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[Herald Interview] Former TV host Grace Lee hopes to bridge gap between Korea, Philippines

Jan. 16, 2023 - 18:32 By Park Ga-young
Philippines-based Korean businesswoman and former TV host Grace Lee poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

In Korean, "heung" means exhilaration and "han" refers to deep sorrow or suffering.

Grace Lee, a TV-host-turned-businesswoman who calls both South Korea and the Philippines home, sees the people in the Philippines are full of heung, while South Koreans have han emotion underlying their respective identities.

Koreans with han often touch emotions when singing or acting, while with innate heung, Filipinos present great talents for singing and dancing and have great potential to reach global audiences, as Korean content has done, Lee said, if their talent can meet discipline and training.

“You go to the mall, if there is some music, kids are dancing already. You go to five-star hotels (around the world), you see amazing singers, they are almost always Filipinos,” Lee said, adding these talented people deserve a wider stage. “They remain as entertainers in bars and hotels because they do not have the discipline or the platform or the training or the marketing to be able to do anything close to what K-pop is doing,” said Lee, now founder and CEO of Glimmer Inc., a film distribution company.

In 2019, after seven years as a TV host and anchor, she became an entrepreneur and launched Glimmer. In 2022 as moviegoers in the Southeast Asian country cautiously returned to movie theaters, her company finally introduced “Roundup,” a South Korean movie starring Don Lee and Son Suk-ku, as well as Lee Jung-jae’s directorial debut “Hunt.”

"Filipinos love going to cinemas, at least before the pandemic, but when it comes to movies, apart from 'Train to Busan,' there were only a handful of Korean movies shown at local cinemas,” Lee argued. “By introducing Korean movies at the movie theaters, I wanted to show that Korean movies can make it in the Philippines even with subtitles.”

Her company aspires to be a cultural platform that links Korea and the Philippines, beyond a movie distribution company, by bringing out the best sides of Korea and the Philippines and filling in the gap between the two.

One possible way is creating original content based on great writing from Korea that is produced in the Philippines with local talent, she said.

“Production companies in the Philippines have been stagnated for 30-40 years and there is a gap that I really want to bridge by having Korea share with their neighboring countries like the Philippines its techniques and expertise in content creation,” she said.

She is also thinking about producing pop music groups that bring together Filipino talents with music and choreography from Korea.

"I really hope to discover these diamonds in the rough and make them shine on the world stage, " Lee noted.

Born in 1982, Lee and her family moved to the Philippines when she was 10. She went to a local school there, where she also learned Tagalog. She became a TV host for a Filipino TV news program in 2007 and expanded her career as a host and anchor on radio and TV before becoming an entrepreneur.