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Quest Means Business
Growing Regional Tensions Deepening Ties With Japan And US; US And South Korea Building Deterrence Against North Korea; Top US And Russian Diplomats Meet For First Time Since Invasion; South Korea's Export Slump, Aging Population; Chair Of HYBE Entertainment On Work-Life Harmony; Honeycomb Cookie Challenge. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 02, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: There is an hour still to trade in New York. It's a freezing morning here in Seoul in South Korea. The markets
are strong and hot with the Dow being up the best part of 300 points or so, as you can see, up 290 odd points. We'll take that any morning as we look
towards the weekend, a cold morning.
Those are the markets and these are the events that we'll be covering in tonight's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
South Korea's Prime Minister tells us that China should do more to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
An exclusive, the man behind BTS, Hybe Chairman Bang Si-Hyuk tells me now is the time for global expansion as he tries to buy a competitor.
And what e-scooters have taught me about the South Korean economy.
Live from Seoul in South Korea. It is Friday, it is March the 3rd, we are already in the future here. For most of you of course it is still March
2nd. Whatever the date, I'm still Richard Quest and in Seoul, I certainly mean business.
A very good morning from the Capitol here in South Korea where daylight has not yet arrived, but it is 5:00 AM, so the new day is just almost upon us.
For those wanting to know why I'm looking a bit shivery. It's a minus one degree Celsius, which is something else in old money.
Seoul in South Korea, the very country is an economic powerhouse. It is home to corporate giants that have stormed around the world, companies like
LG, Samsung, and Hyundai.
It is also of course, the birthplace of K-pop, and "Squid Game" and you'll see us have one or two goes at perhaps something a little later in the
As for the country itself, and one of the reasons we are here. It is extraordinary for the list of geopolitical issues and worries and dangers
that come just around here.
First of all, North Korea, of course, the hostile neighbor with its growing nuclear threat and ever bellicose policies. And then Taiwan with rising US-
China tensions, South Korea is home to 28,000 US troops; and of course, the DMZ, and then you've got with China and South Korea, the souring relations
with a more assertive Beijing.
On the economic front, the economy is growing. Inflation is muted, but there are problems ahead. Struggling is how the Prime Minister describes
this in a moment.
South Korea's major semiconductor hub, now is having to have talks with US over CHIPS Act as a hedge against China.
There are so many issues, so I was fortunate and privileged to sit down with the South Korean Prime Minister, Han Duck-soo yesterday. He told me
that when you look at this and survey the landscape for this country, really China is at the center of many of the issues, and China has changed.
HAN DUCK-SOO, SOUTH KOREAN PRIME MINISTER: China is not the country it used to be when they started and the market opening and liberalizations in
the economic policies. China is a huge and important global player, but maybe sometimes China is not compliant with that kind of, you know,
expectations a lot of countries would like to have about China.
For example, we hope that China will be more aggressive and more active in reducing the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
QUEST: Let's go to North Korea in our discussion.
The President Trump years were perhaps with hindsight, a little bizarre. So now how would you describe the relationship with North Korea?
HAN: The attempts by President Trump was rather new approach to North Korea. Top down, I should say. And of course, we hoped that it might work,
but it didn't so well.
So last year with the new administration coming into power, we put a lot of emphasis on building our deterrence capabilities in the right way, but we
are not closing the dialogue channels for North Korea.
QUEST: How would you describe the current level of dialogue, such as it may not exist.
HAN: Korea and our closest ally, the United States, their policies have never changed at all. It is North Korea who should change and we already
made public and made an announcements on a new policy initiative. That means as long as North Korea is abstaining from their very strong and
ambitious nuclear ambitions, that's okay for United the States and for Korea to open our dialogue.
But up to now, it's quite a pity that North Korea has not responded in a quite desirable way.
QUEST: You're being as one would expect, very diplomatic in this regard. Things and -- I mean, they're not staying the same, they're getting worse.
So in that regard, can you see a scenario where you would either want your own nuclear capability, or you would want the United States to re-station
nuclear capability here.
HAN: The survey in Korea definitely showed that we should rearm ourselves. I mean, we should, in nuclear capability terms, we should go
farther. I don't think, it is the right way for us to do. We should work together with the international community, including our close ally, United
States, and possibly with Japan and other countries in the world, so that we will put a lot of continuous pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.
And we'd like to let North Korea know that developing and advancing nuclear capabilities will not guarantee the peace and prosperity in their country,
and also on the Korean Peninsula, and globally.
QUEST: You know, I was thinking just as we were discussing North Korea and nuclear weapons, the events in Ukraine where Putin is not even
tactfully talking about nuclear -- tactical nuclear weapons. So now I ask, will you consider sending lethal weapons or lethal materials to Ukraine?
HAN: Not now, I think. But we are quite supportive of Ukraine and this year, we decided that we will increase our support in the amount of $130
million, and we are trying to support them in terms of electricity generation capabilities, and so on.
But whether we will go into some lethal weapon support, we are not yet decided on that issue.
QUEST: The Prime Minister there speaking to me.
Paula Hancocks is our correspondent and has been here in South Korea for more than 10 years. Massive change. Are you surprised that they're not
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In some ways, yes, because they are coming under a huge amount of pressure at this point. We
had the NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg here just a few weeks ago and he said publicly, South Korea has to step up, they have to do more. But they
haven't at this point using this policy of not wanting to give weapons to a warring country.
QUEST: And when we now look at the other big major issue, of course, it is North Korea. There is a food shortage bordering on famine in the north.
Listen, first of all, to what the Prime Minister told me about that yesterday when I asked him, what does his Intelligence show about North
Korea's food shortage?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAN: It is worsening, our Intelligence shows, because it is clear that their policies are changing. They resort more to some kind of market
mechanisms in terms of supply, you know, necessary food to the people. But now the Chairman would like to put a lot of pressure to make it a state-
dictated supply of food to their people which will not function.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANCOCKS: Now that's something that many experts are concerned about, Richard. The fact that Kim Jong-un has said he wants to take state control
of farming. This has been economic mismanagement at the highest level for decades in North Korea, and it is not good news for many people to know
that the state is going to be more in control.
It only really works to be able to feed the people when they can have unofficial markets and unofficial food and there are serious concerns that
the situation is particularly dire.
HANCOCKS (voice over): Concerns about North Korea's food crisis are growing. Reports from multiple sources say deaths due to starvation are
LUCAS RENGIFO-KELLER, THE PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Probably its worst point since the famine in the 1990s, which killed three
to five percent of the population.
HANCOCKS (voice over): Attention is being paid at the very top. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a Workers Party meeting this week calling
for a fundamental change in farming and state economic plans.
But many say it is his regime, its chronic mismanagement and isolation that has caused this crisis.
LINA YOON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We're really talking about three years of no imports of fertilizer. There's been no imports of tools or components to
fix the outdated machinery that they have.
HANCOCKS (voice over): An extensive shutdown of borders due to the COVID pandemic meant almost no food or aid was getting into the country. Only in
recent months has minimal trade restarted with China.
South Korean officials said last month they believe deaths from starvation are occurring in certain areas, they've provided no evidence.
Its Rural Development Agency estimates that the North's food production dropped almost four percent last year from the year before.
RENGIFO-KELLER: Food has dipped below the amount needed to satisfy the minimum human needs, so as it stands by that measure, even if you
distributed food perfectly equally, which is totally inconceivable, you would have hunger related deaths.
HANCOCKS: Speaking to South Korea's Foreign Minister last week, he said Pyongyang has to decide to help its own people.
PARK JIN, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The only way that North Korea can get out of this trouble is to come back to the dialogue table and
accept our humanitarian offer to the North and make a better choice for the future.
HANCOCKS (voice over): The regime's focus remains on its nuclear and missile program. Seoul's Ministry of Unification says if Pyongyang had used
the money spent on launching missiles last year for food, it could have bought one million tons, more than enough to cover the annual food
shortage, but that focus is unlikely to shift.
YOON: As the time goes on the capacity for North Koreans to endure hardship becomes harder and harder. Their resilience, you know, runs off
and their resources also decreased.
HANCOCKS (on camera): And what many are calling for now is for the borders to be open. That is the best way for some trade to be able to get
through from China.
HANCOCKS: At this point, no. The paranoia about COVID I think is still too high.
QUEST: Paula, thank you. And thank you for very kindly allowing us to come and interlope and getting up at this unearthly hour in the morning.
Thank you very much indeed.
It is 5:00 AM here in Seoul and it is cold.
The US and Russia's top diplomats have been speaking. It's the first time since the Ukraine invasion. Antony Blinken has been talking to Sergey
Lavrov. It was a 10-minute chat, so we are told. It was on the sidelines of the G20, which is taking place in India.
Here is what Mr. Blinken said of that short exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I told the Foreign Minister what I and so many others said last week at the United Nations and what so many G-
20 Foreign Minister said today, end this war of aggression, engage in meaningful diplomacy that can produce a just and durable peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Kylie Atwood is with us, US security correspondent in Washington, DC.
A short exchange, but since both sides have their positions well entrenched, I'm guessing it wasn't terribly productive.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, I mean, even US officials coming out of this meeting said that after it, there shouldn't be
an expectation for short-term changes in terms of the things that they discuss. And as you were just playing there, the Secretary said that they
did discuss Ukraine. Of course, the United States reiterating that they support Ukraine and want Russia to end this war of aggression.
When it comes to New START, that singular lasting arms control treaty between the US and Russia that is something that the Russians have recently
said that they are suspending. Secretary Blinken encouraged Foreign Minister Lavrov for Russia to reverse that decision.
And then when it comes to Paul Whelan, an American who is wrongfully detained in Russia right now, that came up as well and the Secretary of
State said that there has been a serious offer that the United States put on the table and encourage Russia to take up that offer.
That to me is interesting, because we have heard US officials talk about, you know, ongoing back and forth between the US and Russia when it comes to
Paul Whelan, this American wrongfully detained there. But this is the first time that we have a US official saying on the record, that there is
actually an offer on the table that the US wants Russia to accept, so perhaps they are trying to sort of force their hand here.
We heard from the State Department spokesperson this afternoon that that wasn't the first time that Russia has heard this serious offer. Of course,
they aren't detailing exactly what that offer is yet.
QUEST: Kylie, thank you, in Washington, DC. Kylie Atwood at the State Department.
Coming up, I speak to the Chairman of the company behind the K-pop sensation, BTS.
BTS is all very good, but I asked the Chairman, could you help me become a K-pop star?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Have I got what it takes? I mean, I'm 40 years too old for K-pop, but I still have ambitions to be a --
BANG SI-HYUK, CHAIRMAN, HYBE: To be a what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: If I say K-pop, you know what I'm talking about, but here in Seoul, it's just about everywhere. Wherever you go -- it is in the subways,
it's in shops. It's also at the center of a major deal between two entertainment companies.
Hybe is the company behind BTS and now, it is trying to buy a major part of its rival, SM Entertainment. So, today it launched a new campaign to appeal
to SM shareholders.
I can't overstate just how big this thing is and how controversial and how much of a talking point it is in the music industry globally, but
particularly here in South Korea.
So I spoke exclusively with the Chair of Hybe who told me how they are capitalizing on the global movement for K-pop.
QUEST (voice over): When it comes to K-pop, no one comes close to touching BTS. It is those catchy songs with slick dance moves that made the
band into a global phenomenon and turned Bang Si-Hyuk into one of the richest, most powerful men in music.
Bang is the founder and chairman of Hybe, the entertainment company behind BTS, and a number of other top K-pop bands.
Formerly called Big Hit Entertainment, Hybe went public in 2020. It is now worth nearly $6 billion.
Bang has got a taste for expansion. In 2021, Hybe acquired Ithaca Holdings, home to artists like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato.
It's just bought a 15 percent stake in the Korean rival, SM Entertainment, making it the biggest shareholder. It is controversial and given rise to
accusations that Hybe wants to monopolize the industry.
Bang gave me a tour this week of Hybe's offices, including the recording studios and rehearsal spaces used by the K-pop legends.
QUEST: Have I got what it takes? I mean, I'm 40 years too old for K-pop, but I still have ambitions to be a --
BANG: To be a what?
QUEST: Why did you tell me that. I can't --
BANG: You may be. I don't want to say no.
QUEST: Very diplomatic, sir. Very diplomatic.
What's the best age for a K-pop beginner for a star?
BANG: Honestly speaking, faster, better. The faster the better. Yes, the earlier the better.
QUEST: I'm 62 -- I am too late.
BANG: You're not too late.
QUEST: A true diplomat. Let's go inside and talk.
People say you're trying to take over the whole industry and this business of SM Entertainment, why do you want SM Entertainment when the management
wants to go in a different direction?
(BANG SI-HYUK speaking in foreign language.)
TRANSLATION: Well, first of all, it wouldn't be correct to say that we're trying to take over the whole industry. A lot of misinformation is out
there in the market. For example, people are saying that there will be a serious oligopoly in the music market.
But you need to analyze where music is being sold. You might assume that it's sold mostly in Korea, excluding all the international orders, even
though purchasing agencies, will all the CDs sold in Korea, both SM and Hybe combined, it is very difficult for us to monopolize the market.
Besides, K-pop industry is not only about CDs, right? There are many different spin-offs of the industry, such as digital copies, concerts, and
QUEST: It is unusual that this is going to turn into a hostile deal. You want one thing, management wants something else. The Courts are going to
get involved. Is there an agreement to be made, do you think?
(BANG SI-HYUK speaking in foreign language.)
TRANSLATION: I believe it is crucial to clarify terms first. The term "hostile deal" is not obscure, but it has a clear meaning.
In economics, it basically refers to a case where a company is collected in the market against the will of a major or oligopolistic shareholder.
However, we took over their stake with the consent of the major shareholder through due process. I think it is propagandistic to call it a hostile
Rather, I think it is a serious problem that management wants to run a distributed company as they wish without a major shareholder.
QUEST: You bought your stake from the founder and the largest shareholder and you want to go to 40 percent. What will you do if you get there, but SM
management still don't want you, then what happens?
(BANG SI-HYUK speaking in foreign language.)
TRANSLATION: In fact, I don't think it matters whether we could take 40 percent in the pending issue. First of all, I think the general meeting of
shareholders in the most important. Only when the support is obtained there, we can form the Board of Directors we want.
QUEST: Are people saying to you, "What are you doing? This is not nice. This is not what career is about."
(BANG SI-HYUK speaking in foreign language.)
TRANSLATION: I have long been sad that a good company like SM does not have a good governance structure. We have almost solved the governance
problem through the stake acquisition this time.
And Hybe is well-known to help artists become successful only in the management process without touching their autonomy of their artistic
You can say that many people are looking forward to the effects of Hybe's acquisition of SM. And from the perspective of corporate sentiment, I've
had no impression that people could not accept or feel bad about this.
QUEST: Now, we put these various points to SM Entertainment, who responded to us that said more could be done on the question of corporate
They also accused Hybe of hostile takeover that they say will hurt shareholder value. Due diligence of the company that will adversely affect
You are going to hear more of the interview with the Chair of Hybe coming up as QUEST MEANS BUSINESS continues.
In just a moment after this short break, we will be hearing from the South Korean Prime Minister once more. This time, it is matters of economics and
the US CHIPS Act, which of course is hitting South Korea. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, live from Seoul.
QUEST: Welcome back to QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. There are many geopolitical challenges here in Seoul, South Korea, in fact indeed of the whole region.
And there are lots of economic hurdles as well that often get overlooked or perhaps even pushed to one side because of the greater threats from
But let's look at the economic side. Now first of all the world's lowest birth rate is here. South Korea familiar is an export based economy but
global demand is soft at the moment. Tourism hasn't come back by any means, even though they're trying hard.
And in Q4 GDP shrank just under 0.5 percent. It's now growing again. So there's still the prospect of the chance of the recession and it's believed
that interest rates have now topped out.
I spoke to the prime minister of South Korea, Han Duck-soo, and I asked him about the. economy most particularly of course, is there light at the end
of the tunnel?
HAN DUCK-SOO, SOUTH KOREAN PRIME MINISTER: Not yet I think because although the Davos forum and IMF are predicting that things might be better
because China is opening up. And that will unlock some of the potential for the global community and so on.
But Korea is very heavily dependent on trade and investment. But overall rapid increase in interest rates globally will certainly inflate the depth
and effect on the global community as a whole.
So Korea will be struggling but we will behave ourselves in a manageable way.
QUEST: Ah, but do you the see the U.S.' measures on chips?
The CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, do you see that as being at your cost?
HAN: To some extent, yes. But I would like to think that what's most important at this juncture is whether our businesses would like to do the
operations in the United States. Up to now, they wanted to do it.
Whether they will, how they will adjust themselves to what the United States government would like to do with those, some kind of subsidy
package, that's what our businesses should really consider very thoughtfully about that.
QUEST: I was surprised when I came here. I went to use my phone with Apple Pay. And it didn't work. I then went to call up Uber and it didn't work. I
asked people about this and they said, that's just because there's some powerful South Korean companies and the government -- it's all
protectionism, under the radar protectionism.
Is that true?
HAN: Well, I don't think rather that's a result of some companies' intentions. But sometimes the political circles would like to put more
values on the importance of the masses, I should say. So for Uber, there are a lot of taxi drivers. They made some decisions which is somewhat in a
relative way against the -- most of the consumers and most of the people.
QUEST: Are you anti protectionism?
HAN: We're totally against protectionism.
QUEST: Both real, perceived, underground and through the back door?
HAN: Of course. We'll continue to reduce that kind of protectionistic policies. We know that's for the benefit of our general public.
QUEST: Let's finish our next (INAUDIBLE).
Tell me what and where and why?
HAN: 2030 is a special year for Korea because, by 2030, we should accomplish all the NDC (ph) targets we submitted to the U.N. in terms of
carbon reduction objectives.
So we'd like to show to the world that here is the model case, how to be successful in those endeavors, which are very difficult for many countries
to follow their development processes.
But Korea is here to help all of you and walk with all of you on a sustainable basis.
QUEST: Let's assume for this purpose, for this question, that you get. It
Would you invite me to the expo?
HAN: Of course we will invite you. But I'm not sure whether I'll be in this position by that time. But you're clearly, you will still be doing the
QUEST MEANS BUSINESS program.
QUEST: Thank you.
QUEST: We'll see about. That
The restrictions I discussed with the prime minister, it doesn't make life easy for visitors and tourists. Look no further than the e-scooter.
QUEST: If you want an example of some of the idiosyncrasies in the South Korean economy, look no further than the e-scooter. Now you know I've used
the scooters all around the. World it's the same major companies, Bolt, Lime, Careem and the like. I've got all the apps.
None of them seem to be here. Instead they have their own. So I downloaded Swing, only to find that it was all in Korean. But fret not. There was
always Beam. I downloaded the app, went all the way until it wouldn't accept a foreign credit or debit card.
In other, words none of the apps work, it won't take the credit card, I can't use the e-scooter.
Park Seok Gil is JPMorgan's chief Korea economist, is with me now as well.
Thank you, sir. We were talking about this issue, of an economy that's grown on exports is remarkably parochial when it comes to things like Apple
Pay of Uber or even hiring a scooter.
Why is this?
PARK SEOK GIL, CHIEF KOREA ECONOMIST, JPMORGAN: To some degree you haven't developed our own I.T. ecosystem inside here. And there should be some
decreed (ph) issues as well. Now I hope to see some more deregulation in going forward, hopefully.
QUEST: The government said that's a priority.
PARK: Yes, indeed.
QUEST: Is it a case that the South Korean economy does need to change?
Coming out of, pandemic it's growing. But the prime minister says, look, China may pull us faster. But the West so is going to cause problems. How
do you see it?
PARK: As I say, both China and the United States in the West is both the major trading partner of Korea. So I'd like to see the synchronize a little
in the growth obviously. But unfortunately, the outlook is not great for those of the exports.
But we need to see the details because the mainly our exports to China is made up for the intermediate goods to for the final demand of the developed
QUEST: Right. But then you have this interesting question of the chips and the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, all of which will hit South
Korean chip manufacturers and exporters. A lot of it's designed to restrict access to China.
How will this economy balance? That
PARK: I think those are challenges and opportunities on their front. The challenges are obviously we may lose our market in China.
But at the same time, there is opportunities to maintain some technology called advance to Chinese manufacturer and at the same, time Korean
manufacturers are well positioned to give an excess to -- access to U.S. market in terms of the Korean companies' investment in U.S. side.
QUEST: The decision by the new administration, very firmly to attach itself to the U.S. And yet, at the same time, balance the economic reality
of China being the largest regional neighbor.
How does that hit hard?
Can you play both sides in this, economically, not politically or geopolitically, but economically?
Are there risks in trying to play both sides?
PARK: I think both policies and these measures, the decision should be pragmatic in the sense that we should maintain our -- the value chain (ph)
status in between these two groups. But at the same time, yes, we need to make some changes. But, yes, maybe the challenges.
QUEST: Is it your view interest rates have now topped out, policy rates at 3.5?
PARK: That's true; that's our baseline cases. But as the U.S. Fed has some uncertainty going forward, that will affect the (INAUDIBLE) decision as
QUEST: But then, you also have bear (ph) growth, is recession off the table?
PARK: To some degree. There should be headwinds in terms of domestic and as to policy rate already hiked and (INAUDIBLE) impact on, throughout this
year. But at the same time, we need to see that inflation finance (ph) hasn't stabilized as yet. So for the degree of the recession, I would say
just a headwind but not a hurricane as yet.
QUEST: Not a hurricane.
Finally, it's just extraordinary, the growth of this economy, isn't. it the way that it's grown.
Can it get back to those levels of growth?
PARK: With the Asian trend, I don't think that kind of a high growth rate will be sustained in the long term. And I expect the potential growth rate
should slow down sequentially further from here.
But better is what is the end game.
QUEST: What is the end game?
We can all end up with the K-pop. Thank, you sir. I'm very grateful. Thank you for coming at this very early hour. It's extremely cold.
Talking about K-pop, after the break, the chairman of HYBE, which is behind BTS, says that one of the reasons now it's time to be more globally
aggressive. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
QUEST: And so South Korea, so, well, it has to be back to K-pop. The decision by HYBE to launch a bid for its rival is largely because, as the
chairman says, they are trying to increase K-pop's exposure. The genre is not growing as rapidly as they would like.
Has K-pop popped out, you may well ask?
Well, we got a behind the scenes look.
BANG SI-HYUK, CHAIR, HYBE ENTERTAINMENT: This place is called Forum, you know, the Roman place to debate or discuss.
So when I made this building interior area, I want my people to discuss or debate or hang out very naturally in their work lives. And sometimes, we
have a town hall meeting, an all hands on meeting once than a month.
QUEST: So if this is meant to be the Roman forum, that means there's debate, there is questioning.
BANG: Right, sometimes.
BANG: Yes, usually hanging out and --
QUEST: Are you Caesar?
BANG: No way, no way. I'm a big fan of democracy, I'm not a Caesar.
QUEST: How good are you at the work-life balance?
BANG: Oh, I don't like that concept, work-life balance. Actually, I already say work-life harmony.
BANG (from captions): I don't like the idea of "work-life" balance" for it sounds like labor is the enemy of our life. So I try not to use such an
QUEST: You've been unbelievably successful but there is also criticism: the demands on the artists, it's too stressful, they can't cope, you've
created a factory.
QUEST: You are nodding; you have heard it all before.
But isn't it true you are putting these kids under tremendous pressure?
BANG (from captions): Well, let me put it this way. It's not a total urban legend. Of course, there was some element of it in the past.
But we should ask, are these questions justifiable?
I don't see any clear difference when we applied the same things to the Western pop.
Is any one of the Western artists not living a stressful life?
In most cases, they face a more serious catastrophe than Koreans in the form of drug or alcohol abuse. So please, think about how stress-free the
Western artists are.
With regard to the issue of autonomy, that was clearly an issue in the past. But the times have changed and the K-pop companies of today try their
best not to violate the artists' freedom.
QUEST: How do you keep K-pop growing internationally and so that it doesn't just all fall apart?
BANG (from captions): K-pop is not as hot in the market as you might perceive. Globally, it's not occupying much of the market. On the other
hand, Latin music and Afrobeats are very rapidly growing.
So being where we are, it is more urgent to increase the exposure. For that purpose, I'm taking over labels and management companies in America to be
able to build the infrastructure.
QUEST: Do you worry that it's just going to fizzle out?
You know, I think of the 1970s and '80s. There was this -- these producers, Stock Aitken Waterman, you know, with all the bands recasting and all of
those things. It all just fizzled out and something else came along.
BANG (from captions): That is my major concern. In fact, looking at our export indicators and streaming growth, the slowdown in growth is very
clear. It would be fortunate if this is a temporary phenomenon caused by BTS' military enlistment. But I doubt that.
As you mentioned, K-pop as a genre might be in a dangerous state now showing the slowdown. And it's one of the reasons that I've been more
aggressive about this takeover. We absolutely need to raise the level of awareness in the global market.
QUEST: Obviously, from day one, you knew that BTS and military service was going to come along.
Did you, do you look upon the military service as an advantage?
It really grounds them in being Korean, it makes them a national institution.
Or do you regard it as a relative nuisance that has to be done and let's get back when they're finished?
BANG (from captions): From the career's point of view, no artist would be happy to have such a long pause against their will. I think it's a separate
issue from the mindset that we faithfully and gladly serve the country. Yet BTS and I were talking about this since early 2018.
So it's been long discussed and we're not done yet. We've been prepared to turn this into a turning point in their career. It's obviously true that
they needed this time of rest after such an intense period of hard work. They can't remain the BTS of today but need to grow and change as artists.
QUEST: How do you see your role to the artists -- BTS obviously is your biggest.
But are you a father figure, a big brother, a mentor?
Are you a producer?
Are you a best friend?
Are you all of the above?
BANG (from captions): To BTS, I think it's all-of-the-above. I don't think they'll be surprised to hear my answer. To the other artists, I support the
independence of the labels very strongly. So we haven't had much contact. They have their own brothers, mentors and producers. They're the ones I
talk to mostly.
Some of them might consider me as their producer. Some might see me as their chairman, not knowing exactly what I do. Others don't know me at all.
Seriously, I met some of them who have no idea about me.
QUEST: I think they all secretly say, what does the chairman think?
BANG: No way. Some of them doesn't have any interest in me. And I'm happy about that.
QUEST: So when you decide K-pop and you decide old age pension pop, just think of me. I mean, I can dance, I can sing, I'm available for the right
BANG (from captions): In fact, there are some artists in Korea who have more loyal fans of old age than BTS do. So I think it's more than possible.
QUEST: I will have my people talk to your people. Thank you, sir.
QUEST: Who knows, who knows?
Now look at this, this is the Dalgona cookie. You may be familiar with it from "Squid Game." After the break, we are going to do the honeycomb cookie
challenge. There's no major problems afterwards if you get it wrong.
But can I break it?
You will find out after the break. The challenge, oh, my hands are all sticky. This is not a good idea, not a good idea.
QUEST: This is the famous Dalgona cookie, which it's made particularly the one from "Squid Game." It's become a challenge. It's known as the honeycomb
challenge and it was made extremely famous in "Squid Game."
(VIDEO CLIP, "SQUID GAME")
QUEST: Now of course, it has a very bad ending for them if they get it wrong but the idea is that we have to break the cookie so it keeps the
shape. Here, we're using stars. I've got the whole team, Paula, David and Chris.
The whole team here ready to have a go at doing this. You've got to break it, so it keeps the shape. If it breaks the shape, you --
QUEST: This is not going very well, is it?
You get the idea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I've got one here.
QUEST: You've got one here?
Look at that, going there. This is going really --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ooh, it's sticky.
QUEST: Are you still going?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very sticky.
QUEST: Oh, I broke, I'm out. I'm out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm almost there.
QUEST: No, she's not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am. Last bit.
He lost a leg but that's OK.
QUEST: She lost a leg, I'm not even having a good --
You are eating it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hungry.
QUEST: And that is pathetic. Thank you.
The markets and how they are trading. The Dalgona markets, we are up 1 percent on the Dow. It has popped nicely throughout the afternoon. The
Atlanta Fed president has made comments he favored slow and steady rate moves.
If you look at the Dow 30, you will see it's unusual; Salesforce is leading the Dow 30, 11 percent up. Boeing's up 2 percent, that was an order that's
come in from India and it's -- sorry, from Lufthansa; they have a new chief engineer.
Goldman's rebounded; JPMorgan down nearly 1 percent. These are just weird but I'm determined (INAUDIBLE) means I am determined to -- oh, no, that's a
failure. And ...
QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment," from the terrace of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, with the spectacular views over Seoul, the only shame it's it still.
Dark daylight doesn't arrive until another couple of hours.
The reality here in South Korea is one of great success. The export led economy; you have tremendous growth of K-pop, all the really good things
that we've been hearing and talking about throughout the course of the program.
Then you have on the other side, you have the protectionism that does exist, no matter how they may try to sweep it under the carpet.
But this overarching security issue from North Korea and now add in Taiwan and the fragile and often fractious relationship that exists with China,
you start to see why this is such strategically important place in the world.
To say nothing of the growing relationship with Japan, where they still have some long lying problems from the past. Put it all together, you
understand that South Korea will be a force for the future, both economically, geopolitically.
And it's really how this country handles it economically, specifically in the future, that will determine the way forward. And that's QUEST MEANS
BUSINESS for this Thursday night in Seoul. I'm Richard Quest in South Korea. Whatever you are up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.