The stay-at-home quandary effected by the Wuhan virus has led citizens to Netflix and other entertainment streaming services.
By social media indications, the K-Dramas have come out as the hands-down winner particularly with Filipino women swooning over Hyun Bin, Lee Min Ho, Ji Zhang Wuk, and a platoon of clean-looking hunks and chunks.
Purposive state policy
This is by no means a serendipitous occurrence. The so-called K-Pop is a product of South Korea’s purposive state policy.
The country’s “hard brands” such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai have gone as far as they could go in the global market, and the Korean government has looked into cultural content, the “soft” produce, to sustain its economic robustness.
Korea has wrested the initiative from Japan.
Worry and envy
When I attended creative content conferences in China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia a few years back, the biggest concern voiced out by attendees was how anime (Japanese cartoons) and manga (Japanese comics) were robbing the attention of children in Asia.
There was actually a mix of worry and envy over J-Pop from other Asian countries.
The Japanese creative content industry was like Godzilla on rampage, bigger than Japan’s steel industry, which is huge, hauling in precious income.
The phrase “turning Japanese” was a steam coming from hypnotized psyche.
Children stuck to television watching Voltes 5 and sorts was quietly leading to interests in sushi, ninjas, geishas, Toyota, Sony, and more.
Twists in taste
I have seen comics stores in California selling American titles drawn in manga style. Imagine voluptuous Vampirella with cartoony vomiting face expressions.
These twists in taste are the consequence of invading cultural content.
America has an unwritten policy that where the American cinema goes, so goes its government.
Movies are much better than the marines in invading foreign shores.
They create receptivity among a populace whose minds America wishes to conquer - without the blood and gore.
Creative content game
That is why China stands guard against American movies, not only against its warships and drones.
China has been trying to inch its way into the creative content game.
It might have grabbed seas and islands but it has remained limp with its animation and is now churning out similar fairy-tale romance dramas of Korea.
The creative industry goldmine in nothing to scoff at.
According a Bloomberg report, the creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2.25 trillion in revenue—or 3 percent of the world’s GDP—in 2013.
This is substantially more than global telecommunications ($1.57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada.
Some Asian countries are hot in pursuit, patterning the so-called “commodification” of cultural content after the successful Korean state-intervention model.
Indonesia and Thailand have formed creative content ministries and poured in huge budget allocations towards animation and gaming. How that will go, we have yet to see.
Where is the Philippines in all these developments? Nada.
I have attended several “road-mapping” sessions for the creative industry called by government agencies such as DTI and DoST but I have yet to see even a ghost of the transcripts of the discussions.
The Development Academy of the Philippines may wish to take this aspect up for policy formulation. It is in a position to have a bird’s eye view of the country’s cultural content and direction.
DAP has gone into bureaucracy training, rural development, industry productivity, futures, and such but it lacks the “soul” component.
That is, if DAP wishes to have a wholistic look at what truly drives a nation.
World class talent
And to think, Filipinos have the capacity and the talent to be a major global player in the creative industry.
The evidence is all anecdotal but lay down all these successes together and we could come out with a clear picture of the country’s “potential” – ahh, that key word for frustration.
Look at our musicians. You will find Filipino bands performing in hotels and clubs in major cities and cruises all over the world.
Leah Salonga is no fluke in this aspect. Filipino chorale groups are winning trophies everywhere.
Filipino films are taking home trophies from various film festivals, even if you leave out the poverty porn of Brillante Mendoza.
Local animation industry
Numerous Filipino comics illustrators and cartoonists are heroes in foreign companies.
Our local animation industry is alive and well with contracts from the US, Canada, and Europe. It just has to shake off its mercenary attitude and come up with original opuses.
An American director has recently asked in a broadsheet why has not the Philippines come out with an international box office hit such as Korea’s CLOY.
It might. Soon. But whether that could be sustained is the question. Products of Star Cinema, Regal, or Viva may land in Netflix, but these are rag-tag.
As Japan, Korea, and even America have demonstrated, for cultural content or intellectual property generation to be dominant, state intervention or support is mandatory.
And this should be comprehensive and relentless.
Not only will we be raking in gigantic revenues, but we will be able to advance our own cultural agenda.
Or at the very least, protect our patrimony, if not self-worth, from being taken away.
Can we get this from the present government?
Perhaps in scriptwriting; it is superb in the absurd. Perhaps in farce; it is peerless in buffoonery. Perhaps in sorcery; it is a master in making money and decency disappear.