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[A Look Back on Korea's 'Cheonman Movie' #6] 'The Thieves'

by Ra Hwak Jin / Cha Min Kyung | 2021-09-05


[Episode 6] The Thieves (2012. Directed by Choi Dong-hoon)



▲ This photo shows the entire main cast of the movie "The Thieves." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"The Thieves," which was released in 2012 and directed by Choi Dong-hoon, known as the "genius of entertainment films," attracted 12.98 million viewers, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film Korean film history. 

The film, which tells the story of thieves working to steal rare diamonds, is differentiated from other "cheonman movies (a Korean term used to refer to most-watched films)" introduced earlier in that it is a entertainment movie but nothing more than a "popcorn movie."


▲ This file photo, taken on Aug. 15, 2012, shows people buying tickets for the movie "The Thieves." (Yonhap)

"The Thieves" is an example that shows movies can attract a massive audience as long as the story and characters are entertaining without showing some sort of patriotism like "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" and "Ode to My Father," or social issues such as "Veteran" and high-tech computer graphic (CG) effects like "Along with the Gods." 

The movie's 10 million mark is considered to have changed the box office formula of Korean films, given that the audience of "The Thieves" bought tickets for pure entertainment and fun.


◇ The ultimate star-studded cast lineup for a single film

At the time, "The Thieves" brought together a group of high-profiled cast members who were perceived 'too good to be true.' Actors Lee Jung-jae and Kim Soo-hyun, who were famous for their outstanding looks and acting skills, appeared with top actresses Kim Hye-soo and Jun Ji-hyun as well as acclaimed actor Kim Yoon-seok, and Hong Kong noir star Simon Yam.


▲ This photo shows a scene from the movie "The Thieves" and actor Kim Yun-seok (left), Lee Jung-jae, actress Jun Ji-hyun, and actor Kim Soo-hyun. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Lee Jung-jae's poor physical appearance resembles his character Lee Ja-sung from the film "New World," which was released in the following year, and Kim Yun-seok who seemed as if he was playing his previous ruthless "Agwi (a Korean term for a starving demon)" character from "Tazza: The High Rollers" shows an unexpected charm to the audience. 

Kim Soo-hyun, who rose to stardom with the historical drama "The Moon Embracing the Sun" that year, somehow attractively digests his clumsy yet youthful character. 

One of the movie's biggest gains is rediscovering the potential of Jun Ji-hyun. Jun, who has been lingering in her fixed "girly and bubbly" image for 11 years since her debut film "My Sassy Girl" in 2001, showed her true value and became the scene stealer in "The Thieves."  While Jun's jaw-dropping body and humorous wire action plays a big role in her character transformation, Jun is straightforward and doesn't filter out her thoughts or opinions. However, Jun's character doesn't come off as a foul-mouthed tough person, but rather charmingly sexy and chic.  Since the actress was not restricted by her outfits throughout the film, Jun was able to naturally and lively carry out her acting, and was even praised for becoming the 'Angelina Jolie' of Korea.  In fact, after her performance in "The Thieves," Jun appeared in action and thriller films like "The Berlin File" (2013) and "Assassination" (2015), solidifying her position as an actress who can pull off action scenes while acting. Additionally, Jun Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun's romance, which weren't completely fulfilled in the movie, is later showcased in the fantasy drama "My Love from the Star." 


◇ Choi Dong-hoon: the mastermind behind "The Thieves"




▲ Choi Dong-hoon, director of the new movie "The Thieves," poses in Seoul on July 18, 2012. The movie, which depicts South Korean and Chinese thieves who plot to jointly steal a $20 million blue diamond known as the Tear of the Sun, will appear on South Korean screens on July 25. (Yonhap)


Director Choi Dong-hoon, who proved his talent in directing since his debut film, has succeeded in making smash-hits including "The Big Swindle" (2004, 2.13 million viewers), "Tazza: The High Rollers" (2006, 6.85 million), and "Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard" (2009, 6.14 million).  Choi, who started off his career as a director with an entertainment film as his first work, tends to focus on making "fun movies" rather than considering the social meaning or artistry of a film, and has finally become a director of multiple "cheonman movies." 

Director Choi once again demonstrated that historical films could be entertaining with his 2015 film "Assassination" and is currently expanding his scope of work with an upcoming SF film "Alien," which recently completed the filming process.


◇ "The Thieves" not to be mistaken with "Ocean's Eleven"

"The Thieves" naturally reminds the audience of the Hollywood film "Ocean's Eleven" (2001), starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, in that both movies involve a star-studded cast and follow a scenario of thieves robbing casinos.  However, director Choi drew a line between the two films, saying "'The Thieves' is different from 'Ocean's Eleven'" in an interview at the time of the film's release.  

Director Choi said, "While genre movies should repeatedly be released, it is important to avoid repetition," adding, "In the movie industry as a whole, crime movies are lower genres and movies about thieves are even lower. The key to differentiating such movies is the angle in which the film is focused on. The important point in our movie was to portray the problem between human relationships, rather than the act of stealing itself."

After attending the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March 2010, director Choi decided to film a movie in the country. At the time, Choi also visited Macau and came up with the scenario while drinking coffee at a cafe in front of the cathedral, where he later filmed a scene for "The Thieves."   In fact, the emotions of Hong Kong noir remain in this film. In that sense, if people want to see similar movies, we recommend "Once a Thief" (1991), directed by John Woo and starring Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung, and Cherie Chung, rather than "Ocean's Eleven."  (END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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'Men appear twice as often as women in Korean films,' data shows

By Kwak Yeon-soo | 2021-09-06


The poster for "Bechdel Day 2021" / Courtesy of the Directors Guild of Korea

Female actors had a big year in Korea's top films last year. In the comedy and drama genres, Uhm Jung-hwa, Kim Hye-soo and Ko A-sung headlined films. 

Yet, it is difficult to conclude that female-led films are increasing as many major big-budget films have delayed their releases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Men were still seen and heard about twice as much as women in the 20 highest-grossing films that were released between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

These 20 films are: "Deliver Us From Evil," "Peninsula," "Steel Rain 2: Summit," "Samjin Company English Class," "Collectors," "OK! Madam," "Hard Hit," "The Golden Holiday," "Mission Possible," "Best Friend," "Voice of Silence," "Waiting For Rain," "Oh! My Gran," "Book of Fish," "Recalled," "The Day I Died," "Josee" and "The Swordsman."

The figures come via AI technology developed by Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). Producer Jang Ji-yoon and KIST researcher Kim Hyun-joo analyzed gender representation in 20 commercial films based on seven quantitative indices: emotional diversity, temporal occupancy (screen time), spatial occupancy (the frequency of close-up shots), age, glasses, makeup and types of surrounding objects.

The "Bechdel Day 2021" event was named after the Bechdel test, which measures the representation in fiction works by there being at least two named women characters talking to each other about something other than a man.

The data, which was revealed during the Bechdel Day 2021 event on Saturday, showed that, in this year's films that passed the Bechtel test, the women characters demonstrated more diverse emotions. However, in these films, in contrast to male characters that were more likely to show extreme, "assertive" emotions such as anger, hatred and disgust, female characters exhibited a range of more "defensive" emotions such as fear, sadness and surprise.

When a film had a male lead, the male character appeared on screen and spoke about two times more often than the female characters.

In films with both male and female co-leads, men still had far more screen time. And even in films with female leads, men had roughly the same amount of screen and speaking time as the main women characters.

The research results showed that media propagated beauty-related standards for females in films. The median age for leading female film roles in the last year was 25.2 years old, while that of leading male film roles was 34.4 years old. Female characters over the age of 40 were given significantly less representation, particularly as leads.

Females were far more likely than their male counterparts to be shown wearing makeup. Men were seen with glasses far more often than women in films, in what may be an attempt to represent an image of intelligence.

As for the type of objects seen in the vicinity of characters, male characters were frequently seen wearing neckties, in the presence of chairs, driving cars and using cell phones, whereas female characters appeared around in chairs, reading books, watching TVs, holding cups and in the presence of men wearing neckties.

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Drama 'Signal' to return in 5 yrs as webtoon

연합뉴스  | 2021-09-08


▲ This image, provided by tvN, shows the poster of the series "Signal." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
SEOUL, Sep. 8 (Yonhap) -- “Signal,” playwright Kim Eun-hee’s series ended 5 years ago, will be produced into a webtoon. 

“TvN series ‘Signal’ aired in 2016 is to be made into a webtoon,” said HNS HQ, a promotion company Wednesday. 

The series is a story of the detectives in the past and the present times connected by wireless investigating unsolved cases together. The cast included Kim Hye-soo, Cho Jin-woong and Lee Je-hoon. 

The webtoon version of the series will be serialized on webtoon platforms of Naver and Kakao.


(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved



Crime thriller drama returns as webtoon after five years


By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com) | Sept 8, 2021 






Webtoon images of ″Signal,″ which originally aired as a drama series on cable channel tvN. [BY4M]

Cable channel tvN’s 2016 hit drama series “Signal” will be adapted into a webtoon, media content company BY4M announced through its public relations agency Wednesday, unveiling drawings of characters and well-known scenes from the drama.

“Signal” is a time slip mystery-thriller centered around investigators from the past and future who communicate via a special walkie-talkie to solve crimes. The walkie-talkie transports its users to past crime scenes and offers information crucial to solving the case in the present time.

“Signal” is a fourth drama series to be turned into a webtoon. “Fight For My Way,” “Healer” and “Bad Guys” are other popular drama series that have been reworked as webtoons.

Starring veteran actors Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo and Cho Jin-woong, the sci-fi crime thriller achieved a double-digit viewership share.

The webtoon will be serialized on Naver Webtoon and Kakao Webtoon.

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Netflix reveals original Korean series lineup including 'Hellbound,' 'Juvenile Justice'

 By Kwak Yeon-soo | 2021-09-26

Netflix shared its grand plans for the future at the "Tudum: Korea Spotlight" event, releasing a slew of trailers and clips for upcoming original Korean shows, including the much-anticipated "Hellbound" and "Juvenile Justice."

The streaming service's first-ever Tudum event for global fans introduced 10 pieces of exclusive Korean content. Actors Song Kang, who starred in Netflix's "Love Alarm" and "Sweet Home," and Jung Hae-in from the military series "D.P." also appeared during the show to share their special experiences in collaborating with Netflix.  Hinting that he will star in a new Netflix project, Song said, "I like to play diverse roles but I'm interested in portraying nerdy characters."

"Paik's Spirit," a Korean food show starring popular chef and eatery franchise owner, Paik Jong-won, will drop Oct. 1. The noir series "My Name," about Yoon Ji-woo (Han So-hee) who joins a drug gang and infiltrates the police undercover to avenge her father's death, will be unveiled Oct. 15.  Han earned critical and commercial success through her roles in "The World of the Married" (2020) and "Nevertheless" (2021).


From left, actors Yoo Ah-in, Park Jeong-min, Kim Hyun-joo, Won Jin-a and Yang Ik-june from the series, "Hellbound" / Courtesy of Netflix

"Hellbound," a series directed by Yeon Sang-ho, known for zombie blockbusters, "Train to Busan" and "Peninsula," will be released Nov. 19.  The horror series, which was invited to the "On Screen" section of this year's Busan International Film Festival, depicts a period of social chaos when supernatural beings suddenly appear and condemn individuals to hell, while a religious group propagates the idea of divine justice.

Variety show "New World," which centers on six celebrities completing missions in a utopian setting, will premiere Nov. 20. Participants are singer-actor Lee Seung-gi, rapper-actor Eun Ji-won, Kim Hee-chul of K-pop boy band Super Junior, Kai of EXO, comedian Park Na-rae and actress Cho Bo-ah.  "It felt like shooting a sitcom. It was a series of surprising and fun situations," Kai said.

Actress Kim Hye-soo in a scene from the series, "Juvenile Justice" / Courtesy of Netflix

In December, the sci-fi thriller series, "The Silent Sea," fronted by actors Gong Yoo and Bae Doo-na, as well as reality shows "The Hungry and The Hairy" and "Single's Inferno" will be unveiled.

At the beginning of next year, the legal drama, "Juvenile Justice," and zombie horror series "All of Us are Dead," will be unveiled.

In "Juvenile Justice," actress Kim Hye-soo, well-known for her performances in "Signal" and "Hyena," will play the role of a judge trying underage offenders. Kim Moo-yeol, Lee Sung-min and Lee Jung-eun will also appear in the series.

"All of Us Are Dead" centers on high school students who are trapped in a school during a zombie apocalypse. The romance drama "Love and Leashes," starring Seohyun of Girls' Generation, will be released in February 2022.




[Newsmaker] Netflix unveils 10 upcoming Korean dramas, shows after ‘Squid Game’ success

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com) | September 26, 2021


A promotional image of “Paik’s Spirit” (Netflix Korea)

Days after “Squid Game” became the first Korean drama series to rank first on Netflix’s US top 10 TV show list, the global streaming service has unveiled its line-up of Korean programming for the upcoming months, spotlighting 10 drama series and reality shows. 

Netflix Korea introduced the shows during Tudum, Netflix’s global fan event, on Saturday, which was streamed on Netflix Korea’s YouTube channel.  The real-time fan event was moderated by K-pop band Super Junior’s member Kim Hee-chul and EXO’s Kai. “Not only K-pop, K-contents are gaining huge popularity these days. Many people have come across Korean content through Netflix which has played a driving force behind the popularity (of Korean dramas and shows),” Kim said. 

The upcoming content offered on Netflix include “Paik’s Spirit,” which will become Netflix’s first reality series focusing on Korean drinks, food and culture, and “My Name,” a crime-thriller starring Korean actor Han So-hee. The shows will be released on Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, respectively. 

Other upcoming Korean drama series and reality shows available on Netflix include “New World” and “The Hungry and The Hairy” in November, “The Silent Sea” and “Single’s Inferno” in December, “Juvenile Justice” and “All of Us Are Dead” in Jan. 2022 and “Love and Leashes” in Feb. 2022. 

The road-trip reality show “The Hungry and The Hairy” is a Netflix original series produced by star producer Kim Tae-ho, and will showcase K-pop star Rain and comedian Ro Hong-chul, who share common interest in motorcycle riding. The two will experience a variety of activities and local foods during a road trip across South Korea. 

Neflix Korea will be hoping to replicate the success of “Squid Game.” The nine-part mystery sci-fi series launched on Sept. 17, is directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and stars veteran actor Lee Jung-jae. The plot revolves around hundreds of cash-strapped people accepting an unexpected invitation to compete in various games for a tempting prize of 45.6 billion won ($39 million).

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Ryoo Seungwan’s SMUGGLING with Kim Hyesoo and Yum Jungah Wraps Production

by Pierce Conran | Oct 26, 2021

Zo Insung and Park Jungmin Co-Star in 1970s-Set Crime Film



Though Escape from Mogadishu, the year’s biggest box office hit in Korea, is barely in the rearview mirror, director Ryoo Seungwan has already completed production on his next film.

Smuggling (translated title), starring Kim Hyesoo, Yum Jungah, Zo Insung and Park Jungmin, began shooting in early June and wrapped up production earlier this month. The film is now in post-production.

Set in a small and peaceful seaside town in the 1970s, the film features Kim Hyesoo (Default, 2018) and Yum Jungah (SKY Castle) as two women involved in smuggling. Zo Insung reteams with Director Ryoo after Escape from Mogadishu, while Park Jungmin was recently seen in DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2020). Also featuring in the film will be Sweet Home rising star Go Minsi and veteran character actor Kim Jongsoo (OK! MADAM, 2020).

Director Ryoo is known for action-thriller hits such as The Unjust (2010), The Berlin File (2013) and Veteran (2015). Escape from Mogadishu, which welcomed 3.6 million viewers (USD 29.36 million) to theaters this summer, was recently selected as Korea’s official entry to the Best International Feature category of next year’s Academy Awards.

The film is being produced by Filmmaker R&K, the company run by Director Ryoo and Producer Kang Hyejung, which was also responsible for Escape from Mogadishu, as well as this summer’s action-thriller Hostage: Missing Celebrity.

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