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Food and fashion: How K-drama is influencing Asia

Actors Jeon Ji-Hyun and Kim Soo-Hyun play the lead roles in the Korean hit drama series 'My Love From The Stars'.
ilgan Sports | Multi-Bits | Getty Images
Actors Jeon Ji-Hyun and Kim Soo-Hyun play the lead roles in the Korean hit drama series 'My Love From The Stars'.

South Korea's latest hit drama is inspiring new travel hotspots and influencing what people throughout Asia wear, eat and buy.

The South Korean drama, or K-drama, "My love from the Star", stars Gianna Jun – best known for her lead role in the Hollywood film "Blood: The Last Vampire" – and Kim Soo Hyun. The romantic comedy, which blends science fiction and fantasy elements and tells of the encounter between an actress and an alien stranded on Earth, has taken Asia by storm.

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"[The] Korean government made significant efforts to develop cultural industries as one of the nation's building strategies since the 1990s," Dr. Sangkyun Kim, senior lecturer in the Department of Tourism at Flinders University said.

"Deregulation in media policies, economic development and the proliferation of internet have also promoted the rapid growth of K-pop culture in Asia," he added.

The tourism pull

Hallyu – the Korean term for the popularity of South Korean culture abroad – has boosted the country's tourism sector. Inbound arrivals jumped 9.3 percent on year to a record 12.2 million visitors in 2013, statistics from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) show.

The KTO has noted an increase in queries related to the drama from tourists and trade partners since the drama ended its run in February, a Singapore-based representative told CNBC.

The show's filming locations have received a surge in interest from Chinese holidaymakers, according to South Korean media, perhaps not surprising considering that the drama chalked up over 2.5 billion views in the mainland.

The "Petite France" theme park in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
Photo by Korea Tourism Organization
The "Petite France" theme park in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.

One favored destination is Petite France, a theme park in Gapyeong that is two hours from Seoul by subway. Daily arrivals at the park, where the fictional couple kissed, have increased nearly seven-fold, with mainland tourists accounting for 60 percent of the rise, according to Korea.net.

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Fashion craze

The meteoric success of "My love from the Star" has also spawned a spill-over effect in the retail industry – a feat that iconic series like 2002's "Winter Sonata" and 2003's "Jewel in the Palace" did not accomplish.

The luxury brands that Jun wears throughout the series have become highly sought after by fans. Meanwhile, lipsticks used in the show – be it Yves Saint Laurent or Korean brand Laneige – have sold out in South Korea, China and Singapore.

In China, Jimmy Choo's "Abel" silver heels flew off the racks after appearing in the second episode, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. U.S. luggage manufacturer Samsonite also saw sales spike in China after the lead actor, Kim, carried one of its backpacks. The ripple effect has since scored Kim an endorsement deal with Samsonite.

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Tuck into 'chimaek'

The soap sensation also sparked a craze for "chimaek" – a portmanteau for chicken and beer in Korean – in Asia given the lead character's constant craving for the Korean delicious past time.

In Singapore, Korean fried chicken restaurant Kko Kko Nara said takeout orders have increased nearly 20 percent since the series aired.

Some fans are willing to go the distance for the real deal.

Singaporean Heather Chua will travel to South Korea in July. Apart from various filming locations, "chimaek" is one item on the twenty-five-year-old's to-do list.

"My friends and I are definitely visiting a Korean fried chicken restaurant. We've been having 'chimaek' in Singapore but nothing beats doing it in Korea," Chua told CNBC.

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