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Netflix to invest $2.5 billion in South Korea as K-content continues to dominate

<i>Netflix</i><br/>Song Hye-kyo as Moon Dong-eun in
Song Hye-kyo as Moon Dong-eun in "The Glory." The drama has become one of the 10 most watched non-English TV shows ever on Netflix

By Gawon Bae and Michelle Toh, CNN

Netflix is doubling down on South Korea with plans to invest $2.5 billion over the next four years to produce more K-dramas, movies and reality shows.

The streaming giant announced the push Monday, following a meeting between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and its co-CEO Ted Sarandos in Washington.

The investment is double the amount that Netflix has announced so far in the fast-growing market since arriving in 2016. In 2021, company executives said Netflix planned to invest about $500 million into Korean content, on top of the $700 million already spent since 2016.

The latest news underscores how the entertainment behemoth is becoming more bullish on Korean content, which is being enthusiastically consumed by fans worldwide.

The stories produced in South Korea are “representing the global cultural zeitgeist,” Sarandos said in a speech Monday, citing the success of shows such as “Squid Game,” “The Glory,” and “Physical: 100.”

“Squid Game,” which shows contestants playing deadly children’s games to win a huge cash prize, became the company’s top show worldwide in 2021.

“The Glory,” a drama about a woman taking revenge against her childhood bullies, was also the platform’s most-watched show globally the week it was released in March.

And “Physical: 100,” a grueling physical fitness competition show, was Netflix’s second most popular non-English show worldwide in February, according to the company.

Netflix is increasingly producing original international content and leaning on prospects overseas as its growth in North America and Europe slows.

In January, the company announced it was planning its largest-ever lineup of South Korean content, with 34 new and returning titles set to roll out this year. Audience data showed “over 60% of all Netflix members” watched Korean shows or films last year, Netflix said.

Four of the 10 most watched non-English TV shows ever on the streamer are also Korean, namely “Squid Game,” “All of Us Are Dead,” “The Glory,” and “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” according to the firm.

Yoon told reporters Monday that the new investment would be “a huge opportunity” not just for Netflix, but South Korea’s content industry and creators.

“We were able to make this decision because we have great confidence that the Korean creative industry will continue to tell great stories,” Sarandos said after their meeting.

Netflix added 1.46 million paid subscribers in Asia Pacific in the first quarter, making it the company’s fastest-growing region as sign-ups elsewhere stalled, according to its most recent earnings.

The company has reported seeing a “cancel reaction” from subscribers after announcing it will crack down on sharing passwords.

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