Pororo the Little Penguin is an example of a successful homegrown South Korean animation character.
Pororo the Little Penguin is an example of a successful homegrown South Korean animation character.

The South Korean government has announced that it will invest a total of 380 billion won (US$338 million) in the country’s domestic animation and character industries by 2019.

The five-year investment plan was unveiled in February by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

“With the global animation and character industries predicted to grow to become a 200 trillion won market by 2018, this is a big opportunity for local companies,” said Yoon Tae-yong, deputy minister of the cultural content industry. “The government will step up efforts to stir up companies’ desires for creative work and create an environment that can help them reach out to the world market.”

The ministry unveiled an initiative that would both provide support to start-up operations through a new state facility, as well as grant automatic subsidies to established animation studios based on the performance of their earlier projects.

In recent years, South Korea’s animation industry has evolved from being largely reliant on subcontracted production for foreign animation industries to becoming a fledgling creator of original content in its own right. According to the ministry, homegrown South Korean content accounted for 70% of the animation industry’s revenues in 2013.

The investment program, which aims to make “K-Anima” as trendy as the musical genre K-pop, has been criticized by some South Korean commentators, who say that the program is unfocused and underfunded.

“It pales in comparison to what other countries with similar ambitions are spending,” wrote Lee Sun-young in the Korea Herald. “France, for instance, is running a 688 million euro ($735 million) fund to support homegrown animated content. That is more than double what Korea has pledged for the entire five-year period. Of course, not all governments need to take the same approach as the French, injecting taxpayers’ money into the private sector. Well-devised deregulatory or tax break measures could help pump private money into the industry. That way, money flows to projects that investors, not some government-appointed judges, deem are more creative and likely to yield high returns.”

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