This April, six major Korean talent management agencies joined forces to launch the Asian management agency, UAM (United Asia Management). With ‘Hanryu’ or better known as the ‘Korean Wave’ becoming a significant factor in Asia’s Entertainment businesses such as KEYEAST, AM Entertainment, Star J Entertainment, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment all came together to create a joint investment corporation called “UAM”, an international talent agency with the purpose of strengthening the foundations of ‘Hanryu,’ promoting collaborative exchange and establishing an efficient casting system. The main operations will focus on overseeing the portrait rights of all talents managed by the six agencies and intellectual rights as well as establishing an efficient talent database.
Most of the talents managed by the six agencies and members of UAM have successfully become a significant force in the Asian market, making their mark as key figures of the Korean Wave. To name a few: AM Entertainment’s JANG Dong-kun; KEYEAST’s BAE Yong-joon, KIM Hyeon-jung, CHOI Kang-hee, E Ji-ah; SM Entertainment’s TVXQ, Girls’ Generation, Super Junior; YG Entertainment’s Big Bang, 2NE1, Se7en; JYP Entertainment’s Rain, Wonder Girls, 2PM. UAM is opening its doors to all artists Korean or non-Korean who are currently active or willing to enter the Asian entertainment market with a vision to go beyond the Korean Wave and create an ‘Asian Wave.’ CEO of UAM and Star J Entertainment, JEONG Young-bum states the role of UAM, “Our goal is not limited to Korea but spreads out to Asia. Creating an efficient system is fundamental to achieve this.” He adds that UAM can “Pave the way for other major Asian talent agencies not only from the US but also from other Asian regions including China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.”
On the other hand, some have expressed concern that this ‘mega-scaled’ collaboration among local major talent agencies might only put more pressure on broadcasting companies and distributors in Korea. However, UAM disagrees as they emphasize their intention to reduce the various shortcomings they have come to recognize through substantial experience in the international market and systematize their activities. In this light, UAM’s part in entering the massive Chinese market especially carries great weight. In the case of the Chinese market, which lacks an organized entertainment business, the reality is that there are no unified channels to respond to the overflowing demands for Korean entertainment talents or contents. More favorable gestures to embrace not only Korean directors and actors and actresses but also artists in other fields such as photographers, TV commercial directors, hair and makeup artists and stylists are additional points that address the necessity for an organized system.
We also need to assess the impact UAM will have on the film industry. With the recent trend of talent agencies starting to develop their own film contents, one can carefully anticipate UAM’s active participating in producing various contents including film and TV dramas with international market appeal. The local film industry is optimistic towards the system UAM will create as it will open more opportunities for local talents to venture outside of Korea. Local film production companies and investors have already been faced with numerous difficulties in their attempts to enter the international market. As one film producer and investor states, “For actors and directors to step out into the international market, it is not up to an individual’s talent or abilities but a collective effort or influence in order to be effective. If there is an organization that can and is willing to work at accomplishing this, who wouldn’t welcome them?”
But he expressed concern by stressing, “What’s important though is that they should not linger on the format but the execution. This attempt holds no meaning if a specific system to support realistic activities is nonexistent.” It will perhaps take UAM six months to two years to see any concrete results. As it is only the beginning it would only be fair to wait and see how UAM will grow and flourish. But it is clear that UAM’s role is more than necessary at this time when the Korean Wave has reached its peak.