‘CAST’ Is The Rising Business Model Utilizing Synergy Between K-Pop Stars & Local Korean Enterprises


From the BTS Meal at McDonald’s to the members of BLACKPINK all representing multiple luxury fashion houses, global brands are embracing the popularity and social-media savvy of K-pop stars more than ever. But the artists also use their influence to help develop and boost budding enterprises from their home country of South Korea in an emerging business model that’s gained important government support.

The special affairs unit in Korean TV and radio broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Company (better known as MBC) recently shared its findings and future plans developed from a new business model titled “Connect, Accompany to make Synergy and Transformation,” or “CAST” for short. After three years of research and testing, MBC shares that even with K-pop artists and celebrities’ rising profiles, they are willing to collaborate with Korea’s small-to-midsize enterprises (also known as SMEs) and share their millions of excitable fans for meaningful and collaborative partnerships.

In the CAST system, stars of the Korean wave and SMEs are matched one-on-one with the celebrities participating not just as models but as creative directors involved in product planning, development and testing stages. South Korea’s government-sponsored Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE) devised the matching system after recognizing smaller Korean enterprises’ difficulty in recruiting top stars.

“Stars using their influence for the growth and overseas expansion of SMEs is regarded as a new form of donation,” MBC stated in a press release. “The fact that global stars participated in the event for free drew a lot of attention [and] the CAST project deserves attention as a donation unprecedented anywhere in the world in maintaining a genuine partnership for over a year.”

Artists who actively partnered in the 2022 iteration of the program included long-beloved girl group Apink, chart-topping boy band SF9, solo superstar Chung Ha, rising girl group Weeekly, beauty YouTuber PONY, as well as models Irene Kim, Jung Hyuk and Song Haena. With eight SMEs selected by KOFICE to create the best synergy among both parties, the eight stars worked as creative directors to eventually move forward with their endorsements and marketing once approving the product.

The business model’s first overseas test was at last year’s HallyuPopFest in London, showcasing approximately 60 SMEs from Korea on the same festival grounds with popular artists like Kai, Chen, Hwa Sa, SF9, ASTRO, Weeekly, Ke1per and more. These overseas fairs and product demonstrations are another part of the CAST system to strengthen local awareness for businesses and develop international demand thanks to the stars’ visibility and endorsements for the products.

Looking ahead, the President of KOFICE Jung Kilhwa shared that after three years of testing, the CAST model can effectively build “strong competitiveness” among budding businesses in 2023.

Not only does the CAST system show a way for Korean businesses to gain a leg up in the global marketplace, but shows that K-pop stars are keenly aware of what’s needed to help their country’s economy grow in healthy, meaningful ways.


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