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[Movie 2000] Joint Security Area 공동경비구역 J S A


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November 17, 2010

Director Park Chan-wook in talks to make first English film

Reporter: Lucia Hong luciahong @ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia


Korean director Park Chan-wook [Cannes Film Festival]

Famed Korean director Park Chan-wook may be making his English-language movie directorial debut, according to a report.

The Los Angeles Times reported that sources close to the film said Park "is in talks to direct 'Stoker,' a drama about a young woman whose eccentric uncle comes back into her life after the death of her father."

"Stoker," written by American actor Wentworth Miller, to be produced by film company Ridley Scott Associates and developed by studio Fox Searchlight, will star actress Carey Mulligan as the young woman and co-star Jodie Foster. The actor for the role of the uncle has yet to be cast.

Park, well-known for the dark and violent matters in his film, is one of the top filmmakers in the Korea and famous for his movies "Joint Security Area," the vengeance trilogy which consists of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," " Oldboy "and" Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. "

His film "Oldboy" won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004 which critically acclaimed director Steven Spielberg and Will Smith have tried to produce an American remake of.

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November 23, 2010

DMZ gets promotional mascots

Source: hkim@yna.co.kr english.yonhapnews.co.kr

SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- Korea's Demilitarized Zone, the world's most heavily fortified border separating South and North Korea, got its own mascots Tuesday as part of government efforts to promote it for its ecological value and tourism potential.

The South Korean government has been promoting the southern side of the DMZ, a strip of land 4 kilometers wide and 248km long that runs across the Korean Peninsula, as an ecological tourism attraction, developing trails and transportation facilities along the area.

As part of such promotion efforts, cartoon images of a butterfly family were developed as the mascots for the DMZ, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a press release. The butterflies, named Didi (dad), Mimi (mom) and Jiji (their child) and with blue, pink and green wings, respectively, symbolize a family from an alien planet making their visit to Earth to find its natural charms.


The DMZ's brand image (top) and its mascots, "Didi," "Zizi" and "Mimi," symbolize its ecological value. (Yonhap)

The ministry also adopted a brand image for the DMZ that combines the images of the Korean Peninsula and a butterfly.

The DMZ's landscape and ecosystem have been largely left intact from human activity since the 1950-53 Korean War.

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January 2, 2011

Soompi.com shows Hallyu where to go

By Yang Sung-jin (insight@heraldm.com) koreaherald.com

Soompi.com is the world’s biggest English-language online community dedicated to Korean pop culture. It boasts some 1.4 million visitors daily. More importantly, 90 percent of its members are non-Koreans.

The website is widely regarded as a promising social network venture that has secured a solid user base on the strength of Korean cultural content. Softbank of Japan has already invested in Soompi.com and other investors are lining up amid the outlook that the website will emerge as a key gateway to Asian pop culture for English-speaking audiences.

Soompi.com CEO Joyce Kim, who lives in San Francisco, said in an interview that Hallyu is still in the early stages of growth internationally and the website would help foster its development online as “the central online activity hub for all fans of Hallyu and Asian pop.”


Joyce Kim

As for Hallyu, Kim noted that the near absence of a legitimate distribution of Korean pop content is a serious problem that is often neglected by Koreans.

The following are excerpts from the e-mail interview with Kim.

Korea Herald: How did Soompi.com start, and how did you get involved in the site?

Joyce Kim: Soompi was started by my co-founder Susan Kang in 1998 as her own personal website dedicated to her interest in Korean dramas and music. During the initial first few years, Susan would scan Korean entertainment magazine articles, translate them into English and post them on the site. Slowly, a community began to grow around the site and Susan soon had people volunteering to help with the site. As the first Hallyu wave began to grow, the site also began to grow. Soon, there were hundreds of thousands of visitors each month.

I met Susan because she is the older sister of my best friend from law school. We initially started to work together on Soompi in 2006 when the site growth was really taking off which meant server expenses were also taking off. I was helping Susan set up the advertising system on the site and eventually we decided to officially create a company and work on Soompi together. At first, we both kept our full-time jobs (Susan as a coder and me as a lawyer) and worked on Soompi during our nights and weekends. But by the end of 2008, the site was so active that it was obvious that the site needed more support. We made the decision to leave our jobs in 2009 and work on Soompi full-time.

KH: If you define Soompi.com, what is it?

Kim: Soompi is an online fan community for Hallyu. Soompi’s greatest strength lies in our members. Ninety-nine percent of the content on Soompi is user-generated content so our members are the ones who find the information to share and discuss. They spend a great deal of time online answering each other’s questions. No amount of money or marketing can create the organic community that sites like Soompi have.

KH: Who are Soompi members?

Kim: Soompi members are mostly young Americans of many different backgrounds (Asian, Caucasian, black and Latino) followed by people in their teens and 20s in South East Asia (Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, etc). They are typically very fashionable and up on the latest trends since they follow entertainment so closely. When they come to Soompi, they are often looking for the latest news about Hallyu and to meet other passionate fans. Hallyu fans love to work together to do events and share their love for their idols.

KH: What aspect of Hallyu appeals to Soompi members?

Kim: Soompi members love the celebrities ― their personalities, their visuals, their songs ― all of it. In fact, many of our members (90 percent of whom are not Korean) have started to learn Korean to better understand the music and dramas. Hallyu has definitely started to grow beyond its typical Asian boundaries. I think we will see Hallyu spread to the U.S., Latin America and Europe in 2011. However, for Hallyu to be truly successful abroad, Korean entertainment companies need to better understand international fans better ― this is important for creating new fans and reaching out to new markets.

KH: What can Korean websites and firms interested in Hallyu learn from Soompi?

Kim: I would say two differences between Soompi and Korean sites are 1) we really take into consideration the community’s desires when we build new products ― meaning oftentimes we look at community feedback first when thinking about new features and 2) we push out features before they are 100 percent perfect ― sometimes it means it has bugs, but it also means we can get our full community reaction quickly and fix or change things as needed.

For entertainment firms working in the Hallyu industry, it is important to make the music and drama content easily available for international fans. People in Korea do not realize how hard it is for international fans to buy the music and dramas legally ― there are not good options available. If entertainment firms made their content for easily available for international purchase, then more international fans would buy the content. But at the moment, we cannot even easily register on Korean websites.

KH: To create new and successful services based on social network service, what should and shouldn’t Korean venture startups do?

Kim: I see many Korean startups that are testing or half-heartedly targeting the global market. The decision whether to go global should be made early as it significantly impacts the kind of team that needs to be built and the product. If you are building an SNS service targeting the international market, then you should create your team abroad.

KH: What was the purpose of your latest visit to Seoul, and what did you feel when you were in Seoul?

Kim: I visit Seoul at least once a year to meet with Korean entertainment companies and Korean Internet startups. On the entertainment front, there is strong interest in online and social media strategy from the entertainment companies. This is one of the big growth opportunities for Hallyu. But I think Korean entertainment companies will need to hire people with international Internet experience to really open that opportunity.

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February 1, 2011

Chan-wook Park Movies

by ADMIN oddfilms.com

Chan-wook Park movies frequently deal with negative emotions and violent situations, but there’s always a method to his apparent madness. Take his “Vengeance Trilogy,” for example: While each film in this popular South Korean series revolves around getting payback against someone else, Park never glorifies these actions. His heroes and heroines pay an awful price for their revenge, ultimately proving that violence only leads to more violence.


Inspired to become a director after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Chan-wook Park has become a leading figure in South Korean cinema, and his admirers include such notable figures as Quentin Tarantino. With his well-framed shots, generous use of on-screen violence, and frequent collaborations with actors such as Kang-ho Song, Min-sik Choi, and Young-ae Lee, the films of Chan-wook Park are almost immediately recognizable to fans of international cinema.

Moon Is the Sun’s Dream (1992) – Mr. Park made his directorial debut with this tale of a gangster who begins an affair with his boss’ mistress, steals from his organization, and then goes on the run. This leads to his lady love being sold into prostitution, a daring rescue, and orders from on high to assassinate his best friend. A powerful first effort that takes elements of a crime movies and adds in a bittersweet romance. Park’s talent for manipulating the emotions of his audience are immediately evident.

Judgment (1999) – A 26-minute short that’s shot in black-and-white and presents humanity at its worst. Inspired by the real-life collapse of a Seoul department store, this film tells of the 500 lives that were lost and the scramble by unscrupulous individuals to claim the bodies and thereby grab a chunk of the money offered to the families of the victims. Set entirely in a South Korean morgue, we watch with disgust as a husband and wife argue with a morgue attendant over who gets to claim the corpse of a young girl. A powerful and ironic indictment of rampant greed.


Joint Security Area (2000)
– Quentin Tarantino named this one of his favorite films made since 1992, Korean moviegoers made it one of the highest-grossing movies in the country‘s history, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun even presented it as a gift to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Set in the well-guarded DMZ between the two nations, Joint Security Area begins with a firefight and the death of two North Korean soldiers. An investigative team from neutral nations is called in, and it’s led by Major Sophie E. Jang (Young Ae Lee), a half-Korean who’s making her first trip to the country. As she digs deeper and interviews witnesses on both sides, she comes to realize that there’s more to the story than what’s included in the reports. A touching tale of friendship in the face of political brinksmanship, with standout performances from Kang-ho Song and Byung-hun Lee.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) – The first entry in Chan-wook Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” this sad work deals with desperation and mounting tragedy as it follows a deaf/mute factory worker named Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) who’s trying to help his ailing sister obtain a kidney transplant. Things go wrong from the start, with Ryu turning to the black market for help and losing one of his kidneys and all his money in the procesfor his sister’s surgery. Along with his anarchist girlfriend (Doona Bae), he next sets out to kidnap the young daughter of an executive at his former job, planning to use the ransom money to solve his problems. But Ryu’s streak of terrible luck continues, and soon he’s being hunted down by the little girl’s vengeance-minded father (Kang-ho Song). It’s a bleak film where nobody wins, but it’s also bristling with originality and plenty of compassion for its subjects.

If You Were Me (2003) – Commissioned by the National Human Right Commission in South Korea, this collection of six short films by six different directors tackles the subject of discrimination in Korea (with one exception). Park gets in on the action with a segment titled “Never Ending Peace And Love,” in which he tells the true story of a Nepalese woman living in Korea and subjected to economic exploitation and racial prejudice. Starring Dal-su Oh and Ji-hyeon Lee.

Oldboy (2003) – My favorite of all Chan-wook Park movies, Oldboy begins with drunken businessman Oh Dae-Su (Min-sik Choi) being abducted and imprisoned in a room. Fed nothing but fried dumplings and frequently gassed into unconsciousness to prevent suicide, Dae-su is held there for the next 15 years. When he’s abruptly released, he sets out to find the responsible parties and exact revenge. But a budding romance with a female sushi chef (Hye-jeong Kang) complicates matters, and does the realization that his tormentor’s twisted plan for revenge is far from over. The Jeong-hoon Jeong cinematography is beautiful, the tortured performance from Choi is impressive in its range, and the scenes involving Dae-Su and a claw hammer are strangely cathartic. Quentin Tarantino flipped out when this middle installment in Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy” was released at the Cannes Film Festival, and it’s since rose to a lofty position as one of the greatest Asian films ever made.

Three...Extremes (2004) – A follow-up to the horror anthology Three, this film brings in more established directors from three different countries (Park Chan-wook, Fruit Chan, and Takashi Miike) and asks them to produce a tale of terror. What follows are segments about dumplings that fight aging, a girl who dreams of being trapped inside a box in the snow, and (courtesy of Park) a film director who‘s held hostage by a vengeful extra and forced to play twisted games for the safety of his wife‘s fingers.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) – The final film in Chan-wook Park’s excellent “Vengeance Trilogy,” this is the story of Geum-ja Lee (Young Ae Lee), a woman who voluntarily went to prison for a murder she didn’t commit. The movie begins with her release, and she wastes no time calling in favors from fellow inmates she aided during incarceration. As Geum-ja searches for her long-lost daughter and plans payback against the real killer (Min-sik Choi), she stumbles across a series of crimes that cry out for an ever greater degree of revenge. Young Ae Lee owns the screen as Geum-ja, a loving mother wearing red eyeshadow, wielding a double-barreled pistol, and constantly dreaming of murdering the man who separated her from her child.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) – Love can be found in the strangest of places, and this romantic comedy from Chan-wook Park goes inside a Korean mental institution to tell the story of Young-goon (Su-jeong Im), a young woman who believes herself to be a cyborg. When she’s not listening for special instructions from her radio or licking batteries in place of eating food, she’s plotting revenge against the same “men in white” who once took away her beloved grandmother. Then she meets a fellow patient named Il-soon, a man who wears rabbit masks and believes he has the ability to steal traits from those around him. When he steals Young-goon’s capacity for sympathy, she embarks on a mission of self-destruction and he finds himself quickly falling in love. A quirky and charming tale that you’ll never see told in Hollywood (at least not in its current form).

Thirst (2009) – His previous film was about mental patients falling in love, but this time Park turns towards the supernatural for a movie about a priest (Kang-ho Song) who becomes a vampire and finds himself drawn to the unhappy wife (Ok-bin Kim) of an old friend. Filled with dark comedy and plenty of steamy sex (including the first full-frontal nudity in a mainstream Korean film), Thirst is a mature and frequently disturbing look at life after death and the endless quest for love. Highly recommended for fans of vampire movies, especially those looking for something different.

That concludes our look at the best Chan-wook Park movies, but check back with OddFilms in the future for more works from this talented director.

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February 26, 2011

[HanCinema's Film Review] JSA - Joint Security Area

by Christopher J. Wheeler hancinema.net l photo from cine21


Park Chan-wook's "JSA - Joint Security Area" made huge waves at the Korean box office during the early weeks of its release. The film became the highest grossing film at the time with a million eager moviegoers flocking to see it in its second week. A DVD of the film was even presented to Kim-Jong-Il during the 2007 Korea Summit, an interesting political gesture that resonates with the filmmaker's attempt to humanise the Korean conflict.

Daily life in Korea might not reflect the on-going tensions between the North and the South, but along the DMZ there is the constant reminder of division, conflict and the struggle for lasting peace. The border acts as a physical and political barrier observed by both nations, with patrolmen rigorously safeguarding it on each side. The political ideologies of both nations meet here and, without compromise, the two sides stand adjacent and in opposition. And then there are the soldiers-individuals tasked with the duty of ensuring their own nation's safety. People, not political ideals, are stationed there and it is this idea that Park wishes to communicate with his progressive themes of tolerance, understanding and camaraderie.

The Story and Characters

Based on the novel DMZ by Park Sang-yeon, the film tells the story of a shooting within a North Korea J.S.A outpost that leaves two North Korean soldiers dead with a soldier from each side confessing conflicting accounts of the incident. The South Korean soldier, Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byeong-Heon), claims that he was captured and forced over the line and managed to escape, but not before killing two North Korean officers. Conversely, Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho) of the North states that Sgt. Lee willingly crossed the border and attacked the North Korean outpost. To resolve the dispute, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) sends a neutral Swiss representative, Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae), to investigate.

Maj. Jean is ethnically Korean but she has never visited her native country. She was raised overseas as a Swiss national. She is brought in to discover the truth behind the soldiers' suspicious dispositions. Her investigation is paired with flashbacks of the events leading up to, and including, the incident in question. However, during her inquiry she becomes aware that her father was actually a North Korean defector, a convenient fact that results in her dismissal from the case. Despite receiving her termination orders, she manages to piece together the two soldiers' story in time for her own personal sense of closure. What she discovers is as tragic as it is unlikely.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned before "JSA - Joint Security Area" was very well received in South Korea. However, not all involved were satisfied with events depicted in the film. I was interested to find that members of the JSA Veterans Association strongly protested against the film, arguing that it was nothing short of pure fantasy. They demanded that the film explicitly state that it is a work of fiction, a demand that was eventually met.

"JSA - Joint Security Area" sought to broaden the perspective of the conflict in a time when the majority of South Korean's held strong prejudices about North Korea and its people-an effort that was well executed in the film. Ideas of brotherhood and friendship are quick to emerge and the film rejects the villianization of North Korean troops and citizens. Instead, the film centres on the commonality between sides, with the political dogma acting as the external source of conflict encasing the events. It is a saddening tale that manages to recontextualise the conflict to reveal a new perspective of humanism in an otherwise politically engulfed state of affairs.

-Christopher J. Wheeler

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March 2, 2011


By Anthony McGee filmireland.net

Chang-dong Lee and Sang-soo Im are part of the new wave of South Korean directors who emerged during the latter half of the 1990s. Both men have used film to reflect on Korean society, but their approach and appeal marks them as two very different film-makers.

Im is regarded as provocative and irreverent. His broadly rendered, black-comic take on the assassination of president Chung-hee Park in The Presidents Last Bang is a fair representation of this director’s controversial bent. The film inevitably caused a stir and documentary footage (available on DVD) of the state funeral was cut from the theatrical release.

The Housemaid, which was nominated for the Palme D’Or, is a remake of Ki-young Kim’s landmark 1960 classic. One cannot help but compare the new and old and sadly the 2010 edition comes up short. Im endeavours to bring something fresh to the timeworn story of a wealthy family unsuccessfully coping with the side effects of infidelity. Speaking about his sixth film, the director stated that he wished to illustrate a widening gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ of modern society.

In this he is partially successful. In the original it was the well-off family who were threatened by the outsider. This time round it is the servant who is taken in, seduced and spat out by the opulence of her new surroundings. For a while, the viewer will be similarly wooed by gorgeous cinematography and a lavishly expensive purpose built mansion setting. The film looks great, but is ultimately superficial.

Widely respected screenwriter Soo-hyun Kim walked after disagreements about the script’s final draft and maybe she had a point. The film suffers from frustratingly lazy characterisation and feels stilted in both its pacing and overall execution. There are some nice moments between Do-yeon Jeon as the maid and former Ki-young Kim regular Yeo-jeong Yoon as her embittered senior colleague, but a lack of spine and believability reveals Im’s desire to shock as gratuitous and self-indulgent.

Four years ago, Jeon won the best actress prize at Cannes for her role in Chang-dong Lee’s Secret Sunshine. This official nod helps to confirm Lee as an actor’s director. The former minister for culture and tourism, Lee worked as a teacher and novelist before finding his way to the directing chair in his 40s. Films like Oasis and Peppermint Candy have dealt unflinchingly with the harsh realties of modern Korean society.

The former charts the relationship of a couple afflicted by mental and physical disabilities. Cast aside, they live on the margins. Peppermint Candy, is an unflinching examination of the damaging effects of 20 years history that takes in the late 90s financial crash, and the political corruption and violence of the 1980s.

While comparatively more sedate, Poetry, is a companion piece to Peppermint Candy. Although not explicitly stated, we realise that as a 66 year old, Mija has lived through civil war and a succession of military dictatorships. As a mother, a care assistant and woman, she has been relegated to edges of society. Even today she is subjected to the whims of her grandson, Wook, of whom she has sole custody. Even though the onset of Alzheimer’s threatens to take her vocabulary away, she is nonetheless inspired to enrol in a poetry writing class.

The film opens with the discovery of a school-girl’s corpse. Her diary reveals that Wook is one of a gang of rapists who drove her to suicide. Mija is contacted by the fathers of the other boys. In order to avert a police investigation, they plan to offer a compensation payment to the dead girl’s mother. The pursuit of justice is deemed less important than the boys’ future. Even the school’s headmaster agrees. Despite progress, democracy and the passage of time, women still suffer institutionalised chauvinism. Racked by guilt and a sense of her own helplessness, Mija looks to find peace and comfort in the pursuit of her poetic muse.

As usual, Lee’s direction is unobtrusive and affords his work an understated elegance. His award winning screenplay is by turns subtle and devastating, but always lucid. Perhaps most memorable however, is the performance of actress Jeong-hee Yoon. It has been over 15 years since the golden girl of 60s/70s Korea appeared on screen. Like the natural world portrayed in this film, she is a quiet and stunning revelation.


If either of the films discussed here inspire you to investigate further, here is a list of five great places to start. The directors feature here, like Im and Lee, made turn of the millennium films, that kick started what is now regarded as a new golden age for South Korean cinema.

1) Joint Security Area. Chan-wook Park, 2000

Oldboy director Park came to our attention with a trio of films built around the theme of revenge. He has insisted that the idea for a ‘trilogy’ was founded in accident rather than design but the ‘T’ word has done his exposure no harm at all. This film is set at the borderline between North and South Korea and explores the fragile relations of enemy soldiers stationed there. This film was a huge domestic success and has some early glimpses of the director’s visual flair. JSA, featuring the reliably impressive Kang-ho Song, has a resonant storyline and is possibly Park’s best effort to date.

2) Memories of Murder. Joon-ho Bong, 2003

Bong Joon Ho, director of last years critically acclaimed ‘Mother’ has made a habit of melding genre specifics to ideas that reflect on the society he grew up in. This film, based on fact, concerns the search for a murderer that lasted six years. The killer claimed 10 victims, yet still managed to elude police. The 1980s military rule is recalled in a blunt and brutal police investigation that yields little success. With a measured grasp of police thriller/horror dynamics, the killer is revealed as a spectre that taints rural rice fields and railway lines as well as recent memory.

3) Tale of Cinema. Sang-soo Hong, 2005

Various traces of influence can be detected in this director’s oeuvre but his films defy easy categorisation. His detached style and recurring earthy themes arguably make his work an acquired taste. Fans of the art house will, however, find much to enjoy. Tale of Cinema is a great introduction to his work. Here, Hong takes a withering look at art imitating life and vice versa. His hollow and desperate cast are rendered with an acerbic wit that makes us unsure whether to laugh or cringe. However, his honed craftsmanship means you will keep watching.

4) Christmas in August. Jin-ho Hur, 1998

Jin-ho Hur’s debut is a minor cultural touchstone in Korea, having been referenced in no less than five films since its release. A man who runs a photography business is diagnosed with a terminal illness. This news comes just as he begins to fall for a woman who frequents his shop. Coming to terms with his illness he gets drunk and tries to prepare his family. The impression given is that life thus far has been pretty uneventful. His romance with Darim, played by Eun-ha Shim represents his last chance to find something deeper in his last months. Dignified in tone, Christmas in August is a remarkable film that at best recalls the understated sentiment of Japan’s Yasujiro Ozu.

5) The Harmonium in my Memory. Young-jae Lee, 1999

‘Harmonium’ is a similarly bittersweet, though ultimately sunnier take on the theme of love. A breezy and agreeable slice of life, it features an early leading man role for Byung-hun Lee, more recently seen in GI Joe. He plays an enthusiastic young teacher whose infectious manner fuels the youthful crush of one of his students. Do-yeon Jeon, playing a character almost ten years her junior, excels. The shy and awkward teenager experiencing the highs and lows of infatuation is perfectly realised by Jeon. Her talent has since been internationally recognised, but this film remains an early career highlight for both leads.

Tracking down these films shouldn’t prove difficult; between them Laser, The IFI, Tower and HMV carry a good selection of titles and the usual online haunts are always worth a look. While logged on you can find the Korean Film Archive’s official website at www.koreafilm.org, not to be confused with www.koreanfilm.org which contains a wealth of reviews and information. Happy hunting!

Anthony McGee

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March 11, 2011

An A to Z Guide to Korean Cinema – Part 1

Posted by Samson heroic-cinema.com

Since I first discovered the wonderful world of Korean cinema in 1999, I have seen an impressive number of great Korean films. So as I started working on a top 10 list to contribute to this year’s Korean Blogathon, I actually found it incredibly difficult to narrow the number down to ten. Because of this, I have decided to do something a bit different instead – a list of my favourite Korean movies from A to Z.

I hope you will enjoy reading this article, share fond memories of the Korean films that you have seen, and possibly discover something that you may want to check out in the future. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of the best:

Attack the Gas Station (1999): Filled with youthful energy, unexpected twists and funny situations, this enjoyable comedy was a big hit in Korea, scoring the second highest number of admissions for a local film in the year it was released. Outside of Korea, it has (sadly) not received a lot of attention, but its DVD shouldn’t be too hard to track down.

Bittersweet Life, A (2005): Directed by Kim Jee-woon, a filmmaker with that special gift of being able to master different genres with ease, this gorgeous-looking ultra-cool gangster film is one of the best examples of the genre to come out of Asia. It stars Lee Byung-heon (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra), one of Korea’s coolest actors, as the male lead.

Chaser (2008): This gritty serial-killer film builds up suspense to an almost unbearable level and maintains the intensity till the final frame. Anyone after edge-of-the-seat entertainment should really enjoy this movie. The fact that it is the work of first-time director Na Hong-jin makes him someone worth looking out for in the coming years.

Dirty Carnival, A (2006): This is another fine gangster film to come out of Korea in recent years. The script is tightly written, the performances are superb, and the fight scenes are incredibly realistic. All these factors combine to make this one immensely exciting film. There are also a lot of dramatic elements that help set this film apart from other gangster flicks.

Eye for an Eye (2008): This is a more recent film that stars Han Suk-kyu, one of Korea’s great actors who played key roles in many of the films from the ‘Korean New Wave’ (Shiri, Tell Me Something). While it may not qualify as a great film, it is nevertheless a solid and satisfying thriller. Still, this is not director Kwak Kyung-taek’s best work. The next film is.

Friend (2001): Based on Kwak Kyung-taek’s true story of himself and his childhood friends, this is clearly a personal film for the director. It is a tale about friendship, loyalty and growing up. All of the 4 lead actors give wonderful performances. Also deserving a special mention is the cinematography that beautifully captures the city on screen.

Good, the Bad and the Weird, The (2008): Coming from director Kim Jee-woon, this Western offers one huge dose of exhilarating fun. There are plenty of heart-pumping chases and frantic action scenes to be enjoyed. The cast is full of big name actors, including Song Kang-ho (The Foul King, Secret Sunshine), Lee Byung-heon and Jung Woo-sung (Musa).

Host, The (2006): From my favourite Korean director Bong Joon-ho comes this amazing creature feature. The well-designed creature and great performances from the cast make this film totally believable. The Host is multilayered and goes well beyond the basic premise of humans vs creature. In short, it is a monster masterpiece!

Isle, The (2000): One cannot write a best-of-Korean-films list without mentioning any work by director Kim Ki-duk. This strangely mesmerising film may make some people nauseated, but for those who can appreciate its beauty, it is a little gem. Certainly not as accessible as many of Kim’s later films, but this one has left an impression on me for its uniqueness.

Joint Security Area (2000): While director Park Chan-wook may be best known for his revenge trilogy (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), his older film Joint Security Area is equally as worthy of film lovers’ attention for its assured direction, skillful story-telling and excellent performances.

King and the Clown (2005): This was the surprise Korean hit of 2005. This period drama without star casting became a phenomenon in Korea upon its release. In retrospect, it is not hard to see why it was so popular. It is touching, it is charming and above all, it is entertaining. After all, entertainment is what we are after when we watch movies, isn’t it?

Next time.. the rest of the list from L to Z!

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May 28, 2011

HanCinema Korea's Diary

Introduce Yourself to Korean Cinema: 7 Films to Get You Started

-Christopher J. Wheeler hancinema.net

"JSA - Joint Security Area" (2000) by Park Chan-wook

This was a landmark film that put Park Chan-wook on the path to greatness. In a time where tensions along Korea's DMZ were high, Park Chan-wook stepped up and challenged the social perceptions of the North and its people with this very powerful tale of cross-border friendship. Many people are aware of the horrors that took place during the Korean War that left Korea a divided country. Park Chan-wook's message of brotherhood that traverses political agendas comes through beautifully in this tragic film. Many foreigners come to Korea each year and visit the infamous 250km barrier that splits the Korean peninsula in half. Watching this film before or after you make that trip may challenge your own perceptions of this tragic divide.

If you like this, also try "Taegukgi" (2004, Kang Je-gyu), "Friend" (2001, Kwak Gyeong-taek), "Secret Reunion" (2010, Jang Hoon), and "71-Into the Fire" (2009, Lee Jae-han)

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July 10, 2011

Discovering Korea through film

By Hannah Stuart-Leach (hannahsl@heraldm.com) koreaherald.com

American film critic helps expose domestic cinema to world stage


Darcy Paquet outside a cafe, where he sometimes writes his freelance film articles, in central Seoul. (Kim Myung-sup/The Korea Herald)

In the late ’90s, Korean cinema was booming along with the country’s economy. And not just domestically, but in the United States too.

Whilst studying Slavic Linguistics at Indiana University, Massachusetts-native Darcy Paquet was introduced to two popular films at the time by his Korean friends there: “Sopyonje” and “Our Twisted Hero.”

Not being a movie fanatic then, a mixture of circumstance, timing and talent has led to him becoming a Korean film critic, casting light on the genre for both English-speakers and locals. Last year he was awarded the Korea Film Reporters Association Award at the Pusan International Film Festival for his contributions in introducing Korean cinema to the world.

“The more I learned about Korean films the more interested I became. And I was able to make it my specialty,” Paquet, who initially came here as a teacher on his way to Eastern Europe, told The Korea Herald at a caf, the freelancer’s “office,” in central Seoul. “I was lucky enough to find this interesting work in the film industry and I was really happy to be doing film related work so I wanted to stay here and build on that.”

Having studied in Russia, Paquet’s path to a career which has enabled him to write for esteemed international publications such as Variety, and be flown across the world as an authority on Korean film, started when he picked up part-time work proofreading for The Korean Film Council.

“Just sort of by luck I got the job at the film council and that helped me come in contact with more films, and then some people who were in the film industry,” said Paquet, who used his work there as an opportunity to gain access to subtitled films.

Although the situation is better now ― thanks in part to Paquet, who with his Korean wife has translated films into English including “Memories of Murder,” one of his favorite films of all time ― he says when his Korean wasn’t so good, he had to resort to film festivals, DVDs or just trying his best at the cinema.

“I’d go to the theater and watch films with no subtitles and not understand a big portion of the film. Sometimes it helped to talk to friends later and have them kind of fill in the details for me.”

Even if he didn’t understand every word, he always felt Korean cinema was distinct from what he had seen before.

“In terms of their story (Korean films), they’ve kind of adopted a different format. “For example, Korean filmmakers will be much more willing to make a film have a tragic ending or where not all the loose ends are tied up,” he said, adding that diversity of content is also a very Korean quality.


Paquet after receiving the Korea Film Reporters Association Award for contributions in introducing

Korean cinema to the world at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival in 2010.(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPacific)

Korean films also tend to focus more on character than Hollywood films do, and are more evocative, he said.

“They have a very strong emotional impact often and directors aren’t afraid to push that as far as it will go.”

Although there were a few foreign journalists and film enthusiasts around at the time, Paquet found little information available in English about Korean cinema.

To fill this void, he started Koreanfilm.org to post information and reviews. To Paquet’s surprise, the site rapidly took off and he began receiving emails from Korean film fans from countries as unexpected as Mongolia and Myanmar. “My timing was really lucky because the site went up not long after the blockbuster ‘Shiri’ (first Hollywood-style film of Korea’s ’90s economic boom) had become a big hit and more and more people were starting to get interested in Korean film,” he reasoned.

But it must have been more than timing. In 2001 the editor of London trade magazine Screen International contacted Paquet, giving him his big break. “The editor had been reading my website for some time and they were looking for a reporter to cover Korean film news and I didn’t have any experience as a journalist but he said that they were interested in taking me on.”

With no prior experience, but plenty of enthusiasm, Paquet took to his new role with ease, meeting more useful contacts along the way. “Working as a journalist is a great way to teach yourself, you end up learning a lot about how film making actually works,” said Paquet, 39, who now writes columns and essays for publications around the world.

Of all the films he has seen, he would recommend “The Host” as a good first Korean movie. The 2006 film by director Bong Joon-ho features a monster emerging from the depths of the Han River. Paquet suggested it as an example of a commercial yet well-made film, with a depth built through political subtext.

Alternatively, he said the 2010 film “Poetry” written and directed by Lee Chang-dong is a big hit with enthusiasts of the genre. The story of a woman in her 60s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is heavy and slow but “extremely well-made.”

Among Koreans Paquet is most known for his frequent contributions to movie weekly Cine21, but among foreigners, he is most notable for his website. He would like his next project to bring the columns for both audiences together in a book, so they can be read in English and Korean.

Although the father of two is a confident speaker of informal Korean ― a skill which he feels has aided his acceptance by the local film industry ― he limits his writing in the language to his Twitter updates.

“When you’re writing about films you have to be much more expressive and precise in your language and I don’t feel like I’m at that level yet (in Korean) but I hope to reach it some day.”

But Paquet has not restricted himself to writing.

Now not only a university lecturer to both Korean and foreign students on Korean cinema, radio and TV film critic and panelist, freelance writer and author, he is also a part-time actor.

His latest role is as a missionary working with a North Korean defector in the movie “Dance Town” which is currently doing the film festival circuit and will soon be shown in cinemas here. Proving that lucky breaks are often about the people you know, Paquet met the director at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain.

Acting is something Paquet would love to do more of. “After spending so much time writing about movies, it’s really fun and interesting just to go inside and be part of the process of making one.” He also hopes to try his hand at a different type of writing: scripts. “I think that as a writer it’s the next logical step to take,” he explained.

These days Paquet is a big fan of Korea’s independent films, and is concerned by the lack of support for them. About six years ago he said, the Korean government offered strong backing for domestic film, but this has since waned.

“To me, the independent films are where most of the interesting work is being done, from a creative point of view. If you’re looking to support the future development of the film industry, there’s a good case to be made for (independent film) to be supported.”

But with or without money, Paquet said the indie film industry is thriving, whereas the mainstream sector is faltering.

“The huge low-budget film sector is turning out this incredible number of films, but the people who’re shooting them are just borrowing money from their grandparents and shooting the movies as cheaply as possible.”

Through his work at the Udine Far East film festival in Italy, he has been able to compare films from here with the rest of Asia. Many countries have looked to Korea for the way its film industry developed so fast. In China, a similar phenomenon is occurring which he believes will see film there explode globally before long.

Meanwhile, the interest abroad in Korean film has ebbed.

“My impression is that in the beginning of the 2000s all of these directors were just emerging and no one could really tell who the important ones were, now people have pretty much decided,” he said.

Also, the industry has been at the forefront of the impact of illegal downloads, whereas in the U.S., Hollywood was supported by the success of DVD sales. However, low-priced legal downloads are now being promoted here which he hopes will go some way to rectifying the situation.

Paquet, who hopes always to keep his connections with the Korean film industry, believes film is a great vehicle to promote the country as a destination. It was watching Korean film after all, as well as teaching, which first acquainted him with it. “I think that once you’ve developed in your mind the image of a place you’re much more likely to go and visit someday.

“It’s not necessarily an accurate image; it’s just a starting point.”

For him, film is not purely entertainment and a display of craftsmanship, but also a way to pick up on the concerns of the day, such as education, suicide and relationships.

The movie “JSA (Joint Security Area)” for instance, covered issues of reunification in a timely manner, around the time of the first North-South presidential summit.

“You can’t trust all the pictures that you see in films. Everything’s kind of stylized or artificial in some way but on the other hand the people who are making the films are not artificial.

“They’re real people who are picking up these stories.”

For those interested in learning more about Korean film in English, Paquet introduces his pick from the 1950s-1990s every two months in Seoul on behalf of the Korean Film Archive (koreafilm.org).

Darcy Paquet

1995 ― B.A. in Russian Language at Carleton College, Minnesota

1997 ― M.A. in Slavic Linguistics/Applied Linguistics at Indiana University

1998-present ― Special advisor and English editor for Korean Film Council

1999 ― Launched Koreanfilm.org

2001-2008 ― Korea news correspondent for Screen International

2002-present ― Program advisor to Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy

2003-2011 ― Wrote monthly column for Korean film weekly Cine21

2005-2008 ― Korea news correspondent for Variety magazine

2007-2011 ― Taught “Korean Cinema in a Global Context” at Korea University

2007-present ― Korean delegate for San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain

2008-present ― Lecturer at Kyung Hee University, Department of Theater and Film

2009 ― Published “New Korean Cinema: Breaking the Waves”

2010 ― KOFRA Award from Korea Film Reporters Association for introducing Korean cinema to the world. Presented at 15th Pusan International Film Festival.

2011 ― Stars in “Dance Town,” TBS eFM’s resident film critic, appears on EBS’ “Movie Concert,” presents bi-monthly screening of Korean films on behalf of the Korean Film Archive.

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July 27, 2011

KOFFIA 2011 Film Line-up announced!

Source: koffia.com.au via hancinema.net


KOFFIA 2011 is coming! HOLD ON TIGHT! For immediate release The KOFFIA Korean Film Festival is back in Sydney for the second time this August, bigger and better than ever, and it all begins here! KOFFIA 2011 will present 13 feature films and 7 shorts that showcase the great diversity of Korean cinema today, as well as providing a true Korean cultural experience with industry forums, cultural performances, food tastings and so much more. HOLD ON TIGHT!

The festival will take place from 24th – 29th August at Dendy Cinemas in Circular Quay, Sydney. In this Australia-Korea Year of Friendship, we are very excited to announce that KOFFIA will also travel down to the beautiful city of Melbourne! The festival will run from 10th – 13th September at ACMI Cinemas, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne. This is an extra special date, as 12th September marks the important Korean Thanksgiving Holiday of Chuseok, join us in this celebration.

This year our line-up will be centred around six key themes felt to represent particular recurring messages in Korean cinema. Experienced genre filmmaker Ryoo Seung-wan's latest box office and critical hit "The Unjust" (2010) will open KOFFIA 2011 in Sydney as part of our 'Crime and Punishment' selection. Known for his action hits "Arahan" and "The City of Violence", we are delighted to announce that director Ryoo and producer Kang Hye-jeong-I will be guests of the festival this year. Rounding out 'Crime and Punishment' is the number 1 Korean box office hit last year, "The Man From Nowhere" (2010), featuring popular actor and model "Won Bin" ("Mother - 2009").

'Brothers Divided' reflects on conflict found in relationships and opens with "Secret Reunion" (2010) directed by Jang Hoon ("Rough Cut"). One of the highest grossing Korean films of all time, it follows a tense partnership between a North Korean spy and a former South Korean agent. Also screening under this theme is Park Chan-wook's classic "JSA - Joint Security Area" (2000). Arguably Park's best feature, the film tells the story of an unlikely relationship between the North and South Korean guards along the border. Both films star festival favourite Song Kang-ho. (more on JSA here)


Simply one of best Korean films of all time, see it on the big screen!

At the DMZ, one South Korean soldier kills two North Korean soldiers. The international investigation begins as to find out exactly how this happened, but everyone who is related to the incident tells a different and contradictory story. The truth is shelled in four soldiers from the South as well as North.

The vengeance trilogy may be PARK Chan-wook’s most widely known works, but JSA is the film where his career really took off. Featuring an all star cast of SONG Kang-ho (Thirst), LEE Young-ae (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), LEE Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and SHIN Ha-kyun (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), it is a must see for all Korean film fans!


Park is currently working on Stoker, his first English language film, starring Australia’s own Nicole Kidman.

International Film Festival

2011 Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema

2009 International Fajr Film Festival

2006 Paris Cinema International Film Festival

2005 Cinemanila International Film Festival

2004 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival

2004 International Film Festival Prague - Febiofest

2002 Newport Beach Film Festival

2001 Sydney International Film Festival

2001 Moscow International Film Festival

2001 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

2001 Seattle International Film Festival (New Directors Showcase Special Jury Prize)

2001 Udine Far East Film Festival

2001 Deauville Asian Film Festival (Jury Prize, Popular Choice and Best Actor – Song Kang-ho)

2001 Berlin International Film Festival

2001 Stockholm International Film Festival

2001 Fantasia International Film Festival

2001 Durban International Film Festival

2001 Melbourne International Film Festival

KOFFIA Staff’s remarks

“Think "Oldboy" is Park Chan-wooks best film? You haven’t seen JSA!”

“One of the most popular Korean films ever. You just don't wanna miss this one”

“Delightfully sad story of 4 soldiers unpermitted union in a world-only divided nation”

'Indie Cinema' will introduce our audience to award winning independent films that have been making waves worldwide. The documentary "Earth's Women" (2009) follows the stories of three female farmers and their livelong friendship, as they get caught up in a peasant's rights movement. "The Journals of Musan" (2010) is Park Jung-bum's first feature, made on a shoe-string budget, and highlights the isolated lives of North Korean defectors in South Korean society. Both films won their respective categories at the revered Busan International Film Festival, taking away Best Documentary and FIPRESCI prizes respectively.

'Bloody Friday' highlights the most thrill providing films of Korean cinema today! "No Blood No Tears" (2002), also directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, is a film noir crime caper with a difference, and launched stars Jeon Do-yeon ("The Housemaid - 2010") and Jeong Jae-yeong ("Castaway on the Moon"). Director Ryoo and producer Kang will attend for a Q&A. Former Kim Ki-duk assistant director, Jang Cheol-soo, makes his debut with "Bedevilled" (2010), which has reinvigorated the Korean horror film industry.

'Extraordinary Ordinary Families' describes the very nature of the extended family in contemporary Korean society, with "Shim's Family" (2007) uncovering many unknown skeletons, and "The Show Must Go on" (2007) giving us a look at the Korean Sopranos. "The Show Must Go on" won Best Picture and Best Actor at the 28th Blue Dragon Film Awards. To celebrate filmmaking 'Masters and Students' highlights the best of the Young Korean Filmmaker Awards (YKFA) entries and short films from renowned Korean directors. Also screening in this section is "Oki's Movie" (2010), the latest effort from the critically acclaimed auteur director, Hong Sang-soo.

Finally we focus on the hearts and dream of youth, with 'Ride The Dream'. This year's special school screening features "Bunt" (2007), a heart-warming film of a mentally challenged boy who strives to help everyone around him. Closing Sydney and Opening Melbourne will be Korea's official submission for the Oscars for Best Foreign Language film, the beautiful "Barefoot Dream" (2010), which tells the true story of a Korean soccer coach who gave hope to underprivileged children in East Timor.

What is most clear from this line-up, is that there is much more to see of Korean cinema than many people ever imagined. Come along for whichever theme takes your fancy, as you won't be disappointed. Remember to mark the dates in your diary, August 24-29 in Sydney and September 10-13 in Melbourne, as KOFFIA 2011 will be one not to miss. Prepare to go on a rollercoaster ride of cinematic proportions, HOLD ON TIGHT!

For more information please see our website, www.koffia.com.au. Tickets are on sale 3 weeks prior to the festival dates. KOFFIA is organised by the Korean Cultural Office in Sydney.


Make sure you attend our KOFFIA 2011

Press Events and Industry Forums

Tuesday 23rd August, 3:00pm @ Korean Cultural Office

Press Conference with Ryoo Seung-wan and KANG Hye-jeong-I (with English translator)

Wednesday 24th August, 3:00pm @ Korean Cultural Office

Press Conference with Ryoo Seung-wan and KANG Hye-jeong-I (in Korean only)

Wednesday 24th August, 6:00pm @ Dendy Opera Quays

Introduction and Q&A with Ryoo Seung-wan and KANG Hye-jeong-I

Friday 26th August, 6:00pm @ Dendy Opera Quays

Introduction and Q&A with Ryoo Seung-wan and KANG Hye-jeong-I

Saturday 27th August, 11:00am @ Dendy Opera Quays

YKFA Awards Ceremony presented by Ryoo Seung-wan and Elizabeth CONNOR

Saturday 27th August, 1:00pm @ Dendy Opera Quays

Meet the Director Forum with Ryoo Seung-wan

Saturday 27th August, 3:45pm @ Dendy Opera Quays

Industry Forum with Mathieu RAVIER and Richard GRAY

Sunday 28th August, 4:00pm @ Dendy Opera Quays

Industry Forum with Dr Leonid PETROV and Dr Jane PARK

Sunday 11th September, 5:00pm @ ACMI Cinemas

Industry Forum with Al COSSAR, Christian WERE and Adrian MARTIN

For press releases, guest bios, scheduling interviews and more information about these sessions or other events at the Korean Film Festival in Australia 2011, please contact Kieran Tully.

키에른 털리

Marketing & Festival Manager | Korean Cultural Office | kieran.tully@koreanculture.org.au

Marketing Director | Korean Film Festival | kieran.tully@koffia.com.au

Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth St, Sydney, NSW, 2000

T: +61 (2) 8267 3477 | F: +61 (2) 8267 3401 | M: +61 (0) 424 161 501

We hope to see you at the festival.


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October 20, 2011

N.Korea Appears to Crackdown on Choco Pies in Kaesong

Source: englishnews@chosun.com


The amount of Choco Pie snacks consumed by North Korean workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean project located in the North, has dropped significantly, according to sources on Wednesday.

One South Korean merchant who has been supplying the popular treat to the complex said, "The amount that I supplied suddenly dropped by around 30 to 40 percent last month." He added, "If other suppliers are facing the same situation, then the total amount of Choco Pie snacks consumed daily by North Korean workers there probably dropped from 200,000 to less than 150,000."

Pyongyang apparently told owners of South Korean businesses there to provide cash or instant noodles to North Korean workers instead of Choco Pie snacks. This has prompted North Korea experts to speculate that Pyongyang feels the chocolate-coated snacks are making it tougher for Kim Jong-il to maintain control over his people.

Since the complex was launched in 2004, Choco Pies have become the most popular South Korean product not only among North Korean workers at Kaesong, but also in the entire country. Many workers developed the habit of taking their quota of the snacks home after work to share with their impoverished family members and friends, or to sell them.

One source familiar with North Korean affairs said, "Three Choco Pie snacks are worth 100 g of rice in open-air markets. They seem to have served as catalysts for the country's market economy."

A South Korean government source said, "Products like Choco Pies, which are individually wrapped, have the effect of advertising the high quality of South Korean products to North Koreans."

"It looks like officials in the North have singled out Choco Pies as an agent that may be spreading anti-Socialist values from the South," he added.

Excerpt copied from


Of course no mention of North Korea and Choco Pies would be complete without looking back to the 2000 Chan-Wook Park domestic blockbuster 공동경비구역 JSA (Joint Security Area) and one of the better scenes from that film (not quite a classic, but well worth a viewing). In it, the unlikely group of North and South soldiers are having a friendly hangout in the former’s sentry post with DPRK Army Sergeant Oh (Kang-ho Song) happily stuffs his face with a Choco Pie while bemoaning the inability of his nation to produce such a treat. This leads his Southern counterpart Sgt. Lee (Byung-hun Lee) to suggest he defect and eat all the cakes he wanted. The first broach of this taboo subject causes the suddenly silent Oh to indignantly spit the mashed up pie into his hand and loudly proclaim his dream to one day see his great land produce a confection of such high quality, before returning the mass of chocolate and marshmallow to his mouth. The scene really sets the tone for what is off-limits in the unusual relationship being forged between the soldiers which has further meaning later on. Most likely anyone who even watched the film even in passing had this highlight stick with him, so perhaps this is the source of the “Choco Pies of freedom” meme. Just as the snack failed to pull the soldier across the border, however, so to is it unlikely to really cause fear in North Korean leadership.

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November 9, 2011

Hop the Border with KOFIC’s Movie Magic

Published By JonDunbar The Korea Blog

Have you ever gone on a trip to the DMZ? It can be a stressful experience with all the rules, the soldiers watching you, and the off-chance that something really bad could happen while you’re there.


A typical scene at the JSA

Literally one wrong step, and you could trigger an international incident. But that will never happen, with all the soldiers making sure you don’t do something stupid.

Or will it?


Pictured: something stupid

If you want to get the Panmunjeom experience, there are three options available to you: go on the official tour, or watch the Park Chanwook film JSA, or...


...Visit the film set.

That’s right, there’s a nearly full-size movie set version of the Joint Security Area, the iconic meeting point for North and South Korean forces, and it’s all open to the public.

In fact, did you recognise that picture at the top of this article? Unless Song Kang-ho has defected, that’s not the real Panmunjeom.

Here’s another look at the area, in a clip from the film.

Yet another far more humorous scene shot here, for a project by Planet B-Boy.

You can find this, and other movie sets, at the Namyangju KOFIC Studios, reportedly the largest filmmaking studio in Asia, covering 1.32 million square meters.

There are a few differences between this reconstruction and the real thing. Aside from the decay, the real Panmungak (the building on the North Korean side) has since added a third storey since the era of this film. As well, there isn’t a hill behind the real Panmungak. The Military Demarcation Line is more of a concrete step, whereas at the movie studio it’s more of a yellow speed bump.


And most telling, there are no cardboard cutouts of North and South Korean soldiers at the real JSA.

Best of all, visitors have free rein over the whole area. Although you can’t go inside the reconstruction of Panmungak, you can climb the Freedom House Pagoda and go inside one of the blue buildings, which is decorated with pictures from the movie.


Intense negotiations

Some of the movies filmed here include JSA, as well as Shiri, The Host, Taegukgi, Dasepo Naughty Girl, King and Clown, and The Duelist. There are also indoor exhibits, including a center for authentic props and costumes, a sound effect studio, and a courtroom set, but the true joy of visiting is in wandering the outdoor movie sets unsupervised.

After the JSA set, which was also used in the films East Sea and Mt Baekdu and The Super Family, you can visit a variety of sets depicting traditional Korean buildings. Higher up the hill is the traditional Korean house Woondang, a roof-tile house that was moved here from its original location in Jongno-gu, Seoul in 1994.

You can also wander through a 19th century reconstruction of Joseon Dynasty-era Jongno, used in the filming of Chihwaseon in 2002 and more recently of Detective K (Joseon Detective).


Cleaning up

Most of the buildings are empty shells, only needed for their exteriors, but a few of them are fully furnished.


Inside one house, you can find prop books left behind from old productions.

If you don’t see the appeal of visiting Namyangju KOFIC Studios, you’re no fun. Also, you probably gave up on this article already. It’s like visiting a folk village, only more hands-on, less crowded, and without all the educational value and the restrictions of a regular tourist site.


A Joseon market sits in front of Panmunjeom.

Unfortunately visits to the studio are at the mercy of genuine filming schedules, but that’s a small price to pay to see Korea’s filmmakers in action. Also, it seems that some sets aren’t permanent, as the Joseon-era marketplace and red-light district of The Duelist is no longer where it used to be.

Operating hours:

March to October: 10am to 6pm

November to February: 10am – 5pm (admission until 4 pm)

Closed every Monday and major statutory holiday


Adult: 3000 won

Student: 2500won

Children: 2000won

To get there, you can catch the Jungang Line to Ungilsan Station, where a free shuttle bus will bring you up into the mountains where the set is located. Buses depart every day at 8:50am, 11:25am, 1:25pm, 2:25pm, and 3:25pm, with the last bus taking you back departing at 5:15pm. It is open all through winter, closing at 5pm in November to February. You can get more information (in Korean) from the official site.

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March 5, 2012

Film Recommendations

Fifteen Films of the New Korean Cinema (Part One)

BY MARTIN CLEARY newkoreancinema.com

Although I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of ‘best of’ lists I do recognise that they can often be a shortcut into a subject that the reader may not be familiar with. One the questions I was asked recently by a reader of the site was to suggest fifteen films which would provide a good introduction to the last decade, or so, of New Korean Cinema. I’ve given plenty of recommendations of different films in the past, but it’s a task that doesn’t get any easier – the sheer scope of Korea’s output means that it’s hard to represent every filmmaker, idea, genre, etc. The list below is the answer that I gave a few weeks ago, although I also admitted in my original reply that if I was asked the same question a week later that the list would probably have changed. I may have done so since I originally complied it. I thought it might be interesting to post this at the start of this years Korean Blogathon, so here’s Part One of a list of some of the films that I personally think are a pretty good introduction to Korean cinema, given in chronological order and with my original brief comments why I’d chosen these particular titles:

Christmas In August (Hur Jin-ho, 1998)

Although it’s not the most popular in the West, the key film genre in Korea has historically been the melodrama. Christmas In August is a brilliantly subdued melodrama in which a photographer and a a traffic warden strike up a friendship. He doesn’t tell her that he is dying, and this drama runs throughout the background of this brilliantly acted, beautifully underplayed character piece. It’s very moving. The two leads from the film (Han Suk-kyu and Shim Eun-ha) became a massively popular on-screen couple in Korea and they were cast again as the leads in Tell Me Something – a very different film, more akin to the the tone of David Finchers Se7en (1995).

Peppermint Candy (Lee Chang-dong, 1999)

Lee Chang-dong isn’t the most commercial filmmaker (in the West he’s considered more ‘art-house’) but his films are very popular in Korea and he tackles subjects such as history, politics, old age, illness and makes very slow but very moving dramas. Peppermint Candy may not be his best film but it’s probably his most accessible – it tells the story of a mans life in backwards, starting with his death, and travels back in time over key moments in recent Korean political history. It’s very powerful film with excellent performances and a worthy introduction to one of Korea’s greatest filmmakers.

Nowhere to Hide (Lee Myung-se, 1999)

There’s no other filmmaker quite like Lee Myung-se, in Korea or elsewhere. A director who experiments and toys with the format of film itself. Nowhere To Hide has a very basic plot – a cop is looking for a gangster – but its narrative is told through the most bizarre, unique and visually interesting way possible. The film was distributed in the UK and the US, although audiences seemed to be a little bit confused by it, especially as the distributor attempted to align the film with the recent popularity of Hong Kong cinema, but while Lee Myung-se takes, steals and borrows from all kinds of imagery there’s no clear comparison to be made with any other filmmaker or genre to be made. Lees other films are also highly recommended, particularly Duelist (2005) which experiments with style in a period setting.

Shiri (Kang Je-kyu, 1999)

This was Korea’s first big-budget blockbuster and it’s a bit rough around the edges but its a very interesting cold-war action thriller. Featuring a cast who would all become big stars, including Song Kang-ho (The Host), Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) and Kim Yun-jin (the US television series ‘Lost’). The North / South plot was, at the time, bordering on the controversial.

J.S.A. – Joint Security Area (Park Chan-wook, 2000)


A more serious film than Shiri, J.S.A. also deals with North / South relations – its the story of an investigation into a shooting in the DMZ and the North and South soldiers involved. It’s still a very powerful film, one of Park Chan-wooks best, and boasts great performances from actors who would become even bigger stars including Song Kang-ho (Shiri), Lee Byung-hun (A Bittersweet Life) and Shin Ha-kyun (Sympathy For Mr Vengeance). Director Park Chan-wook went onto make probably the most well-known Korean film worldwide with Oldboy, which forms part of the ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ which has been incredibly influential around the globe and is worth checking out.

My Sassy Girl (Kwak Jae-young, 2001)

Romantic comedies are incredibly popular in Korean cinema, and this is still one of the biggest box-office smashes. It’s a long film which is divided into three sections and tells the story of a young mans relationship with a girl who doesn’t seem to conform to the normal expectations of Korean society. It’s a very funny film and was a massively popular across Asia and has been remade several times including a Japanese television series, and both Bollywood and Hollywood versions. Films continue to reference My Sassy Girl today and the two leads (Jun Ji-hyun and Cha Tae-hyun) remain big stars.

Part Two of this list will be posted tomorrow!

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March 11, 2012

Discovering Korean Cinema: J.S.A. Joint Security Area

Posted by Raelene Loong at KOFFIA Blog

To continue on from my entry on how I discovered Korean cinema, I've decided to talk about another film that really changed the way I looked at Korean film and the different ideas in cinema. My previous entry highlighted my first Kim Ki-duk experience, and it was the beginning of what I am today.

I raved about 3-Iron (2004) and how much I loved it to Kieran not long after that. I had already, by then, heard about a few big names in the Korean film world. Bong Joon-ho, Kim something or rather, another Kim this and that, and then - Park Chan-wook. I heard much about Old Boy (2003) throughout film school, here and there in pockets throughout the interwebs and still did not rush to see it. It was kind of like the hype around Kill Bill (2003). It's awesome, It's epic, It's amazing. Or so I had heard. Kieran had a couple of Park's films in his gargantuam of a DVD collection, one of which was J.S.A.: Joing Security Area (2000), a film I had not heard about and had little interest to see at the time. The title alone was uninteresting - that and I had little concrete knowledge of the DMZ and the current situation between the North and South. I looked past all of this and decided to give it a go.

I'll be absolutely honest with you: I could not and did not get through the first 20 minutes of the film in my first viewing. It was all talk, no substance to me. I wasn't paying attention to the lengthy discussions between Lee Young-ae's character and Mr Tall Swiss man, who to me seemed like an excuse of a 'white' man in an Asian film. I fell asleep, and looked no further past the beginning. Kieran had told me what a great film it was, and I simply could not see it. And that was that.

Some few months later, I picked it up again. I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. I had just heard it was a major box office success in Korea when it was first released, and was for a time the highest grossing film at the box office of all time in Korea. I kept at it, past the badly spoken English of Lee Young-ae's character (not knowing what a movie star she is) and strange B-grade film actor of Mr Tall Swiss man - and I was finally hooked. The plot was unexpected, and surprised me. I was blown away by its simple yet compelling story of a group of soldiers from the North and the South, and their 'forbidden' friendships built in a time of a cold, 59-year-old conflict.

What I thought was another suspenseful political thriller had turned out to be a compelling, heart-rending story of simple men parted by political indifference. Park chimes both humour and suspense so incredibly well, the suspense and feeling of the inevitable teeters throughout the film - even in scenes where the men play jokes on one another and make fun of their differences.

By the end of J.S.A: Joint Security Area, I was truly saddened by the fate of these characters. I was also upset and angry about having not had the patience to push through the lengthy interrogation scenes at the start of the film in my first viewing. The film had a powerful impact on me and it was clear to me that Korean film was a force to be reckoned with. I had never seen a film that explored two very different genres and at the same time intertwined them to create a completely different and wholesome experience for any viewer. To include humour and suspense (and politics!) into a film, especially one that covers a current issue and conflict, Park had created a masterpiece.

It is only in Korean cinema that I have noticed this meshing of genres into films so incredibly well. And while it may not seem like the most seamless combination at times, the end result is almost always rewarding. I can think of many other films I have seen that exemplify this - Poongsan (2011), Sunny (2011), Thirst (2009), Breathless (2008), The Host (2006), Oasis (2002) and even My Sassy Girl (2001) is a perfect, quirky example of this.

Korean cinema continues to surprise me time after time. Just as 3-Iron did, J.S.A: Joint Security Area really opened my eyes to great filmmaking and stories that will stay with me for many weeks to follow. Just like J.S.A, I feel that many of these stories have a certain rawness to them, as if there is a real honesty to them. They are never quite fantastical, and even if they are, their worlds feel honest and true.

This is what I love about Korean cinema. This is why I am where I am today, two years down the road from the start of the first Korean Film Festival and now on to our third in 2012. Expanding to more cities by the year, Korean film should be shared with everyone across Australia, and onwards throughout the world. In a few years to come, Korean film will be bigger than contemporary Japanese film and I am certain of it.

I hope my two entries and the rest of what the Korean Film Blogathon have produced this year spark something within you. Perhaps a hunger for more Korean film, or perhaps piqued an interest in you for what Korean film has to offer. I urge you to take notice of Korean cinema today. It is more than what it looks, and you will not be left unsatisfied.

Raelene Loong


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November 30, 2005

Namyangju Studio Complex

Source: Dynamic-Korea via hancinema.net

There is a place that has everything it takes to make a movie, except for the script. The Namyangju Studio Complex has all the facilities and equipment needed to make a movie, from start to finish, from shooting to postproduction. With its high-tech digital equipment, expert workers, and internationally certified technical manpower, it is one of the hidden forces behind the Korean movie renaissance.

Located at San 100, Sambong-ri, Joan-myeon, Namyangju, a 40-minute drive from Seoul, a big sign announces the approach to the Namyangju Studio Complex. As you follow the quiet paved road with woods on both sides, buildings begin to appear between the mountain slopes and then the outdoor sets of the studio complex come into view. It is hard not to exclaim when you see these impressive facilities that are designed to re-create the fantasy world of the movies.

On a total land area of 1.32 million square meters, there are a 100,000-square-meter outdoor set, a 1,320- square-meter stage with six studios, a set for period pieces, a courtroom set, filmmaking support facilities, and a building for post-production facilities. As such, Namyangju Studio Complex is the mecca of filmmaking in Korea.

Construction on the complex, the largest filmmaking studio in Asia, began in 1991 and was finished in 1997. The studio was built to create the necessary infrastructure for the film industry and a center for the promotion of animation technology.

Such major Korean films as Sopyonje, Shiri, JSA - Joint Security Area, Chwihwaseon - "Strokes of fire", Silmido, and Taegukgi were all produced with the facilities and equipment at Namyangju.

The outdoor set is completely shut off from outside noise such as airplanes and cars and from public access, providing the best possible filming conditions and making any kind of shooting possible. Any kind of movie can be made here by modifying an existing set or making a new one,.

Some famous sets have been preserved, including the sets for JSA - Joint Security Area, a hit film that depicted the pain of national division; Chwihwasun - "Strokes of fire", a Joseon Dynasty period piece about the life of painter Jang Seung-eop; and Open for Business, which re-creates a small town of the 1980s.

Among these, the JSA - Joint Security Area open set, a re-creation of the truce village of Panmunjeom, is so real that it conveys the same sense of tension as the real thing, which is a tragic reminder of the pain of national division and the ever-present possibility of war. Panmunjeom is a small place no more than 800 meters square, established by North Korea and the UN forces after the signing of the Korean War Ceasefire Agreement. Officially called the "Joint Security Area", it is a special place outside the administrative control of both South and North Korea.

The JSA - Joint Security Area set production team, recognizing that it would be impossible to film at Panmunjeom, going back and forth from South to North, visited the real location several times and after a process of detailed design work and historical investigation, they re-created the truce village.

Other sets that are popular with visitors to the Namyangju studios are the folk village that re-creates the flavor of old Korea, the traditional house, or hanok set, and the courtroom set.

The folk village is where Chwihwasun was filmed. Directed by Im Kwon-taek, one of the Korean film industry, the movie depicts the life of Joseon artist Jang Seung-eop. This open set, featuring a re-creation of Seoul's Jongno area at the end of the 19th century, covers a total area of 9,140 square meters, the largest set ever built in Korea. The buildings include 26 tile-roof houses and 31 thatch-roof houses in areas for the aristocrats and the middle classes, as well as restaurants, shops and taverns.

The hanok set, named Undang, is an actual late Joseon Dynasty house from Unni-dong in Jongno-gu, Seoul, which was moved to the Namyangju Studio Complex in 1994. It is a typical tile-roof house of the gentry, the kind that was found in Hanyang (now Seoul) and Gyeonggi-do province. The house always appears in historical movies and is also famous as a venue for baduk (Korean board game) competitions.

Namyangju also has a courtroom set. Movies often feature court scenes but real courts are difficult to rent, so the courtroom set was built as a way to reduce shooting time as well as costs, thus contributing to production efficiency.

In addition, there are six indoor studios ranging from small to big, and in these any kind of indoor set can be built. Studio 1 is a big space that can accommodate all kinds of productions, from feature films to ads and special productions. One big set or several small sets can be built under one roof to maximize efficiency of space and time.

Studios 2 and 3 are multipurpose, all-weather studios for TV and movie productions, equipped with state-ofthe-art lighting systems. Studio 5 has a water tank 1.2 meters deep and is the only place in Korea for underwater filming using miniatures and all sorts of special effects. Studios 6 and 7 are small studios used for feature films, short films and filming using miniatures.

Movie production facilities at the Namyangju Studio Complex include support facilities, a film laboratory, a sound recording studio and the lodging house Chunsa Hall.

The Film Support Center contains the Visual Experience Education Center, the props and costumes warehouse, the courtroom set, the film museum, and convenience facilities such as shops, restaurants and offices. The Film Hall contains the recording studio for dialogue, special effects and music, and facilities for various events such as seminars and film previews.

The recording studio, operated on the basis of knowhow accumulated over the past 30 years, enables both analog and multi-channel digital sound recording. The film laboratory, opened by the Korean Film Commission in 1980, has an annual capacity of 45 million feet for feature films, and 8 million feet for short films, which puts it on a par with the best facilities of its kind in the world.

The special visual effects studio, opened in May 2000, was established with the aim of promoting animated movies and digital effects based purely on Korean technology. It allows real-time production thanks to a line-up of high-tech equipment such as Inferno and Fire, production tools for 2D and 3D production, and the latest systems such as laser film recorders, digital scanners and film restoration equipment.

For members of the public, the Visual Experience Education Center provides film related training and research, and support for independent films and noncommercial works. It has the manpower and equipment to conduct education in filmmaking and develops and operates systematic programs for anyone, including teenagers and children, interested in movies, acting and animation.

For those working on films at the Namyangju Studio Complex, the Chunsa Hall offers accommodations and convenience facilities.

It is evident that the Namyangju Studio Complex has everything needed to make a movie. Indeed, it is a barometer of the status of the Korean film industry. This is why it is crowded on weekends and even on weekdays with people who want to see how and where movies are made.

Korean films are now advancing beyond the Asian film market to the international market. They are exported overseas at high prices and Korean actors and directors are winning awards in international film festivals.

The Namyangju Studio Complex and its active support is one of the things that has made the revival and increased status of the Korean film industry possible. As the mecca of Korean movie production, it will continue to be a firm pillar supporting the film industry.

Source: Pictorial Korea Oct 2005 edition.

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Full credit and complete article (232 movies listed) HERE

March 22, 2011

Best Of, South Korean Cinema.

by Eric-Scissorhands imdb.com

I LOVE Asian Cinema. Films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan as well as a few South East Asian features. However, for the past few years Ive been noticing a trend... a lot of the truly GREAT, Original films Asian or Non Asian alike have been coming out of SOUTH Korea. It seems they have been going through a "film renaissance" in the past few years and have been releasing great film after great film after another.

Today their film industry reminds me of how Hollywood used to be, from way back in the 70's BEFORE they started remaking EVERYTHING and adapting every comic book and video game there is (and doing a horrible job mind you), back when the movies that came out were original and superbly directed.

Ive compiled a list of some of the Best South Korean films Ive seen so far. And if you're anything like me, burnt out on crappy Superhero films (not counting the Nolan Batman Trilogy of course.), Pointless Horror Sequels and more mindless Hollywood turds, Feel free to give this list a look through and provide a few suggestions if i missed any notable ones... im always upen to "discover" more gems.

1. Oldboy (2003) 8.4/10

2. I Saw the Devil (2010) 7.8/10

“ No one does Modern Revenge films quite like East Asian Cinema.

Another instant Classic. Brutal stuff. ” - Eric-Scissorhands

3. Memories of Murder (2003) 8.1/10

4. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004) 8.1/10

5. Castaway on the Moon (2009) 8.0/10

6. J.S.A.: Joint Security Area (2000) 7.8/10

“ Another Great, Great film from master story teller Chan Wook Park. ” - Eric-Scissorhands

7. Lady Vengeance (2005) 7.7/10

8. Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005) 7.7/10

9. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003) 8.1/10

10. My Sassy Girl (2001) 8.1/10

11. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) 7.8/10

12. A Bittersweet Life (2005) 7.7/10

“ Imagine if Tony Montana SURVIVED the hit put out on him at the end of Scarface. Thats what this film expands on, after refusing to execute a woman, Korean Gangster Sun-woo gets beaten half to death, tortured, and even buried alive, he somehow escapes and takes REVENGE on the people who wronged him up until the highly stylized climactic shootout, there is even a great homage to Taxi Driver at the end. ” - Eric-Scissorhands

13. The Man from Nowhere (2010) 7.8/10

14. The Host (2006) 7.0/10

15. A Moment to Remember (2004) 8.2/10

16. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) 7.3/10

17. 3-Iron (2004) 8.0/10

18. The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) 7.4/10

19. Crying Fist (2005)7.4/10

20. Thirst (2009) 7.1/10

21. Mother (2009) 7.9/10

22. The Chaser (2008) 7.9/10

23. The Classic (2003) 7.7/10

24. Save the Green Planet! (2003) 7.4/10

25. Peppermint Candy (1999) 7.7/10

26. Poetry (2010) 7.7/10

27. Failan (2001) 7.7/10

28. Bedevilled (2010) 7.2/10

29. Oasis (2002) 7.9/10

30. I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006) 7.0/10

31. Mr. Socrates (2005) 6.5/10

32. Secret Sunshine (2007) 7.4/10

33. The Warrior (2001) 7.3/10

34. Some (2004) 6.1/10

35. Public Enemy (2002) 7.1/10

36. Samaritan Girl (2004) 7.2/10

37. Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) 7.0/10

38. Kiss Me, Kill Me (2009) 6.9/10

39. The City of Violence (2006) 6.7/10

40. The Coast Guard (2002) 6.5/10

41. A Brand New Life (2009) 7.3/10

42. The King and the Clown (2005) 7.5/10

43. Arahan (2004) 6.7/10

44. Guns & Talks (2001) 6.9/10

45. The Bow (2005) 7.1/10

46. The Show Must Go On (2007) 7.1/10

47. The Isle (2000) 7.0/10

48. Time (2006) 7.2/10

49. No Mercy for the Rude (2006) 7.3/10

50. The Recipe (2010) 7.0/10

51. Attack the Gas Station! (1999) 6.9/10

52. Daisy (2006) 7.3/10

53. The Housemaid (2010) 6.6/10

54. Address Unknown (2001) 7.3/10

55. Friend (2001) 7.3/10

56. Last Present (2008) 7.2/10

57. A Dirty Carnival (2006) 7.5/10

58. The Quiet Family (1998) 7.0/10

59. Die Bad (2000) 7.0/10

60. Christmas in August (1998) 7.6/10

61.To Sir with Love (2006) 6.0/10

62.Treeless Mountain (2008) 7.0/10

63. Holy Daddy (2006) 6.3/10

64. Painted Fire (2002) 7.1/10

65. The World of Silence (2006) 7.1/10

66. Secret Reunion (2010) 7.1/10

67. Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000) 6.9/10

68. Punch Lady (2007) 7.2/10

69. Fighter in the Wind (2004) 6.9/10

70. The Foul King (2000) 7.0/10

71. Breathless (2008) 7.5/10

72. The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (2004) 7.5/10

73. Champion (2002) 6.5/10

74. Shadowless Sword (2005) 6.5/10

75. Driving with My Wife's Lover (2006) 6.5/10

76. My Brother (2004) 7.2/10

77. Three... Extremes (2004) 7.1/10

“ Chan-wook Park (segment "Cut") ” - Eric-Scissorhands

78. Hahaha (2010) 6.8/10

79. Man of Vendetta (2010) 6.8/10

80. The Way Home (2002) 7.5/10

81. Addicted (2002) 7.2/10

82. Rules of Dating (2005) 6.5/10

83. No. 3 (1997) 6.7/10

84. Windstruck (2004) 7.1/10

85. The Yellow Sea (2010) 7.3/10

86. Bad Guy (2001) 6.8/10

87. More Than Blue (2009) 7.2/10

88. Acacia (2003) 5.8/10

89. Into the Mirror (2003) 6.5/10

90. Murder, Take One (2005) 6.4/10

91. Feathers in the Wind (2004) 7.3/10

92. With a Girl of Himalaya (2008) 6.7/10

93. Marriage Is a Crazy Thing (2002) 7.3/10

94. Oishii Man (2008) 7.1/10

95. Antarctic Journal (2005) 6.3/10

96. Take Care of My Cat (2001) 7.3/10

97. Maundy Thursday (2006) 7.3/10

98. Il Mare (2000) 7.6/10

99. Lover's Concerto (2002) 7.3/10

100. Enemy at the Dead End (2010) 7.1/10


106. Once in a Summer (2006) 7.2/10

124. The Harmonium in My Memory (1999) 7.3/10

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. . . my first Lee Byung Hun movie . . . and, it's still the best for me . . . thanks rubie . . . such a nice article from imdb . . . and this list a lot of LBH's movies . . . now, i'm anticipating his role in GI Joe: Retaliation

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