Reimagining Korea’s Dynamic Film & TV Industry With Wow Point Executive Producer Yoomin Hailey Yang

Wow Point CEO and executive producer Yoomin Hailey Yang is blazing a trail for young female producers in the Korean film and TV industry.

After stints working with Korean broadcaster MBC and agency-producer BH Entertainment, she co-founded Wow Point with leading Korean filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho (Train To Busan, Peninsula) in 2021. The Seoul-based company has launched two series on Netflix so far this year: Parasyte: The Grey, an adaptation of the popular Japanese sci-fi horror manga Parasyte, directed by Yeon, and family suspense drama The Bequeathed, created and written by Yeon and directed by Min Hong-Nam.


Further Netflix films and series are in the pipeline, including a highly anticipated second season of Yeon’s Hellbound, in partnership with Climax Studio. Yang is also developing a slate for Wow Point’s Sub-label division, focusing on diverse and distinctive voices.


Throughout her career, Yang has been interested in connecting Korea’s dynamic content industry to international markets through exports, co-production, or other forms of creative collaboration. She worked in the international business department of Korean broadcaster MBC from 2011 to 2014, a period she describes as one of the busiest for exports of Korean content to Japan.

“Japan acquired a lot of our content at competitive prices – especially romantic dramas and comedies –, and we started to realize how much Korean content was loved by international audiences,” Yang remembers. “It allowed us to raise our production costs for drama so we could make our shows even bigger and better.”

But the halcyon days weren’t meant to last forever, as political issues between Japan and Korea halted the export business. China briefly filled in the gap, also paying high prices for a wide range of Korean dramas, but again that business was brought to a sudden stop due to political tensions between the two countries starting in 2016.

“We were asking ourselves how we could continue producing dramas at the same budget levels, and then Netflix started their business in Korea,” Yang says. Netflix’s investment in Korean-language content started around 2016, and the streamer’s impact on international consumption of Korean films and series have been well documented. Demand accelerated even further during the pandemic when a string of K-dramas became household names.

But long before shows such as Squid Game, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, and Yeon’s Hellbound became a global phenomenon, Yang was on a mission to learn more about production and the international side of the content business. As Japanese companies had started buying Korean dramas in the early stages of production during her time at MBC, she was gaining more exposure to the creative aspects of the industry and decided she wanted “to become part of that process” and to produce. She also wanted to understand how Korea could collaborate more closely with larger international territories such as the US and Japan.


With that in mind, she spent two years working for the Motion Picture Association to gain a deeper understanding of the Hollywood system before taking on the role of general manager of production and global business at BH Entertainment, the Korean talent agency turned producer that works with top talent including Lee Byung-hun and Park Hae-soo.

“We have a small market in Korea, even though it’s a strong creative market, so I’m interested in how much bigger our business could grow if we have more chances to work at an international level,” Yang says. She describes her role at BH Entertainment as a huge opportunity to work with new talent and meet many established writers and directors because the A-list actors at BH always received scripts from them. “Those experiences really helped me to become a producer,” she says.

One of her first projects at BH Entertainment was the Korean remake of Netflix’s hit Spanish-language show Money Heist (La Casa De Papel)—developing and packaging the adaptation took around five years. “We loved the series and thought it was something we could adapt to Korea’s particular situation, being divided between north and south, but also bring in a lot of messages from the original series,” Yang says.

She explains that when BH Entertainment first approached Netflix with the remake, the original Money Heist was still relatively unknown outside Spanish-speaking countries, but as it became a global smash during their development process, they became nervous that the Korean remake wouldn’t be well received. “We were all so worried just before the release of our version, but luckily, it got decent numbers.”


While Yang is always conscious of the international audience, she says the high expectations of the Korean audience keep herself and other Korean producers on their toes: “Korean audiences are very smart and very demanding. They’ve watched everything from Hollywood, Europe, and the rest of Asia, and Korea is close to Japan, so they’ve read a lot of manga and consumed a lot of animation. They can be very critical and have many opinions about ideas, stories, and content.”

Ryu Yong-jae, the writer of Money Heist: Korea, introduced her to Yeon, and they soon discovered they had overlapped interests. Yeon’s Train To Busan had been a huge hit around the world, and consequently, he was receiving calls from Hollywood, Japan, and other international markets and trying to figure out how to respond to those calls. Meanwhile, Yang had experience building bridges between all of those industries.

She says of Yeon: “He started his career as an animation director and has so much knowledge about anime and manga, plus he’s a very smart creator with great ideas – so I wanted the chance for him to be involved in more productions, not just his own. But in Korea, we didn’t have much of a system for directors to become producers or to support junior filmmakers, like in the Hollywood system.”

The duo decided to start a company where Yeon could be a director and producer, not just in Korea but internationally: “Korea doesn’t have many big production companies, but we hope we can gain more experience as producers and find our place in Hollywood and Japan,” says Yang. When we have a great idea, we don’t want it to be only limited to the Korean market or language or the size of production that we have now.”  

In addition to further films and series for Netflix, Wow Point is currently working on theatrical movies intended for cinema release – both big-budget commercial projects with Yeon’s involvement and smaller-budget projects, including more diverse and female-oriented stories, which are being developed through Sub-label. But Yang says she’s waiting for the right time to launch these projects – because although Korea’s international profile has never been so high, the country’s box office has not yet recovered from the cinema closures of the pandemic.

“We’re all hoping the market will come back, but these days, nobody is sure what kind of films will work at the box office,” says Yang. “Our market saw a lot of changes during Covid with audiences turning to streaming services and all the big global companies coming here to produce content. But we could also see the bubble forming because costs were shooting up, especially for the cast, and we were worried about what would happen when all the investment was gone.”

Yang says the Korean content industry is now in a tricky transitional stage. While Netflix is still investing, and Disney returned to Korean production following the success of the superhero series Moving, some of the other global companies have restructured or cut production costs as part of a shift away from customer acquisition towards achieving profitability. And while Korea has enjoyed a few box office hits over the past six months – including political thriller 12.12: The Day and, more recently, action film The Roundup: Punishment – the theatrical market is still uncertain.

“We really need a new business structure because we can’t rely on just one or two platforms to finance bigger budget projects. Streamers like Netflix, TVing, and Disney+ are great partners, but they can only produce so much content,” Yang says. “We also need more distribution routes to reach international audiences and markets. We need to create a more diverse business structure.”

Collaborating with Hollywood, Japan, and other big international markets is part of Wow Point’s strategy to achieve this, as is developing new talent and experimenting with different kinds of storytelling. In addition to producing films and series, the company is also working on animation, webtoons, and novels—all part of building up an ecosystem of valuable IP.

“More directors and producers are reaching out to Hollywood and other big international territories because we need a bigger market and more opportunities rather than being stuck inside our existing structures,” Yang concludes. We’re all concerned about the same issues and thinking about how we can adapt and expand.”


 Featured image: L-r: Yoomin Hailey Yang; Parasyte: The Grey Jeon So-nee as Jeong Su-in in Parasyte: The Grey Cr. Cho Wonjin/Netflix © 2024


Liz Shackleton

Based in Hong Kong, Liz Shackleton is the founder of Chime Consulting and a journalist writing for outlets including Nikkei Asia, South China Morning Post, and Screen International.