Since the early 2000s, Korean entertainment groups have made forays into Vietnam’s music market as part of their ambition to penetrate the global entertainment market. They recently made a new move by “localizing” Korean elements in Vietnam’s showbiz to increase profits.
K-pop has swept through Asian markets, including Vietnam, since the early 2000s and its appeal and influence have been pervasive in those countries, particularly among teen fans.
However, Vietnam, where K-pop is a mere vogue, has yet to become a lucrative market for the Korean wave.
According to Choo In Han, a Korean investor who has been seeking opportunities in Vietnam’s showbiz, the Vietnamese youth enjoy K-pop mostly through free mediums, including the Internet and television.
Few are willing to buy licensed albums or can afford tickets to Korean stars’ shows in the Southeast Asian country.
A number of Korean stars such as Jang Dong Gun, 2NE1 and T-ara showed up in exchanges and performances in Vietnam, but most of the shows were sponsored by Korean brands and were free admission.
Several ticket-selling, large-scale shows featuring Korean stars who are popular across Asia such as Ahn Jae Wook, Bi Rain and SuJu were also financial losses.
The closure of local company D&D, which brought Bi Rain’s “Rain’s Coming” live concert to Vietnam in 2007, and the losses sustained by another company, Viet Vision, after holding SuJu’s live show in 2011 are also indicative of the Korean wave’s susceptibility to financial failures.
The new move
Instead of merely taking Korean stars to Vietnam, Korean entertainment companies have recently localized their K-pop elements and integrated them into the native culture.
“Ngoi Sao Viet” (Lotte VK Pop Super Star), which wrapped up last month, is the collaboration between a local company and a Korean partner.
The reality show, which aims to train Vietnamese singers into Korean-style stars, requires that contestants perform mostly K-pop songs with their Korean idols’ signature choreographed dances and styles.
The show had a Korean artist on its jury and its winner and finalists joined professional training courses in Korea.
Despite his limited singing and dancing ability, Thanh Tung, the show’s winner, whose triumph is suspected by a number of audiences to be the organizer’s result fixing, pocketed awards worth a total of VND7.5 billion (US$353,000), including intensive training in Korea, a music video and an exclusive contract with a Korean entertainment company.
Andy Vo, CEO of Viet Vision, who did his studies in Korea, revealed that Korea has launched ambitious plans to penetrate several areas in Vietnam in 2015, including the Vietnamese showbiz.
Exchanges of Korean and Vietnamese entertainers will also be held to boost the receptiveness of K-pop among local fans.
Korean artist J.Mi, who was professionally trained in violin in Korea, was set on developing her performing career in Vietnam after a visit three years ago.
She has lived in Vietnam and been learning Vietnamese over the past two years.
“I chose Vietnam as I prefer the environment here, which is less pressurizing than in Korea. At least I instantly made a difference as a Korean artist who can play the violin, dance and sing in Korean, English and Vietnamese,” J.Mi shared on the July 20th launch of “Let’s Dance the Night,” her debut album in Vietnam.
Local singer Phuong Thanh, one of the jury members of the “Ngoi Sao Viet” reality show, noted that the presence of Korean entertainers who can speak Vietnamese and are willing to adopt elements of Vietnamese culture into their performances can increase competitiveness and motivate local artists to make more efforts to grab the local market shares.
She added that local show organizers will also learn a lot from their Korean counterparts, who are incredibly punctual, disciplinary and demanding, as well as able to utilize hi-end technology.
More shows coming
Despite the financial losses of several Korean concerts, Vietnamese show managers have yet to give up on their plans to bring more shows studded with Korean stars to Vietnam.
Korean 6-member girl group T-ara, will perform at the “From Hearts to Hearts” concert which will take place on August 2 at Lan Anh Music Center at 291 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City.
The event, in which T-ara will perform their popular songs as well as interact and play games with Vietnamese fans, will feature Korean singer Hari Won, who became well-known in Vietnam after hosting the reality show “Cuoc dua ky thu” (The Amazing Race) last year.
Another Korean girl band, 2NE1, will land in Ho Chi Minh City after T-ara with a concert entitled “2NE1 Galaxy Stage in Vietnam” scheduled to take place on August 10 at Phu Tho Stadium at 219 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, District 10 of the city.
The girls will sing the 20 songs that have helped build their great reputation since they formed the group in 2009. Tickets range in price from VND500,000 ($24) to VND2.5 million ($120).
JYJ, another South Korean pop band formed in 2010 under the management of C-JeS Entertainment firm, will close the series of concerts. The band consists of three singers: Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu.
JYJ’s concert, “The Return of the King 2014,” is slated to start at 8:00 pm at the Military Zone 7 Gymnasium at 202 Hoang Van Thu Street, Tan Binh District, HCMC, after sweeping through Seoul, Hong Kong and Beijing.
Tickets range in price from VND1.2 million ($58) to VND3.5 million ($165).
“Through our surveys, local youth are still infatuated with K-pop, and are always looking for opportunities to personally enjoy and join exchanges with their Korean idols. The probability of financial losses is much lower with small and medium shows like T-ara’s event later this month,” said composer Dang Phuong, CEO of DP Media, the T-ara show organizer.