Visiting Korea Character & Licensing Fair

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on July 19, 2016

I was fortunate enough last week to visit Seoul to speak at the newly-renamed Korea Character and Licensing Fair. The change of name is important, for once, as it was very much influenced by government agencies KOCCA its offshoot project, CreateNew. These two agencies are charged with supporting both existing companies and new ventures. They are specifically dedicated to the creative industries and licensing is seen as a key sector of such industries. Their support for their commercial sector is exemplary. How wonderful would it be if we could get the UK government to realise what support for new licensing content, and new licensing products, could do for our own exports. However, I see no prospect of the vision that the Koreans show. At various points in the event heads and deputy heads of these Government organisations made speeches, networked and exchanged contact information with the local and international business community who were visiting Korea. To restate, the chances of getting their equivalents, ministers in the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to participate in BLE or a LIMA seminar are thin to say the least. If you spend time in the exhibition halls of the Korea Character and Licensing Fair what you see, for the most part, are very local, Korean characters. There is a sprinkling of international players, and a reasonable presence of Japanese characters. The latter, being near neighbours to Korea, are reflecting the large number of anime programmes broadcast in South Korea. The world has yet to see a true ‘breakthrough’ in international terms, of a Korean licensing IP. We did, a few years ago, have Pucca Club ( Happy Love ) which occupied a similar space to Hello Kitty, but even Pucca’s success was patchy internationally. Properties like Line Friends coming from a source in the digital platform space, are growing outside Korea already. One or two Korean animated shows have also now sold into multiple territories. The spadework has been done, ably assisted by KOCCA, and the ground prepared. On the second day of the conference overlapping the exhibition, a group of four LIMA execs, headed by Charles Riotto and including your correspondent, gathered to listen to seven short licensing pitches ( not dissimilar to License This! ). All but one of these companies had received financial support from the Korean Government. We all know how few properties actually break through, but you can’t help but admire how these creative, entrepreneurial business are back up by their state authorities.

Incidentally, this was my first international trip since the ‘Brexit’ vote. While in Korea the story about the International Court of Justice in The Hague and its verdict on China’s claim to territorial sovereignty and marine rights in waters within the South China Sea broke on TV and in the press. A licensing exec from The Philippines present at the Fair showed me a cartoon in a national newspaper, showing China withdrawing from this marine region under the slogan ‘Chexit’. It may be that Brexit, or variants therefore, will now become the ‘leaving something’ shorthand equivalent of Watergate and its sundry derivatives like Billygate and Volgagate