South Korea - Country Commercial Guide
Entertainment and Media
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South Korea seeks to become a world-leading exporter and importer of entertainment and media. Today, the “K-Wave” (Korean Wave or Hallyu) has gained global popularity and has expanded to include Korean TV shows and films on media service platforms, pop artists’ videos, and games. The Korean government considers the entertainment and media industry as a key driver for the Korean economy. Thanks to abundant ICT infrastructure such as high-speed mobile connectivity and diverse purchasing power in entertainment, South Korea has become a lucrative and ideal test bed for new entertainment media and content.



NAICS Code: 512110


Over the past decade, South Korea’s status evolved from being a consumer to that of a content powerhouse with popularity of “K-Wave” dramas, film, and music. “Parasite”, one of the notable examples of the globalization of K-film won the 2020 Oscar for best picture and was the first-ever foreign language film to win the Oscar for best picture. In 2021, “Squid Game” drew fans from all over the world and became Netflix’s most-watched TV series.  

The film industry in Korea has grown into one of the world’s most active markets through the development of multiplexes and the popularity of movie-going culture. According to the Korea Film Council, in 2019 before the pandemic, the Korean film market was estimated to be $2.2 billion reporting over 226 million moviegoers, surpassing the 200 million mark for the eighth year in a row. Overall, in 2019 South Korean consumers watched an average of about 4.37 films per capita, one of the highest numbers in the world compared to the U.S. average of 3.51 films according to data from IHS Markit. As of 2022, there are 561 multiplex theaters with 3,322 screens, and almost all of the theaters are operated by three multiplex chains: CGV (operated by CJ), Lotte Cinema (Lotte), and Mega Box.

During 2020-2022, COVID-19 substantially impacted the Korean film market. The Korea Film Council (KOFIC) estimated that the total size of the Korean film market contracted to $893 million for a second straight year in 2021. In 2022, the market rebounded to 1.3 billion, showing clear signs of recovery from the pandemic. The number of moviegoers also recovered from 61 million in 2021 to 113 million in 2022 according to the latest available data from the organization. 

Table 1:Total Market size for Korean film market 







Total Market Size






Box office
























Exchange Rate: 1 USD






Number of Moviegoers






  Source: Korea Film Council, 2022, The figure excludes the sales for production and distribution, Unit: $ million, million people.


One of the conventional ways to export film to Korea is partnering with local independent importers.  According to the 2021 Content Industry Statistics by the Korea Creative Content Agency, there were 28 foreign film buyers and distributors in Korea. Excluding the films handled by the U.S. direct distributors such as Warner Bros, Walt Disney, Universal Pictures, and Sony Pictures, 90 percent of films imported from the U.S. were released by local independent importers according to the Korea Box-Office Information System. The two leading Korean film companies, CJ Entertainment and Lotte Entertainment, produce and distribute films and are also the largest importers of foreign films. Additionally, JOYNCINEMA, NOORI pictures, Pop Entertainment, and JinJin Pictures are other well-known film importers. Major film markets such as EFM, Cannes Film Market and AFM provide an opportunity to build business connections with Korean film importers.

As Over-The-Top (OTT) services continue to gain popularity among Korean movie watchers, partnership with major/local OTT platforms can provide U.S. content companies with access to local market. Competition among local and foreign OTT platforms has intensified over the past few years and these platforms are stepping up their efforts to import more content. Netflix first entered the Korean market in 2016 and became the largest by far OTT service in Korea, accounting for half of the total market value.  Disney+ entered the Korean market in 2021. The most active local OTT platforms are Wavve (co-operated by terrestrial broadcasters MBC, SBS, KBS and mobile carrier SK Telecom); TVING (operated by CJ); Coupang Play (operated by Coupang); and Watcha. These services are opening new opportunities for films as accessing a wider range of content is more convenient.

In terms of genre, the Hollywood-style action blockbusters are trending. In 2022, action movies including ‘The Outlaws 2’, ‘Avatar: The way of Water’, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, and ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ were listed as the highest grossing films of the year. According to the Korea Film Council, action movies account for 53.2 percent of the 2022 box office sales. With the success of the blockbusters, U.S. films occupied a 39 percent total market share in 2022.

Niche genres are gaining in popularity in Korea. In the past, niche genres did not receive attention or time slots at the cinemas; however, thanks to the internet-based services, opportunities for niche genres are increasing.  Korea is welcoming more diverse filmmakers, importers, and distributors into the film market.  There are growing examples of films that are by-passing the cinema and being released directly through VOD/OTT platforms and are making a profit. There are opportunities for U.S. content providers in both the traditional cinema path and via the internet-based services.

Regulation and Rating

To enter the Korean film market without complications, foreign companies must understand a number of key market regulations.  The “Promotion of the Motion Pictures and Video Products Act” lays out the key measures governing the local film industry.  

Screen Quota:  In 1960, to protect the domestic film industry, the Korean government introduced the screen quota system.  This quota remains in effect and stipulates that each of the country’s screens must show domestic films for 73 days per year.   Film Rating:  All films, videos and other motion pictures must receive a rating from the Korean Media Rating Board (KMRB).  The KMBR is the public agency that provides age-based ratings. The ratings are determined with following criteria: Theme, Sex/Nudity, Violence, Language, Horror, Drugs, and Imitable Behavior.  Based on the 7 criteria, the Board rates films into 5 categories: All, PG-12, PG-15, R-18, and Restricted Rate.  

The Korea Communications Commission limits broadcast time for foreign films to 80 percent of all films for terrestrial television, cable, and satellite television. Also, there are some exceptions, but foreign animation may not exceed 70 percent of all animation for television. OTT/VOD platforms are not subject of these quotas.

In 2020, the Korean government reformed the “Telecommunication Business Act” to regulate OTT platforms in the market, requiring content providers to ensure local network stability. OTT platforms are now obligated to ensure a stable connection, to share contact information for customer care, and to report to local regulators in case of service failure.  Any OTT platforms that attract an average of more than one million users per day and account for more than one percent of the country’s internet traffic are subject to this regulation.  


Trade Shows

  • Busan International Film Festival (October, Busan)
  • The BIFF is the largest and the first international film festival in Korea.
  • Asian Content & Film Market (October, Busan)
  • Hosted by the BIFF office, the ACFM is the largest local film market and conference.
  • Busan Contents Market (November, Busan)
  • First hosted in 2006, BCM is the trading market for local video contents. The trade show also features conference and funding sessions.
  • Jeonju International Film Festival (April, Jeonju)
  • The JIFF is one of the major film festivals in Korea mainly highlighting independent and short films.
  • Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (July, Bucheon)
  • The BiFAN has established its identity as a fantastic-genre film festival.  

Trade Associations and Government

·        Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism

·        Korea Creative Content Agency

·        Korea Film Council

·        Korea Media Rating Board

·        Korea Copyright Commission

·        Korea Copyright Protection Agency

·        Copyright Protection Center

·        Korea Film Producers Association

·        Korea Communications Commission



NAICS Code: 511210



Table  2:Total Market size for Korean Gaming Market








Total Market Size










































Source: 2022 White Paper on Korean Game; MSIT, KOCCA; Unit: KRW 100 million; Currency: KRW 1,291 = USD 1.

In 2022, the size of the Korean gaming industry was estimated to be $17.6 billion and is considered one of the top-four largest gaming market worldwide, according to the 2022 White Paper on Korean Game published by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). Over the last five years, the Korean gaming industry recorded an average annual growth of 10 percent, and the industry is optimistic that this growth rate is sustainable for the next few years thanks to the increased accessibility of playing games through multiple platforms.

The penetration rate of gamers within the general population in Korea is among the highest in the world.  According to a survey by the KOCCA in 2022, more than 74 percent of Koreans between 10-65 years old play games on a regular basis.

Thanks to the high-speed internet connectivity and a culture of internet cafés, Korea earned its name in the global game industry with PC games since the 1990s. Recently, Korea has diversified its profile into mobile gaming. In 2022, more than 62 percent of Korean gamers used their mobile phones as their main gaming device. During the pandemic, more gamers played at home, causing many internet cafes to close. This resulted in the growth of the local console market in 2020.

Market Demand

For the first time, in 2017 the industry generated more sales from mobile games than PC games. As of 2022, mobile games were expected to account for 61 percent of the total market in Korea, an estimated $11 billion in revenue, with 14 percent growth from the previous year. PC games, which accounted 25 percent of the market, generated an estimated revenue of $4.4 billion in 2022. Console games and arcade games accounted for 4 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

Most mobile games are released through app stores like Google Play Store, Apple App Store and ONEstore, a local app store which was established by Korea’s three mobile carriers (KT, SK Telecom and LG+). In addition, local portal operators such as Kakao and Naver also distribute mobile games through their own platforms. Many times, mobile games are serviced through local publishers. These publishers provide funding for development, marketing, and operational resources. PC games are distributed by both local game publishers and global game distribution services like Steam and Epic.

In terms of genre, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are the leading trend. In addition, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), simulation, strategy, puzzle, and board games are also popular genres in Korea.

Regulation and Rating

To enter the Korean game market without complications, foreign companies must understand a number of key regulations governing the market. Since the mid-2000s, the Korean government introduced the “Game Industry Promotion Act”, which implemented several measures and regulations on the gaming industry.  For example, 

·        Limits the amount of money that can be bet within online board and card games. 

·        Restrictions in the sales of probability items and other randomized in-game purchase systems.  Starting in February 2023 game developers are required to disclose the probability of obtaining rewards from in-game loot boxes. 

·        Rating of game contents. All games released in South Korea should receive a rating for the contents of the game product. The ratings are determined with following criteria: Sex/Nudity, Violence, Language, Drugs, and Imitable Behavior. There are a few rating entities: The Game Rating and Administration Committee, the Game Content Rating Board, and the Independent Rating Classification Business Entity.  Sony, Apple, Google, ONEstore, Oculus, Samsung, Kakao, and Microsoft are all businesses which provide independent ratings to game companies.

Table 3: The Game Rating


Permitted for use by all

Permitted for use by 12-year-old

Permitted for use by 15-year-old

Not permitted for use by juveniles


Game Content Rating Board (GCRB); Independent Rating Classification Business (IRCB

Game Content Rating Board (GCRB); Independent Rating Classification Business (IRCB

Game Content Rating Board (GCRB); Independent Rating Classification Business (IRCB













Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC)



While domestically made games currently dominate the Korean market, U.S. developers can jump into trendy genres and seize opportunities in the Korean market. International Gaming companies have successfully developed certain titles within genres, like strategy and casual games where there has been limited supply from local brands.  Local brands have continued to focus on role playing games (RPGs). In order to be successful in the Korean market, it is important to comply with local regulations and invest in localization such as translating games and content into Korean.


Trade Shows

G-Star (November, Busan):

Organized by KOTRA, a trade promotion organization operated by the South Korea government, G-Star is the largest trade show for game industry in Korea. Major Korean game developers as well as international companies participate in this event.

Play X4 (May, Goyang)

Hosted by the Gyeonggi Provincial government, Play X4 is an exhibition focusing on small and medium developers in the Korean game industry.

Trade Associations and Government

·        Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

·        Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

·        Game Rating and Administration Committee.
Rating Guide:

·        Korea Creative Content Agency.

·        Korea Association of Game Industry.



NAICS Code: 512250


In 2022, South Korea was ranked the seventh largest music market in the world and the third largest market in Asia according to the IFPI Global Music Report, reaching $6.5 billion. Thanks to the growth of music streaming, the bouncing back of live music events, and the evolution of new music contents, the Korean music market is expected to continue growing.

Similar to other countries, the Korean music market is rapidly shifting from the sales of physical copies to digital streaming and download services. According to a Korea Creative Content Agency survey, in 2022 more than 63 percent of Korean listeners responded they had purchased digital music content in the past year. In contrast, only 38 percent responded that they purchased physical copies during the past year.

In South Korea, there are four organizations responsible for collecting license and royalty payments for music rightsholders: the Recording Industry Association of Korea (RIAK), the Federation of Korean Music Performers (FKMP), the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA), and the Korean Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (KOSCAP). Through the reciprocal licensing agreements between the local copyright trust organization and overseas trust management organizations, any music played or performed in South Korea is subject to monetary compensation.

In support of Korea’s ever-growing “K-pop” industry, the government continues to strengthen its IP protection regime. Ever since joining the WTO in 1995, South Korea has observed the WTO TRIPs agreement and actively participates in multilateral discussions on copyrights and other IP issues. Also, South Korea is a signatory to the following international IP agreements: the Bern Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Convention, the Rome Convention, the Brussels Convention, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, and the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty. Industry assesses that the South Korea authorities are generally effective in monitoring and enforcing copyright infringements.


By Music Genre

In 2022, ballad, dance, hip-hop and R&B/Soul music were the main trending genres in Korea. A new trend, trot, known for its upbeat tempo, repetitive rhythm, and vocal inflection is growing in popularity.  Some other popular niche genres in the market include classical music, rock/metal, Jazz, and Electronic Music.  

In terms of language, according to a survey by Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), most Korean listeners responded that they prefer to listen to songs recorded in Korean and English.

By Medium of Listening

With the increasing popularity of digital music platforms, Koreans use smartphones as their main music player. Listening to music via smartphones is generally preferred by the younger generation.

Digital music services are further divided into video streaming platforms and music streaming/download platforms. As of 2022, Kakao’s Melon had 33 percent of the market share among Korean digital music platforms, representing the largest market share followed by YouTube (29%), YouTube Music (10%), Genie (9%), FLO (6%) and Vibe (4%). Other digital music platforms in Korea include Bugs, Spotify, Soribada and Apple Music. YouTube is becoming more popular in South Korea because it offers various formats of music contents including music videos and short forms on the platform.

By Distribution Channel

Global distributors such as Warner Music, Universal Music, and Sony Music Entertainment distribute most of American music directly to local music platforms. Another option for overseas artists and labels is partnering with local distributors. Major local distributors including Kakao M (Melon), KT Music (Genie), and NHN Bugs (Bugs) operate their own music streaming platforms. These companies can provide access to more local listeners and promotional resources. There are many mid-size local distributors, such as Danal Entertainment, Music Island, C&L Music and Music Caroma. In addition, there are new online distribution services including Sound Republica which help overseas artists, agencies, and distributors access local music platforms.


Trade Shows

Mu:con (October, Seoul):

Organized by the Korea Creative Content Agency, Mu:con is an annual music trade show in South Korea.  The show features music showcase, business matchmakings and industry workshops.

Trade Associations and Government

·        Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

·        Korea Creative Content Agency.

·        Korea Copyright Commission.

·        Korea Copyright Protection Agency.

·        Copyright Protection Center.

·        Korea Music Copyright Association.

·        Recording Industry Association of Korea.

·        The Korean Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

·        Federation of Korean Music Performers.


U.S. Commercial Service Korea   
U.S. Embassy Seoul
188 Sejong-daero, Jongro-gu
Seoul 03141, Korea
Tel: 82-2-397-4535