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[Movie 2000] Joint Security Area 공동경비구역 J S A


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March 30, 2019


TV series gives Park Chan-wook creative space: Famed auteur shows his skills in the director’s cut of ‘The Little Drummer Girl’


Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily


Director Park Chan-wook, known for cult classics like noir-action flick “Oldboy” (2003) and erotic thriller “The Handmaiden” (2016), made his debut on the small screen last year through the BBC One and AMC miniseries “The Little Drummer Girl.”


The six-episode drama is an action- and romance-packed adaptation of master spy novelist John le Carre’s 1983 book about an English actress-turned-double agent torn by divided loyalties as she infiltrates a Palestinian terrorist network under Israeli orders. 


Featuring solid performances by rising actress Florence Pugh as the lead protagonist Charlie alongside acclaimed stars like Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgard, the series concluded its successful run in Britain and the United States last December with a certified 95 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. 


On Friday, a director’s cut version of the entire series was uploaded exclusively on Korean streaming platform Watcha Play. This never-before-seen edition was especially made “to realize the vision I had in mind in the beginning” free from broadcasting regulations, according to Park. 


“I feel like the long time I spent on this project is finally coming to a wrap,” the director told the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, during an interview on Monday in Seoul ahead of the release of the director’s cut.


“The preview screening at a theater last Saturday was the first time I saw the entire series. I had felt like something was unfinished before, but after seeing the director’s cut, I feel like now it’s done.” 


The following are excerpts from the interview.


Q. How did you end up making “The Little Drummer Girl” into a miniseries rather than a movie?


Park Chan-wook, 56, is famous for films “Oldboy” (2003) and “The Handmaiden” (2016). [WATCHA PLAY]


A. Although I’ve been a fan of le Carre for a long time, I only got into “The Little Drummer Girl” relatively recently following my wife’s recommendation. I didn’t warm up to the novel at first because it featured a seemingly average female protagonist and romance, when I like works like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Smiley’s People” that described the world of spies in cold and dry detail. But half way through, I realized it went deeper than just another spy novel. It was a masterpiece worthy of a Nobel Prize in Literature. 


I sought out le Carre’s two sons and told them I wanted to work with the novel. I thought it would be a shame to cut out characters by turning it into a movie. After watching the 1984 American film version of “The Little Drummer Girl,” I realized what kind of disaster might occur if I tried shortening things by force. 


It was fate to do a miniseries. 


What’s the difference between the TV broadcast version and the director’s cut? 


There are moments where the editing was done differently or where I selected other footage for the same scene. 


My tastes were different from the broadcasters in some regard. 


The BBC censored violence while the American network restricted profanity and showing skin. In the director’s cut, I included some scenes that had to be taken out [for TV] even though they weren’t too provocative. I also spent time on scenes where editing had been rushed.


I stuck around for two more months after the series ended on TV to work on [the director’s cut] even though I wanted to return quickly to Korea to have some naengmyun, (Korean cold noodles). I was determined to leave a director’s cut for this project.


“Joint Security Area” (2000) is similar to “The Little Drummer Girl” in that they both address the pain and relationships of individuals living through a tragic time in history. Was it difficult addressing a sensitive issue like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a third party? 


Although “Oldboy” and “The Handmaiden” are better known overseas, for this series I drew on my experience directing “Joint Security Area.” As someone who has lived in the Korean Peninsula, I could sympathize with the endless conflict and the vicious cycle of violence where each attack is followed by even bigger revenge. 


I studied a lot to avoid making mistakes about historical events that I’m not familiar with. I asked Israelis and Arabs living in Britain whether there was anything offensive [in the series] through my producers. 


But there were events that I could handle more objectively and critically because I was an outsider, like Britain’s promise to support both the Israelis and Arabs in building countries in the Palestinian territories during the First World War.




How was working with Florence Pugh?


I fell for her after watching “Lady Macbeth” (2016). I invited Pugh to breakfast and she was well-spoken and clear. Her natural curiosity, courage and boldness make it easier to understand Charlie’s dangerous decisions. 


Were you trying to break stereotypes by casting Alexander Skarsgard as an Israeli? 


Initially, I was trying to cast an actual Israeli or someone who looked Israeli for the roles of the Mossad intelligence agency members. But then I began wondering whether it was necessary to stick to these racial stereotypes. Although Skarsgard might not look it, there are Israelis who look like him. And if I was in Mossad and working in Europe I would probably hire people like him. 


I came to like Skarsgard after watching him in the TV series “Big Little Lies” alongside Nicole Kidman. In fact, Kidman, who was in my film “Stoker” (2013), is said to have encouraged Skarsgard to try working with me. 


Do you think you’ll direct another series? 


Movies only go up to 130 minutes or so. I think it’s inevitable to use streaming services if I have a story I can’t fit into the time length. 


What projects do you have coming up? 


I’ve been working on a Hollywood Western movie for a long time. It hasn’t been confirmed yet. In Korea, I’m working on a mystery film. 


BY NA WON-JEONG [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]



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May 31, 2019


SONG Kang-ho to Receive Excellence Award in Locarno

First Asian to Be Honored at Prestigious Swiss Festival


by Pierce Conran KOFIC




SONG Kang-ho is set to be honored at this year’s 72nd Locarno International Film Festival, where he will become the first person from Asia to receive the festival’s Excellence Award.


Currently on screens in BONG Joon-ho’s PARASITE, which walked away from the Cannes Film Festival with the Palme d’Or last weekend, the first time a Korean film has ever taken the top prize at the event, SONG is one of the most beloved and acclaimed actors in the Korean film industry. He is known for his collaborations with top filmmakers such as BONG (Memories Of Murder, 2003; The Host, 2006), PARK Chan-wook (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, 2002; Thirst, 2009) and KIM Jee-woon (The Good, The Bad, And The Weird, 2008; The Age of Shadows, 2016).


Beyond that, he has appeared in numerous chart-topping films, including Swiri (1999), The Attorney (2013) and A Taxi Driver (2017), as well as acclaimed classics like LEE Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine (2007) in a career that has so far spanned 23 years, having kicked off in Hong Sangsoo’s debut The Day A Pig Fell Into A Well in 1996.


New Locarno artistic director Lili HINSTIN described SONG as a “peerless interpreter of the variety and intensity of emotions generated by Korean cinema.” In previous years, the Excellence Award has been given to world cinema luminaries such as John MALKOVICH, Juliette BINOCHE, Ethan HAWKE and Isabelle HUPPERT.


This year’s Locarno International Film Festival will take place from August 7 to 17.

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July 11, 2019


Favorite films come to life in Lotte Annual Art Project


Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily // CINE21

While organizers of the film industries are hosting various events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Korean Cinema, Lotte Annual Art Project (LAAP) will also celebrate it with style. 


The project is in second year to host simultaneous exhibitions in Lotte galleries across the country under one unifying theme. Last year was fashion, and this year is films under the title of “Behind the Scenes.” Added atop with director Bong Joon-ho’s achievement of winning the Palme d’Or for “Parasite,” the project had singled out films as an important part of local popular culture. 


[FEATURE 㣠Korean Movie lOO Anniversary Review] There is no expiration date for the questions left by the film. _ 100 Movies by 100 Korean contemporary artists to reinterpret the scenes of Korean movies in a sensible way. > From the exhibition, we introduce carefully selected works of collaboration and art work of film and art that can be encountered at Lotte Gallery all over the country from the exhibition to the Omaju exhibition of the movie "Grand Budapest Hotel" of Wes Anderson.  ð§ð» â ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ ï¸ Christmas # Mother # Joint Security Area JSA # Parasite # Grand Budapest Hotel


“Through this project, we wanted to provide the viewers [of the exhibitions] a space to talk about their most memorable scenes in films,” art director of the Lotte Gallery Kim Hyun-kyung said as she explained the motive behind the exhibitions at the press conference on Friday. “Usually when we watch films, we are only left with feelings or memories of the scenes. So we wanted the viewers to remanence and share with others the special moments or powerful emotions they’ve experienced while watching films through the artist’s works.”


At the Jamsil branch, eastern Seoul, artworks of 100 contemporary artists are displayed in the area which reinterpret their favorite cinematic scenes across canvas. Moreover, the organizers asked film-related collectors such as Yang Hae-nam, Choi Kyu-sung and culture critic Choi Ji-woong to share their collections with the audience. Yang is an avid collector of film posters, currently in possession of 2,400 posters from 1989. Choi is a graphic designer of film posters, postcards, archive books, and more and will share his works with the audience. Lastly, culture critic Choi collects the LPs and albums of the films’ original soundtracks. 


Besides Jamsil branch, other exhibitions are being held across total of 10 branches- four in Seoul, and each one at Incheon, Daejeon, Ilsan, Daegu, Gwangju and Busan. 


In Incheon, under the sub title of “Wes Anderson: Nostalgia,” the organizers want the audience to indirectly experience the scenes in the director’s representative work “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) by recreating the scent that Gustave wears, the L’Air de Panache cologne, through the local brand Sutome Apothecary. Inside the gallery, the audience can also taste a whip of Mendl’s cake that also acts as a scene-stealer in the film. 


Other exhibitions include “Summer Cinema: Rho Jae Oon Project in Avenuel” held at the main branch in Myeong-dong, “Hidden Pictures in Cinema” in Yeongdeungpo, and Ilsan branch’s “Bric_Behind the Scenes.” All the exhibitions will be held until July 28. 


BY LEE JAE-LIM [lee.jaelim@joongang.co.kr]




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August 2, 2019




Source: Korean Cultural Center Brussels


[ JSA (Joint Security Area) - L'heure d'été Séoul ]

Before he made "Old Boy" and "The Handmaiden" Park Chan-wook created "Joint Security Area" as his very first film.

This film was shot on location in South Korea and is about a fatal shooting incident wherein two North Korean soldiers are killed in the DMZ, the heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea.

It will be screened this evening at Cinema Galeries at 19:00 with French subtitles. See @cinema.galeries for more info


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August 12, 2019


Song Kang-ho honored with Excellence Award from Swiss film fest

SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korean actor Song Kang-ho has been awarded the Excellence Award at this year's Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, the organizers said Tuesday.


Song became the first Asian actor to earn the Swiss film fest's special award that goes to actors or actresses whose work and talent have contributed to enriching the cinema industry.


Internationally acclaimed silver-screen stars like Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich, Edward Norton, Bill Pullman and Ethan Hawke are among the past laureates.


In this photo by the EPA, South Korean actor Song Kang-ho poses after winning the Excellence Award at the 72nd Locarno International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland, on Aug. 12, 2019.

In this photo by the EPA, South Korean actor Song Kang-ho poses after winning the Excellence Award at the 72nd Locarno International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland, on Aug. 12, 2019.

"It's an honor to receive this great, meaningful award from the time-honored Locarno Film Festival," Song said in an awards ceremony held Monday (local time) at Palexpo hall in Locarno, Switzerland. "I'm so grateful that this place is filled with traces of many world renowned actors and actresses."


Song said he wants to attribute this glory to director Bong Joon-ho, who chose him in a number of acclaimed films, including the Cannes-winning "Parasite" and "Memories of Murder."


"Recalling my 30-year-long career as an actor, it's a truly honorable time. I've worked with great Korean auteurs, including Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon," he said. "In particular, I want to give this trophy to Bong Joon-ho, who is my longtime friend and the greatest and proudest artist in South Korea."


Bong, who became the first South Korean film director to win the highest Palme d'Or prize with the comedy satire "Parasite" at the Cannes Film Festival in May, thanked the actor for being with him.


"We've made four films together. I wouldn't have made them without Song. I really appreciate his contribution," the director said.


Making his cinema debut with "The Day a Pig Fell into the Well" in 1996, the 52-year-old Song rose to international stardom with a series of critically acclaimed works and box-office hits, including "Joint Security Area" (2000), "Memories of Murder" (2003), "The Host" (2006) and "Snowpiercer" (2013).



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November 5, 2019


Director Park Chan-wook recognized at Geneva film festival


By Yoon Min-sik The Korea Herald

Korean director Park Chang-wook on Tuesday received the Film and Beyond award at the Geneva International Film Festival, commended for his works including “The Handmaiden,” which will be screened at the festival until Sunday.


The award was given to the director in recognition of Park’s body of work to the field of cinema, at the 25th annual event at the Swiss city from Nov.1-10.


“This is an award usually given to a director with a long career who is about to retire, but I will appreciate it as a midterm settlement to my career. ... I’ve worked for 26 years (in the film industry), so I’d appreciate it when the Gevena International Film Festival would invite me again around 2045, when my career would be over,” Park said in his acceptance speech.


Park Chan-wook speaks after receiving the Film and Beyond Award at the 25th Geneva International Film Festival in the Swiss city on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Two feature-length films and three shorts by Park will be screened at the festival.

Park, a director, screenwriter and producer, is known for “Thirst,” “Joint Security Area,” “Lady Vengeance” and “Old Boy,” which won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, among others.

By Yoon Min-sik

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Really hope they will reunite! salute.gif


November 15, 2019


Lee Byung Hun’s Agency Responds To Reports About His Appearance In “Old Boy” Director Park Chan Wook’s New Film

Source: Soompi by S. Park


Lee Byung Hun’s Agency Responds To Reports About His Appearance In “Old Boy” Director Park Chan Wook’s New Film


Lee Byung Hun may be working with celebrated film director Park Chan Wook!


On November 14, a media outlet reported that Lee Byung Hun had confirmed his appearance in director Park Chan Wook’s new film and was adjusting his schedule. Park Chan Wook is well-known for his work including “Old Boy,” “Lady of Vengeance,” “Thirst,” “Stoker,” and “The Handmaiden.”


The article stated that Lee Byung Hun initially turned down the offer due to the filming schedule for writer Noh Hee Kyung’s upcoming film “Here” (literal title), which begins in 2020. After director Park Chan Wook’s reportedly persistent requests, including a personal visit to the actor in Los Angeles, Lee Byung Hun accepted his offer.


An insider from the film industry said, “Park Chan Wook is set on Lee Byung Hun as the lead for his new film because he decided that Lee Byung Hun is perfect for the character in the project that he’s currently preparing.”


Director Park Chan Wook’s new film is under wraps and was briefly mentioned at last month’s open talk session at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). He stated, “There’s a project ‘X’ that I think of as my lifelong project. Director Costa-Gavras made this project in French and has the rights to it, and I’m trying to turn it into a movie.”


In response to the article, a source from BH Entertainment said, “I know that there are many projects that Park Chan Wook is considering for his next film. He has only asked about [Lee Byung Hun’s] schedule. There is no scenario and no specific information.”


Lee Byung Hun will next appear in the film “Baekdusan” (literal title), which premieres in December and stars Ha Jung Woo, Ma Dong Seok, Jeon Hye Jin, and Suzy. Check out the posters here.


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February 11, 2020


A brief history of the Korean New Wave.


Source: Inverse.com




The mountainous rise of Korean cinema reached its highest peak on Sunday when the American-centric Oscars crowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho and his acclaimed drama Parasite as the year's Best Picture (not best international, just best).

It was a historic moment, not just for foreign language cinema, but for the wide breadth of the Korean film industry that has seen pictures regularly transcend language and cultural barriers, from cult classics like Old Boy to sci-fi blockbusters like Snowpiercer. The list goes on, but we've whittled it down to an essential eleven.


For the unfamiliar, it may be hard to understand how this happened, and why Korean cinema is now the darling of the worldwide film community. While Japan boasts legends like Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki, and Hong Kong has Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui, and John Woo, the most renowned artists of South Korea didn't emerge until the 2000s. Out of the 1997 financial collapse and a boost from screen quota laws, the East Asian nation of 51 million found their voices in directors like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kwak Jae-yong, and more, who helped kick off the Korean New Wave that's now lasted nearly two decades.


The can't-miss films below illustrate a region's cinema that carved its identity through blending overly familiar genres into pointed social commentaries. Spy movies, monster movies, zombies, vampires, and rom-coms are remixed with uniquely Korean flavor that all point to a nation, and a people, who fell hard in the global economy only to resurge amidst grand, sweeping technological shifts. By the second decade, Korean filmmakers began to reckon with the unfair income inequality that continues to plague the nation.


Below is a brief history of the Korean New Wave, as illustrated by 11 must-watch movies that all led to the crowning of Parasite. If you're less "#BongHive" and more "Bong Joon-who?" let this be your starting point.



It is commonly understood that the Korean New Wave kicked off in 1999 with South Korea's first Hollywood-style blockbuster, Shiri. A spy film directed by Kang Je-gyu, Shiri had the highest budget of a South Korean film at the time ($8.5 million) and still broke box office records upon its release. It was the reason James Cameron's Titanic sunk in South Korea, the only Asian nation the movie bombed.


But while Shiri was the first punch, Park Chan-wook's Joint Security Area (2000) was the haymaker. A mystery thriller that helped cement the careers of actors Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, and Lee Young-ae, the film explores the circumstances of a murder at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border separating North and South Korea. In its microscopic view of the war-torn region, the film looks far and wide to the irreconcilable differences between two nations still at war today.


The fourth release from Park Chan-wook, Joint Security Area was a smash hit at home, becoming the highest-grossing movie in Korean film history in 2001. It developed an international cult following thanks in part to American directors like Quentin Tarantino giving it public praise.


Fun fact: When the film was released on DVD, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun gifted the movie to North Korea's Kim Jong-il at the 2007 Inter-Korean summit.


10. MY SASSY GIRL (2001)




Before Tom met Summer in (500) Days of Summer, director Kwak Jae-yong adapted a popular online blog written by a lovestruck boy obsessed over the perfect, if not quirky, girl.

My Sassy Girl, starring Jun Ji-hyun and Chae Tae-hyun, was a major hit that spawned one of the most popular Korean franchises of all time, earning acclaim across all of Asia. The inevitable American remake was produced in 2008 with Elisha Cuthbert, while other adaptations and remakes have popped up in Japan, India, China, and Nepali. In 2014, The Korean Wave author Jennifer Jung-Kim wrote of My Sassy Girl that it's a film that "deserves to be called a global success" based on its numerous localized adaptations.



9. VOLCANO HIGH (2001)




When misfit teenager Kim Kyung-soo (Jang Hyuk) is transferred to a secret martial arts school, he literally fights to survive in a mashup of teen dramas and kinetic action movies that all pay homage to Korea's homegrown manhwa (comics).

You won't find much praise for Volcano High outside the most niche action movie blogs. If it wasn't for an MTV-produced dub starring hip-hop musicians like André 3000, Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg, and Method Man, Kim Tae-kyun's martial arts teen comedy would be forgotten to time.

But it was precisely because of MTV and the movie's wide distribution in the US on DVD that Volcano High become a cult hit among American teens — and the first real dose of Korean action for a mass, impressionable audience. (I knew about the movie because it was always so cheap at Walmart.)

Peep the YouTube comments and you'll find people reminiscing about discovering it on MTV and DVD in their youths. While not the highest of brows, the availability of Volcano High may have been the untold Westerners' first dose of Korean cinema.



8. OLDBOY (2003)




Easily one of the most renowned movies of the Korean New Wave, this neo-noir thriller from Park Chan-wook adapts the Japanese comic of the same name. The film tells the story of a man mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years. When he's finally released, he's given only five days to figure out the reason for his torture.

Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-tae, and Kang Hye-jung star in a gritty revenge tale whose reach and influence went far beyond its homeland. The film played a direct influence on American movies and shows like John Wick and Marvel's Daredevil.

Like Park's Joint Security Area, Old Boy's praise from Western voices like Quentin Tarantino and Roger Ebert — who in his review called the film "powerful ... not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare" — helped cement the movie as a must-see and the real barn burner for the Korean New Wave around the world.



7. THE HOST (2006)




By the time Bong Joon-ho got to making his political monster thriller, The Host, he was already a veteran with film credits like Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) and Memories of a Murder (2003). But it was The Host that put Bong on the global map. Merging together the styles of Japanese monster films with Korean social commentary, Bong tells the story of a Korean family that tries to stay together when a mutant monster emerges from the Han River.

Eschewing the spectacle of blowing things up in favor of family drama, The Host won acclaim and proved the Korean New Wave's tendency to mesh and reinvent genres like science fiction and horror into something more profound. The film is also proudly Korean, with scathing depictions of American imperialism. (The film was in part inspired by an international incident in 2000, when the United States military dumped formaldehyde into the drinking water of Seoul.)



6. THIRST (2009)




Amid the height of the West's obsession for vampires, thanks to the Twilight phenomenon, Park Chan-wook directed Thirst. A loose adaptation of the 1868 French novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola, the movie stars Song Kang-ho as a Catholic priest who volunteers for a medical experiment that turns him into a vampire. The priest must then resist his bloodlust as he falls in love with an old childhood friend.

The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 and debuted at number one at the South Korean box office upon its release. While not the capital-B biggest movie in the Korean New Wave, the film's buzz — supported by Park who was still floating internationally thanks to the popularity of Oldboy — kept Korean film popularity going into the 2010s.



5. I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)




A movie seemingly made for the Reddit crowd, Kim Jee-woon's gruesomely morbid thriller, I Saw the Devil, took the Korean New Wave into its darkest territory yet. Flipping the manhunt movie on its head, the movie stars Lee Byung-hun (by now known to Americans for his role as Storm Shadow in 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as a heroic NIS agent who pursues a serial killer (Choi Min-sik) for the murder of his fiancé.

What the movie does differently than other hunt movies, to unnerving effect, is a downward spiral journey revealing what, or who, is a real monster. Praised by Rolling Stone for "relentless nastiness" that's "hard to watch and even harder to turn off" and by Taste of Cinema as "a modern masterpiece of South Korean cinema," the film endures thanks to discussions on places like Reddit.







Bong Joon-ho went international with Snowpiercer, a Korean-Czech financed movie with a majority English-speaking script and cast all based on a French comic book. Fresh from The Avengers, Chris Evans fights for freedom as the leader of a revolution aboard a high-speed train that circles a frosted Earth — an apocalypse from an overcorrection of reversing climate change. Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Go Ah-sung, Alison Pill, and Ed Harris also star.

A critical favorite when it was released in 2013, the film not only proved the international appeal of Korean cinema, but it also became a bonafide franchise. An American TV series will premiere on TNT in 2020.



3. TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)




Like The Host before it, Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busan takes another horror genre (this time zombies) and again explores the meaningful bond of a family and class warfare when a zombie outbreak occurs on a train to the second-most populous city in South Korea.

Amidst the decorations for the film, the biggest praise came from English director Edgar Wright, of the 2004 comedy Shaun of the Dead, who tweeted Train to Busan was the "best zombie movie I've seen in forever. A total crowd-pleaser. Highly recommend."






Another erotic thriller from Chan-wook Park, this adaptation of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters changes Victorian England to Korea, dominated by colonial Japan, and is notable for borderline "pornographic" sex scenes between two main female characters. The film made numerous critics' end-of-year top 10 lists and included a nomination for the Palme d'Or. Just halfway past the 2010s, movies like The Handmaiden proved Korean cinema was here to stay.


1. BURNING (2018)




Lee Chang-dong's Burning adapts Haruki Murakami's short story "Barn Burning" into a mystery drama that, according to The Atlantic, "rejects the glamorization of Asian wealth and the notion of a universal Asian identity."

With two opposing characters — one working-class native Korean and one "Americanized" wealthy Korean played by The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun — the film imbues suspense into another harrowing tale of class warfare.



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March 10, 2020


Feature: Are Korea’s drama-focused studios ready for film industry’s growth?

By Choi Ji-won The Korea Herald

“JSA: Joint Security Area” film set in Namyangju Studios (KOFIC)

“JSA: Joint Security Area” film set in Namyangju Studios (KOFIC)


In February, the Korean Film Council announced that the biggest and oldest film set in the country, Namyangju Studio Complex, would resume operations following its closure last October by the new owner Booyoung Group.


The Namyangju set’s reopening is welcomed by Korean cineastes as the studio complex -- located in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, just northeast of Seoul -- is the one of the few large-scale studios in close proximity to Seoul.


Since its opening in 1997, 786 films, or more than 30 percent of all Korean films, have been shot at the Namyangju facility, including award-winning films such as Im Kwon-taek’s “Painted Fire” (2002), which won him the best director award at Cannes in 2002, and Park Chan-wook’s multiple award-winner “JSA: Joint Security Area” (2000).


In 2016, KOFIC sold the studio to Booyoung Group, a construction company, following the state-run organization’s relocation to Busan as part of the government’s regional development policy.


In October 2019, Booyoung shut down the sets without disclosing how the 1.3-square-kilometer site would be developed.


While denying KOFIC’s statement that the sets would reopen as early as May, a Booyoung public relations official confirmed that the facility was undergoing restoration and refurbishment for resumption of operations in the near future.


“The company bought the filming site with the intention of maintaining its original purpose. We are internally discussing different possibilities in expanding its use, but nothing has been decided as of now,” the official told The Korea Herald.


Namyangju Studios (KOFIC)
Namyangju Studios (KOFIC)


With the Namyangju set coming back into operation, KOFIC’s proposed new studio in Busan faces the task of having to differentiate itself from the more conveniently located Namyangju set.


KOFIC said in February that it aimed to start construction next year with completion date set for 2023, almost three years later than originally planned. The Busan complex is to occupy a 250,000-square-meter lot in Gijang-gun, Busan.

Although the overall capacity would be smaller than was available at Namyangju, individual studios in Busan are expected to be bigger


“Whereas the biggest studios in Namyangju are around 1,300 square meters, the smallest in Busan may be around that size,” said Jang Kwang-soo, who managed KOFIC’s Namyangju facility.


However, aside from bigger studios, KOFIC has yet to come up with a plan that would make the Busan facility competitive with the Namyangju studios.


“The commission is considering building large studios for general purposes. Although we are aware people are suggesting special studios for visual effects or underwater shootings, such studios are used infrequently and it is not a simple decision to make,” Jang said.


An official from Studio Cube, a shooting location in Daejeon operated by the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency, agreed that producers are increasingly requesting larger studios.


Studio Cube in Daejeon (KCCA)
Studio Cube in Daejeon (KCCA)


“As technologies advance and films require more detailed productions, filmmakers are increasingly looking for big studios,” the KCCA official managing Studio Cube said.


With the Namyangju set closed for now, Studio Cube is currently the largest filming location available with six midsize-to-large studios, including the country’s biggest individual studio of almost 5,000 square meters.


Director Lee Sang-woo, the executive director of Korea Film Directors’ Society, said the Busan studio needs to focus on overcoming the disadvantages stemming from its location.


“The very basic facilities, such as lodging and cafeterias for the staff would be the most crucial elements. Also, the Busan studio site is located on valley-like land close to the coast. So, preparations for climate change and storms would also be an important factor.”

Film studios on the surge with Namyangju set on hold


Meanwhile, municipal governments are rushing to fill the vacuum created by the lack of filming sets.


Jeonju Studio, although smaller in scale than the ones in Namyangju and Daejeon, has been in consistent use since its opening in 2008. Nine films were shot at the Jeonju set in the last year alone. “Parasite,” which reportedly shot nearly 60 percent of its scenes in Jeonju, was among the eight films shot at the Jeonju Studio in 2018.




The city, which hosts the annual Jeonju Film Festival, added a post-production facility to its offerings, creating a one-stop production spot for filmmakers.


Film “Parasite” in production at the Jeonju Film Studio Complex in 2018 (Jeonju Studio)
Film “Parasite” in production at the Jeonju Film Studio Complex in 2018 (Jeonju Studio)


The number of studio complexes has increased since 2016, as cities near Seoul, such as Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, Incheon, as well as Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, jumped into the business to attract productions following the closure of the Namyangju set.


There are 35 indoor and 25 outdoor studio locations nationwide, with more than half of them located in Seoul and the surrounding areas, according to KOFIC data.

However, the infrastructure specifically for filmmaking is far from sufficient.


“Korean films are rapidly advancing in both number and quality, but most of the studios here operate for television drama production,” director Lee said.

“Usually there is more demand for locations for drama production, and naturally, for the studio owners, it would be more profitable to make drama-centered facilities,” he added.


The large-scale production facility under construction in Paju, for example, is to be used for television productions. The culture complex of CJ ENM -- one of the country’s biggest entertainment companies -- is expected to be 214,000 square meters, housing about 20 studios, including special-shooting studios, outdoor open sets and period drama sets.


“Making a film location is not as big a job as constructing a proper building. On the other hand, a film set is effective in promoting the city and attracting tourists,” said professor Kim Yi-seok who teaches film at Dong-eui University in Busan

“Korea once saw a huge boom in historical drama sets, with local governments here and there talking about creating one in their area. But the trend soon died out. Trends continuously change, and for the new locations to survive, they have to have something unique that differentiates them, whether it be the size or the skillsets of the studio.”



By Choi Ji-won  (jwc@heraldcorp.com)

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