realize: like Finland, also South Korea has been dominated by other nations and is building up self confidence as a country. South Korean literature is experiencing a new awakening; under the years of dictature writers most important task was to rebel against the current situation in the country. Today authors have different voices and topics are more diverse. Such subjects as spiritual life and death used to be tabus, but I’m very happy about the advancements we’ve seen.

What does Europe-Asia collaboration mean to you?

Kyung-sook: I feel like Asia is seen by many Europeans as a big blur of similar cultures and languages. Many people don’t realise the diversity of Asian countries. On the other hand in Asia people are very interested in Europe and it is easy to specify differences between distinct parts of the continent. I’d like to see Europeans taking the first step towards Asia for a change: showing general interest and proposing collaborations.

Taru: I believe collaboration between Asia and Europe enriches both parties. I hope that through different cooperations people would learn from different ways of thinking, also learn to appreciate our variety as humans. When taking things to a practical level, I would like to see new media collaborations made about dialogue between Asia and Europe.

What are your collaboration plans for the future?

Kyung-sook: We’re very excited about a new project, which involves a new novel I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. I’d like to publish more books in Finnish so I hope that the first one turns out to be a success here so that we can continue the good work. We’ll see – it’s a dialogue between two cultures.

More stories and opportunities for Europe-Asia collaboration in the creative industries at EARS on Helsinki 2015.