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Tiny Korean hedge fund hits jackpot with 'Parasite' deal

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The fund, run by Seoul-based Ryukyung PSG Asset Management, has invested around US$500,000 in the movie Parasite that became the first foreign-language film in history to win the coveted Oscar for best picture

[SEOUL] For a tiny South Korean hedge fund, the shock Oscar win of dark comedy Parasite couldn't be better news.

The fund, run by Seoul-based Ryukyung PSG Asset Management, has invested around US$500,000 in the movie that became the first foreign-language film in history to win the coveted Oscar for best picture"Parasite" cost US$11 million to make and has raked in US$165 million so far, and ticket sales are set to climb even more after the award.

The privately-sold fund invests only in movies distributed by Korea's CJ Group, and it has returned 72.1 per cent since its launch in July 2018, according to data compiled by KB Securities seen by Bloomberg News. It's also profited from other Korean cinema hits including Extreme Job and Exit.

The fund's success underscores how investors are parking their money in ever-more obscure alternative investments such as film-financing funds in the face of falling global interest rates. The film's Oscar comes as cultural exports such as K-Pop and Korean soap operas become more important for South Korea's economy at a time when the country is pivoting away from manufacturing-focused industries.

"Film funds are in the limelight at the moment," said Andy Kim, an analyst at Samsung Securities in Seoul. While the popularity of Parasite may help attract more demand, it may still be hard to widen the investor base significantly given the niche investment's high volatility and the difficulty of assessing whether a movie will sell well, he said.

The fund isn't alone in benefiting from the accolades Parasite received. Shares of Barunson Entertainment & Arts, the movie's production company, have surged about 90 per cent this week. CJ ENM, the main investor and marketer, jumped 4.5 per cent during the period.

NongShim, which makes instant noodle products featured in the film, has soared about 11 per cent this week.

The four-year fund manages US$2.6 million in assets. Ryukyung PSG Asset Management, which runs it, oversees 1.7 trillion won(S$1.9 billion) of assets.

BLOOMBERG