Korean Americana Project: Can We Localize Korean Entertainment Products for Niche American Markets.

The fact, that something is popular or influential in one country, does not guarantee that the same phenomenon would occur in another country. 

In order to be accepted by a new non-native market, a product has to connect with the underlining psyche of the market in some manner. Depending on the market and product, the product’s pure functionality could be enough to make that connection. This is more difficult for entertainment or cultural products. These products need more effort put into localizing the product for the new market.

This requires a certain level on cultural understanding and humility. The fact that a product was successful in its native market does not mean it has no areas for improvement.

“If it is not broken, do not fix it!”

Truth is…Everything is broken is some manner. It is just that the market is tolerating those issues because of the positive aspects of the product. However, this may not be the same for other markets who may have different degrees of tolerance for different things.

Over  many years, Korean companies who wanted to export non-technology based products to the U.S. have not shown a high degree of aptitude in either understanding or humility. We either are very insecure about our products or overly proud of them when it comes to localizing them for foreign markets. In either case, Korean companies tend to go for the brute “take it or leave it” approach with not stellar results.

The popularity of #Kpop or #Kdrama products are more in spite of rather than because of the Korean companies’ efforts. A lot of this could be linked to the fact that Korean companies are not accustomed with satisfying niche markets. The country of Korea is rather homogeneous and thus has a hard time tolerating niche anything. While, like any country, niche populations exist, they are marginalized in favor of mainstream population’s needs.

This is where the Korean conglomerates or “ 재벌come into play. They are organized to supply the mainstream population. Thus, they dominate the Korean economy. The other niche markets are supplied by very small size companies which are basically mom and pop level organizations. However, the Korean conglomerates are not well suited to supply niche markets such as the Korean drama market in the U.S. 

And the U.S. market for Korean products is a niche market. For the conglomerates, it is not profitable enough. For the much smaller companies, they simply lack the resources or talent to bridge the cultural gap between countries.

In other words, there may be some U.S. niche markets for Korean entertainment products not being covered.

This may be an opportunity!

 Or it may not be…

The Korean Americana Project is my attempt to look into this possibility.

The book project I have been working on is one attempt at it.

Another thing I have been thinking about is the game of “Go-Stop” some people may have seen in Korean dramas. Even compared to Asian Games such as Mahjong, it barely has any presence in the U.S. There are several external reasons for this but the game, itself, also has some design problem that hinders widespread acceptance. This made me wonder if fixing those design issues and localizing it would change the situation.

So, I am trying to find out.

This is #1 for Korean Americana Project.


  1. Very informative. I would suggest a survey. Would the average North American Kpop or Kdrama fan want to learn the card game Go Stop, would they actually buy a deck, would they have anyone to play with or would an online version played internationally get the popularity going?

  2. After watching all the fun characters have playing it in dramas, I'd love to learn Go Stop.

  3. A Korean in AmericaApril 20, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    It is a rather simple game mechanic if you look at it. Need design improvements with the actual cards.