The KOCCA: Pinning the Wave Upon International Sand


Korean popular culture has spread across the globe over the past two decades. Even those who do not actively seek out K-pop have most likely been exposed to it in some capacity, whether it was through the song “Gangnam Style” by Psy, the number-one most-watched YouTube video in history, or trying the latest beauty and skincare trends. But this rush of creative content out of South Korea did not originally happen on purpose; the K-pop bug caught on and took flight organically. 

The rise in Korean popular culture stems from the beginning of the Republic of Korea’s diplomatic relations with China in the early 1990s ( The Chinese people began to take interest in modern Korean television dramas shows and music produced in the Korean language. As K-pop grew more common, a radio program out of Beijing called Seoul Music Room began playing the trendy music from South Korea in 1997 ( “Korean pop music, especially dance music, began to gain popularity among Chinese teenagers,” according to, “after it was introduced in earnest.”

By 2000 the Korean popular culture dam broke. Korean boy band, H.O.T. hit the stage in Beijing and from there, K-pop flowed into Japan, through East Asia, into the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, and parts of Europe (Lee, 2011). From music and dramas to dance, gaming, and fashion, the Korean Wave – or Hallyu – became a global phenomenon.

With Korea center stage in popular culture, the government decided to take advantage of and take control of the exposure. In 2002, Korea’s government passed the Framework Act on the Promotion of Cultural Industries. Under Article 31, “The Government shall establish the Korea Creative Content Agency (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Agency’), so as to efficiently support the advancement and development of cultural industries” (Framework Act, 2002).

The Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) has taken lead in overseeing and advancing the progression of the Korean Wave domestically and internationally and therefore has arguably the greatest impact on Korean popular culture and society compared to any other factor.


The Not-So-Secret Agency  

The KOCCA is South Korea’s leading government agency that spans across all aspects of Korean popular culture including gaming, animation, character licensing, comics and webtoons, music, fashion, and broadcasting ( This means that the Agency has the capacity to guide the direction and degree of impact both internationally and domestically. Music festivals, sweepstakes, films found in the international section on streaming services, and imported clothing originating from Korea have all most likely been touched by the Agency in some capacity. For example, the KOCCA brings a lineup of K-Pop bands to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas for the sponsored “K-Pop Night Out” every year since 2012, but American attendees most likely have never heard of the Agency before (Minor, 2017). This isn’t because the KOCCA wants to remain a secret; the Agency keeps a low profile in order to pin consumers’ focus on the content.

Although much of the more commonly accessed Korean creative content has the KOCCA stamp on it that does not mean the Agency serves as a regulatory or censorship service for content exports. Content producers do not have to go through the Agency to get noticed or get permission to share their work. Instead, the Agency focuses on the advancement and growth of Korean culture overall. Creative content produced in Korea remains organic. The products come directly from the source of Korean artists, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs. The Agency serves as an advocate for the country’s best original products.


Techniques for Advancement

The KOCCA makes its greatest impact on the spread of Korean culture by actively practicing techniques similar to those of a public relations firm. The Agency provides production support, marketing and promotion, global expansion, human capital development, and cultural technology implementation services ( These programs and tactics are unique to Korea and have become integrated into Korean society. In the way boarding schools for future idols set attendees up for successful careers, the KOCCA has academies and complexes designed to equip future creative content leaders to have successful careers as well.


Production support

            The KOCCA provides creatives the proper space and resources necessary to foster quality products. Through the Content Korea Lab, cel Academy, and cel Venture Complex, Korea’s most forward thinking content producers from all industries have access to studio space, equipment, and mentors ( These spaces provide the means for growth and expansion of ideas domestically, with potential to spread abroad.

Marketing and promotion

            Like in any communications agency responsible for spreading ideas, marketing and promotion play a major role in the successful execution of a plan. The Agency uses the international platform it has built for itself as well as the audience it has adopted to push out creative content from Korea to the rest of the world. 

Global Expansion

With seven overseas offices in the United States, Japan, Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia, China, and Brazil, the KOCCA has followed the Korean Wave in order to more actively cultivate growth of Korean culture abroad ( Additionally, the Agency provides support for global market entry through methods of localization. This means translations, dubbing, and targeted marketing.

Human capital development

            Within the cel Academy, cel Venture Complex, and the Content Korea Lab, the KOCCA trains content creators and supports them in building content business startups, find jobs, or simply create using resources and tools provided by the Agency. The KOCCA also takes part in finding new K-pop idols through the yearly reality television program, Hello Rookie. This televised competition pits talented young people against each other to fight for a chance to become an idol.

Cultural technology implementation

This is a symbiotic relationship between the Agency and the people in which it invests. Through its support programs, the KOCCA provides technology to content creators while simultaneously pushing them to develop the next cutting-edge technology for content creation and distribution.



The Korean Creative Content Agency’s approach to advancing the progression of the Korean Wave is strategic and exhaustive. Each person, product, or idea that makes its way to the eyes and ears of foreigners serves as a cultural representative of Korea. This is especially in the early years of the Korean Wave as people are still learning about Korea for the first time. By investing in the quality of each cultural representative, Korea has a unique advantage against other countries with well-defined societal reputations. Because Korean pop culture is still fairly new, the country still maintains control of its own cultural image. The Agency’s goal is to have a positive impact on the production of as well as the perception of Korean popular culture not only in Korea, but everywhere. The Agency also seeks to present the entire country of Korea as a quality creative product in and of itself. It is only appropriate that the KOCCA takes a multifaceted approach to building that positive Korean image and communicating that positive message of quality, innovation, and uniqueness. Faced with a an ever-growing audience, the KOCCA has the power to influence societal views of Korean culture overall by presenting Korea’s cultural products to the world as carefully polished, creative masterpieces.

With the KOCCA at the helm of the already careening K-pop ship, the rollout of new content is streamlined. In the same way a public relations executive guides a successful client from the cover of its client’s shadow, the KOCCA constantly guides Korean pop culture to cultural relevance without stepping into the limelight itself. In the same way a public relations executive conveys the image of his or her client from the best possible angles to the media and the greater public, so does the KOCCA with Korean pop culture. Because of the tactful and active position of the Agency, it is able to direct society to the best of Korean culture and keep the tidal waves of quality content rippling from the heart of the peninsula.



The Korean Creative Content Agency has successfully taken lead as both the overseer of the Korean Wave’s progress and the advancement of the movement. Because of the breadth of the Agency’s reach over all of Korea’s creative industries, the KOCCA is responsible for the impact of Korean popular culture on society globally. 

So far, the Agency has succeeded in building platforms for Korean creatives to share their talents. It has also succeeded in encouraging the brightest, most gifted Koreans to invest in themselves – and in turn Korea. Lastly, it has succeeded in broadening the global view of what Korean culture is. The KOCCA effectively provides structure and grooming to the expansion of Hallyu, which in turn creates a positive image of Korean culture to the world.

Overall, the Agency impacts the Korean people by improving their opportunities to thrive at home with the potential to explode internationally, no matter the industry. The Agency impacts the country of Korea by investing in its future cultural and economic growth. The KOCCA serves as an important tool for Korea’s development as a competitor and even a leader in the creative content marketplace.



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