In Myanmar, Korean Pop Culture Helps Hyundai Sell Cars

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Hyundai
A staff opens the boot of a Hyundai car at a showroom in Yangon September 20, 2013.

Hyundai Motor Co (KRX:005380) is just one of the many automakers that are now setting up shop in Myanmar, but the Korean company may have an unfair advantage – the young people of Myanmar love Korean dramas and pop music, possibly making Hyundai more relevant and popular in the emerging nation.

The company opened its first store in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial center, in August, with plans to set up 14 dealerships in the Southeast Asian country by 2018 and raise its market share to more than 15 percent, according to Reuters.

"Young people in Myanmar who watch Korean dramas visit our showroom and look for cars that were shown in the dramas," said Oh Sei-young, chief executive of Kolao Holdings, which operates the only Hyundai dealer in Myanmar currently, said at a media briefing. "Hyundai is really keen on the Myanmar market."

South Korean pop culture, called “K-pop,” “Korean wave” or “Hallyu,” has been making the rounds all over Asia in recent years, generating billions of dollars in revenue from dramas and pop music and making Korean idols household names in countries like China, Japan and Malaysia.

Myanmar’s auto market is now blossoming along with the rest of the Burmese economy, following the establishment of the reform government in 2011. This year, the country will register a total of 331,468 passenger cars, up 24 percent from a year earlier, according to Kolao.

Only six out of 1,000 people own cars in Myanmar, and most of the market is dominated by Japanese automakers like Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (TYO:7201), but western companies like Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and European carmakers have all established or plan to establish presence in the newly open country.

Hyundai currently sells its Starex van and Elantra small sedan in Myanmar, and aims to sell 1,500 cars next year in the country, Oh said. The company also plans to raise about $150 million through share sales in Singapore to help finance business in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, Reuters reported.

Korean wave is also making its mark on Myanmar’s burgeoning domestic pop culture. Recently, Myanmar’s first girl group, in the fashion of Korean groups like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, made their debut. The music video from the group, Me N Ma Girls, features a “K-pop Factory” that zaps the Burmese girls to life.  

Watch the music video below:

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