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Yonsama Joins Softbank Chief in Korean Wave Venture

2006/02/20 | 98 views | Permalink | Source

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Japan's favorite Korean son-in-law Bae Yong-joon and the maverick pioneer Masayoshi Son of Softbank have joined hands in an unconventional bid to spread the Korean pop-culture craze that still holds Asia in its grip. Bae and Softbank Korea announced Monday that they will make a joint investment of W13 billion (US$13 million) to take over the Kosdaq-listed firm Autowin Tech.

The company, renamed Key East, will create broadcast and music content and distribute it in the Asian market. Bae will be in charge of producing competitive Korean Wave content, while Son will seek out new markets such as Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) to sell it.

Bae will invest W9 billion, the Softbank Korea subsidiary Softbank Ventures W1 billion, a consortium sponsored by Softbank Ventures W2 billion, and Bae's Japanese management company IMX another W1 billion. That will make Bae the largest shareholder with 37.5 percent.

"There is no entertainment company that represents Asia in the way Disney and Sony Entertainment represent the Western World", Softbank Ventures CEO Moon Gyu-hak said. He added the project will create new markets.

IMX says Bae is investing a part of last year's earnings, which tallied W20 billion won.

The unconventional alliance came off because Son wanted to build a media company and found Bae keen to invest in supporting the Korean Wave. Son last June visited Korea to see Bae and talk about the plan, where he was able to persuade Bae to make a foray into the Asian culture industry harnessing his popularity as the poster boy of Korea fever.

"Son and Bae reached an understanding at their very first meeting", a Softbank staffer said. Bae liked Son's plan, which he said would broaden popular Korean content in Asia, and Son was impressed with Bae, saying the two were on the same wavelength. They met again last September in Japan and discussed their plan over golf.

Son has put out other feelers in the global media world, meeting with heads of the BBC, a French national broadcaster and Shanghai Media Group to exchange views. "Son is spending most of his working time in meeting with media executives", a company staffer said.

Key East hopes to start producing content and acquiring a distribution network starting next month with the help of additional investment and partnerships. The company is reportedly in talks with the Korean entertainment agency SM Entertainment.

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