Propelling Korea’s global success through innovation and cultural exports

While the COVID-19 pandemic has increased risks to global economies due to supply chain disruptions and rising inflationary pressures, it has dramatically increased the consumption of digital content by billions of users around the world. With the widespread popularity of Korean cultural content (K-content), this has birthed a new engine of growth in Korea, with remarkable statistics and success cases showcasing Korea’s significant success in K-content exports. This includes Korean music, dramas, films, smartphone applications, gaming, and webtoons, amongst others.

K-content exports have grown by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% over the last four years to reach KRW13.6 trillion (USD11.9 billion) in 2020.1,2 This is an especially remarkable increase when compared with the relatively flat 3.4% (or CAGR of 0.85%) growth in Korea’s total exports over the same period, reiterating the role of K-content exports as a key growth engine for the Korean economy. To shed further light on this trend, this report highlights the growing soft power of K-content exports, quantifying the diverse ways in which Google supports Korean businesses to thrive globally through its platforms and initiatives.

The study findings were launched at the Google For Korea 2022 event on August 17 and key messages from the research include:

  • In 2021, Google’s products generated KRW19.3 trillion (USD16.9 billion) worth of economic benefits for Korean businesses, equivalent to 0.94% of Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These economic benefits comprise the incremental revenue earned by businesses as they gain access to a larger audience base through Google’s products and services. Furthermore, a large share of Google’s economic benefits for businesses is export-related, with an estimated KRW 8.5 trillion (USD7.4 billion) of 2021’s business benefits – 44% of the year’s total business benefits – generated from overseas markets.
  • Google has stimulated and supported a total of 106,300 jobs across the overall Korean economy through its products and operating system. Of which, 38,300 jobs supported are export-related (i.e., jobs that are supported by Korean businesses, to meet overseas demand).
  • An AlphaBeta survey conducted in 2022 has found that Korean app publishers expressed a strong desire to reach customers in overseas markets, with 72% highlighting it as an important priority and 34% generating over half of their downloads and revenue from global markets. Korean app publishers also perceive Google Play to be the most effective and essential platform for successful overseas expansion, with 86% citing its beneficial impact in this regard.
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