IAG March 2015 - page 4

inside
asiangaming
March2015
4
EDITORIAL
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TheBirthofCool
K
oreanpopstar Psy’s “GangnamStyle” ranks as themost watchedYouTube video ever,
withover 2.2billionviewsasof lastmonth. JustinBieber’s “Baby,” insecondplace, trails
by over abillion views.
Legend credits Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” with having given rise to the Korean
cultural wave, referred to as
hallyu
, that’s sweeping the planet. A SouthKorean government report
in 1994 stressed that the film’s box-office gross the previous year equaled the sales of 1.5million
Hyundai cars, then considered the pride of the country’s manufacturing sector, in a year when
Hyundai’s annual production hadn’t yet reached a million vehicles. As one of the few countries
where government intervention in industry is considered to have led to desirable economic
outcomes—starkly contrasting to the assessment of its neighbor to the north—this, along with
the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and resultant devaluation of the Koreanwon rendering imported
American films a lotmore expensive, fostered the riseof home-grown entertainment.
In1994, theMinistryofCulturesetupadedicatedculturalpromotionbureau. Italsoencouraged
the country’s
chaebols
—large business conglomerates that are mostly family-owned—to expand
frommanufacturing into film andmedia, and that, ultimately, was what lit the fuse on the
hallyu
explosion. For the
chaebols
are another uniquely South Korean aberration, where family-owned
enterpriseshave risen tonot just competeonaglobal stage, but become leaders in their respective
fields. Think Samsung, whichpre-
hallyu
was derided in theUS as “Samsuck.”
And
hallyu
was undeniably a turningpoint.
Last year,Korean-AmericanwriterEunyHongpublishedher treatiseon the riseofSouthKorea’s
pop culture: “TheBirthof KoreanCool.” Thebook charts the country’s remarkable ascent from the
mid-‘60s, when its per capitaGDPwas less than that of Ghana and, notably, the socialist paradise
beyond the 38th parallel (historically the more prosperous half of the peninsula), to its current
ranking as the 15th-largest economy in theworld. A reviewof thebook in
TheObserver
sumsup the
central conclusionnicely: “If the people of the emerging economies are captivatedby Korean soap
opera or K-pop, they will bemore inclined to buy Korean fridges, computers, televisions and cars.
They, too, want to live adream. Korea’s geniuswas tomake that dreamKorean.”
That dream is also driving tourism. It’s perhaps fitting that the now-ubiquitous term
hallyu
was
coined in 1999 by Beijing-based journalists commenting on China’s growing appetite for South
Korean cultural exports. They referred to the phenomenon as
hán liú
(
韓流
), which literally means
“flowof Korea.”Last year, SouthKoreahosted 14million tourists, ofwhich6.1millionweremainland
Chinese. SouthKorea now stands behindonlyHongKong andMacau as the leadingdestination for
China’soutbound travelers.
For thedevelopersof SouthKorea’s comingwaveof foreigners-only casino resorts, it’sChinese
tourists that matter most. Those developers mostly hail from overseas—ending the industry’s
dominationby local entities—and their ranks have been swelling.
Last month, Genting Singapore and its JV partner Landing International Development held a
ceremonial groundbreaking for theirResortsWorld Jejuprojecton thecountry’spopularholiday island.
Two other destination-scale resorts are under development in a special economic zone on
Yeongjong island, the siteof Incheon International Airport serving the capital, Seoul.One is a joint
venture between Paradise Group, the leader of the country’s foreigners-only casino market, and
Japanese pachinko giant Sega Sammy slated to open in 2017 at an initial cost of US$750million.
The other is a joint venture similarly priced and led byUS casino operator Caesars Entertainment,
which struck a$95milliondeal late last year to acquire land for a resort scheduled tobreak ground
in the zone this year aheadof aplannedopening in 2018.
Others are jostling for position. In late January, Bloomberry Resorts, owner ofManila’s Solaire
Resort &Casino, agreed to purchase 12.2 hectares of land on Yeongjong. Then, in February, Hong
Kong-based retail and property conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises announced its intention
to invest $2.6billion in the zone.
Meanwhile, the government plans to revise investment limits—that specify 51% foreign
ownership—to allow major Korean corporations, including Samsung and Hyundai, to also
participate in the resort industry.
No doubt, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s trendily coiffed premier-cum-deity, is taking note.
Macau’s Stanley Ho opened the North’s first casino at a hotel in the capital, Pyongyang, back in
1998. But it didn’t domuch for tourism. An estimated 10,000mainland Chinese visit the hermit
kingdom every year, less than0.2%of thenumberwhodescendedon theSouth in 2014.
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