BusinessKorea sat down with Park Chan-jun, director of this year's Gwangju ACE Fair, to speak about the cultural renaissance that Gwangju is fostering and its impact upon the rest of Asia. Director Park spoke at length about the initial goals of the fair and its subsequent evolution.
It has been nine years since the Gwangju ACE Fair launched. What was the initial goal of its establishment?
The key reason for launching the Gwangju ACE Fair was to open a global venue for exchanging cultural content in Gwangju. The first goal was to stimulate the cultural industry by creating a business model for the international cultural content industry. The second objective was to expand and strengthen the network among people in the cultural and entertainment content industry inside and outside Korea. The third goal was to develop cultural products based on traditional culture and arts. Along with the Hub City of Asian Culture Project, the ACE Fair is becoming one of the major exhibitions of the cultural industry in Gwangju.
Tell us some of the major achievements of the Gwangju ACE Fair.
Gwangju ACE Fair covers all aspects of cultural content including broadcasting, video, games, characters, animation, edutainment, and licensing. The fair is growing steadily every year in the numbers of participating companies, buyers, and export consultations. In 2013, 404 companies in 649 booths from 40 countries, 223 foreign buyers, and 100,000 visitors came. 1,623 export consultations were made, and the export amount discussed there was US$260 million.
Also, Gwangju ACE Fair earned the title of international exhibition by being certified by the Union des Foires Internationales, a world-acclaimed international exhibition organization. It was also certified as an international exhibition by Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy for four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013. And also, it was selected by them as one of the most promising exhibitions for three consecutive years, from 2012 to 2014, making it Korea’s biggest cultural content exhibition.
Is there anything in particular prepared for this year’s exhibition? And what would your team like to see achieved this time?
We have export consultations, special guest performance and events, and seminars besides the main exhibition. This year, we are going to separate B2B and B2C to increase the effectiveness of network among the participants, buyers, and companies.
B2B export consultation session will be held from Sep. 25 for two days, and to provide a better environment for consultation, VIP room and lounge will be prepared in Multipurpose Hall.
There will also be more B2C programs this year. Visitors will get to experience the newest technology such as 4K Video and 3D printers. And there will be fun and exciting games such as board games, speed stacks, and e-sports competition. A special feature film made with the newest technology, super-sized Gundam model, photo zone, and costume play will also be fun things to see and experience at the exhibition.
For the first time, there will be a special cartoon exhibition hosted by the Korea Cartoonist Association. We will not only introduce an exhibition of webtoons, replicas of original paintings of the Three Kingdoms, and caricatures of G20 summit members, but also instant caricature sessions by famous cartoonists. There will also be a job fair aimed specially at the cultural industry. Kyle Cooper, the inventor of the motion picture title sequence, and famous movie directors will be guest speakers for the seminars.
How is Gwangju ACE Fair being evaluated by the general population?
According to a survey conducted at last year’s event, the participating companies were very satisfied with our exhibition, giving overall average scores of up to 4.25 for export consultations and 4.03 for business, on a scale of 1 to 5. Specifically, we scored high in service, facilities, the duration of the exhibition, a pre-matching service for businesses, support for foreign buyers, and 1:1 translation services for foreign buyers. But some were not satisfied with our business matching and the quality of matched businesses. So this year we are going to work harder to attract buyers with more purchasing power, diversify the content available, and provide a business matching service that better reflects the needs of each company.
There seems to be a higher percentage of foreign participants in the Gwangju ACE Fair than other exhibitions. What does your exhibition do that other exhibitions don’t do? And how do you interact with foreign partners?
We have been building a database of all the foreign participants and visitors who came to our exhibition for eight years now, and we also utilize the network from our co-host, the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), and Gwangju Information and Culture Industry Promotion Agency to attract new foreign participants and buyers. We are also participating in similar exhibitions in other countries, exchanging advertisements, and making various kinds of cooperation with foreign organizations and associations to strengthen the international recognition and network.
As the organizer of the exhibition, what are the industry and exhibition trend for cultural content?
Around the world, the race to become the top country of cultural content is fierce. Advanced countries are already considering the cultural content industry as “the food of the future,” and doing all they can to stimulate this industry. Institutions that support cultural industries and companies that are registered in these institutions are the major participants of the Gwangju ACE Fair.
Also, cultural content is rapidly entering the realm of convergence. In the past, one piece of content was produced for one outlet only. Now, that one piece of content has multiple outlets, waiting for it to be reproduced in various ways. Other exhibitions that are being held in Korea exhibit only one kind of cultural content. But the ACE Fair is far more comprehensive, exhibiting all kinds of cultural content, making it the most suitable exhibition model that can adapt to rapidly changing trends.
What are the economic and social benefits of Gwangju ACE Fair, and how do you predict the future?
First of all, in the economic aspect, there were 1,634 consultations with an amount of US$264 million, the successful invitation of 402 buyers (179 domestic, 223 overseas), US$578 million discussed by companies located in Gwangju, and 4 MOUS (1 network, 3 investment). All this helped companies in Gwangju and other areas of Korea to build sales channels and stimulate the regional economy.
In the social aspect, there were considerably fewer cultural content exhibitions outside the Seoul metropolitan area. But because there is the Gwangju ACE Fair, people who live outside Seoul also have the opportunity to see a well-prepared cultural content exhibition. There were 100,000 visitors last year.
As the center of Asian culture, the City of Gwangju is supporting the cultural industry in many ways. Gwangju and the nearby city Naju have already opened organizations that are related to the cultural industry. And next year, the Hub City of Asian Culture will open. As the cooperation among the City of Gwangju, related organizations, and the ACE Fair becomes stronger, we expect to create more positive economic and social influences. We will become the essential marketplace for cultural content in Korea.
What is the vision of the Gwangju ACE Fair?
Gwangju is the center of Asian culture with the infrastructure to incubate the cultural industry built in, with the Hub City of Asian Culture, CGI Center, Gwangju Information and Culture Industry Promotion Agency, and Gwangju Design Center in Gwangju, and the Korea Creative Content Agency and Korea Radio Promotion Association in Naju. Also, the city of Gwangju has been designated as the cultural industry investment promotion district, so we already have many cultural content companies here, and we expect to see even more rolling in. With this infrastructure as the foundation, we can provide financial support, creation, sales, and exhibitions of cultural content all in one place. We also make it possible to approach cultural content from academic and technological perspectives, making us very competitive. In the near future, we are expecting to become the site of the biggest cultural content exhibition not just in Korea, but in all of Asia.