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THE UNJUST 부당거래

FOOD CHAINS OF BEASTS WITH CLASHES OF DESIRE

By HAN Sun hee (August 10, 2010)

Directed by RYOO Seung-wan (류승완)

Hwang Jeong-min (황정민)

Ryoo Seung-beom (류승범)

Yoo Hae-jin (유해진)

Song Sae-byeok (송새벽)

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March 3, 2009

Korean action king, director Ryoo Seung-wan has a new project in development, a US $3 million thriller titled "I Enforce" (renamed to "The Unjust"). To be featured in the upcoming Hong Kong - Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) (March 23-25), the director's seventh film will combines elements from his two previous festival hits: the human drama of "Crying Fist" (2005) and the high-octane action of "The City of Violence" (2006).

The revenge thriller tells the story of Sae-hwang, a stunt-double who wakes up in the hospital one day only to be told that his beloved sister Saeri was raped and died in a drug-overdose. When the police investigation leads nowhere, Sae-hwang takes matters into his own hands, uncovering a trail of corruption that leads to Interpol, Russian gangs, and corrupt Korean officers involved in a syndicate of forced prostitution and drug trafficking.

RYOO wrote the script which is to be produced by KANG Hyeo-jeong and KIM Kyung-mi at RYOO's own production company Filmmaker R&K, Co. Ltd. The project expects to go into production in the latter half of 2009.

Nigel D'Sa (KOFIC) l hancinema.net

As the ‘Action Kid’ of the new millennium, RYOO Seungwan has been representing the young generation of Korean cinema. The 6 feature films he has directed so far were either homage to the history of genre films (Arahan , Dachimawa Lee ), or tended to be the action film version of realism where low lives fight for their survival (The City of Violence, Crying Fist ). At this point passing through a decade since his debut as a film director, RYOO Seung-wan is standing on a turning point, trying to make a different approach to a world he has never touched upon until now. The film emphasizing the world where the highest elites are networked instead of the low lives and stressing the noir-drama rather than experimenting on action genre, is just what The Unjust is.

The screenplay written by The Showdown ’s director PARK Hun-jeong expands centering on the dual between the police and the prosecution. Homicide detective CHOI Chul-gi (HWANG Jung-min, Blades of Blood ) has the highest arrest rate in his department but his name never makes it on the promotion list as he is not a police university graduate. When a prime suspect of a high profiled serial murder case dies during the arrest, high officials of the police agency order Chul-gi to pull some strings to ‘create’ a trustworthy new suspect. For his successful career, Chul-gi decides to seize the chance and makes a deal with JANG Seok-gu (YOO Hae-jin), the boss of a gang he has been investigating and fabricate the suspect. Their moves fail to flow smoothly as JU Yang (RYOO Seung-bum), a young and ambitious prosecutor finds out about the plan. JU is being sponsored by JANG’s rival gang and for his own interest he watches Chul-gi under the microscope.

This is just the beginning of a more complicated story. With a cop trying to manipulate things to make someone a suspect of a serial murder case, The Unjust talks of various interests of different characters and their confrontations and unjust exchanges. The connection between the cop, the prosecutor and the mobs involved here cannot be summarized in a word or two. The film shows the chain effect where trivial delinquency will result in actions that are even worse through countless figures. As this personal trade of the cop and the prosecutor becomes involved with a bigger gang, the situation turns into a big inescapable swamp of entanglement.

In fact, the subject of cops or prosecutors from The Unjust is nothing foreign in Korean cinema. Even now, big and small incidents involving these two groups often make the news in Korean society. Accordingly The Unjust may seem like a Déjà vu for Korean audiences. Still the film shouldn’t be categorized as a thriller with social messages. Rather, it focuses on personal desire for survival and success, and follows how such desire came to exist in these characters, how the longings break and perish as they confront the organization. This is why RYOO Seung-wan compares the world in The Unjust to the crime novels by James ELLROY or Dennis LEHANE. Instead of presenting stylish actions, RYOO has chosen to create a concentrated drama focusing on the characters’ emotions set under the splendid yet barren backdrop of Seoul.

Source: cinematoday

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Thanks to
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MBC Section TV - Good Downloader Interview

Thanks to cafe.daum.net/goodbadweird - Smile LBH for sharing
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August 26, 2010

Gosh.. I totally missed this.. Hwang Jung Min-ssi and Jin Goo in a movie.. together?! And perhaps... Kim Min Hee, too. COOL!!! w00t.gif Love the catchy title.. :P oops.. it's automatically censored in soompi.. sweatingbullets.gif

Moby D i c k (2011)

A hot-blooded journalist (Hwang Jeong-Min) attempts to uncover the truth behind a mysterious bomb case. A soldier (Jin Ku) knows the truth behind the bomb case, but he flees from the army and is chased by powerful politicians ...

Source: http://asianmediawiki.com/Moby_Dick_(2011-Korean_Movie)

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Source: news.nate.com

September 26, 2010

Kim Min-hee in Moby D i c k

by girlfriday Via MT Star News dramabeans.com

Kim Min-hee (Love and Marriage, Goodbye Solo, Actresses) is slated to return to film in a production of…Moby D i c k ? What the…? Are people just running out of ideas?

It turns out that Moby D i c k is just a figurative title for an action-thriller involving an explosion, and the journalists who try to uncover the truth, going head-to-head with the people trying to cover it up. Ah, I see. Couldn’t you go with a figurative title that wasn’t…you know, a major literary work?

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news.nate.com

Fashionista and chameleon Kim Min-hee has been cast as a reporter, and Hwang Jung-min (That Fool), will play her sunbae, as they attempt to take on a massive conspiracy.

This will be Kim Min-hee’s big-screen comeback after her role in last year’s Actresses, and Moby D i c k will enter principal photography after the Chuseok holiday.

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October 5, 2010

Ryu’s new film tells tale of corruption

By Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldm.com) koreaherald.com

Cult writer-director and sometime actor Ryu Seung-wan’s latest crime saga “The Unjust” will take on a more subtle approach to the seductive mechanisms of corruption.

Speaking at the press conference announcing the film’s release, Ryu said the film forgoes elements of satire and instead is more concerned with examining how the film’s individual characters gradually lose their way as harbingers of law and justice.

There has been plenty of buzz surrounding the film, which has been described as an unapologetic look into corruption in the Korean justice system. “This film has its sights focused more on the consciousness of individual characters,” Ryu said.

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(From left) Yu Hae-jin, Ryu Seung-beom, Hwang Jeong-min, and director Ryu Seung-wan pose

for cameras after the press conference for upcoming crime thriller “The Unjust,” set to roll

out in theaters nationwide on Oct. 28. (Yonhap News)

“It takes on issues of corruption in the justice system specifically those who work for the metropolitan police department and the prosecutor’s office that are bankrolled by these shady real estate tycoons and clandestine organizations.”

“The film is in no way a critical look into the Korean justice system, but individuals.”

Headlined by the method acting tandem of Hwang Jeong-min and Ryu’s younger brother Ryu Seung-beom playing a crooked homicide detective and prosecutor, “The Unjust” marks a dramatic departure from Ryu’s usual over-the-top style.

Widely considered one of Korea’s top directors through acclaimed hits like “Crying Fist,” “No Blood, No Tears,” and “Arahan,” Ryu has for the past decade gained a modest following from passionate movie lovers through his pulpy crime thrillers and searing dramas about near low-lives.

The film centers on a botched investigation of a series of child murders that rock the country. When the likely suspect is unexpectedly killed, a patsy is chosen by the lead homicide detective Choi, played by Hwang. He does so with the help of his sponsor and real estate tycoon Jang (Yu Hae-jin) on the condition that all information regarding his criminal organization would be covered up.

With the case seemingly coming to a close, a rival real estate developer orders public prosecutor Ju (Ryu Seung-beom) to re-open the case and probe detective Choi’s investigation. “We tried to let these despicable characters tell the story rather than peel the layers of the plot through flashy direction,” Ryu said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the believable performances by the film’s cast and I’m not just saying this just as a formality. All of the actors, from the leads to the supporting cast, turned in great, dedicated performances.”

Working for the first time with material written for him, Ryu said he found it to be a liberating experience as it allowed him to be more objective during the editing process. “With films I wrote, it was difficult to be cold-hearted in cutting scenes out because I had a personal attachment to them,” Ryu said. “But with material written for me, I saw that I could be more decisive with what to keep and what to leave out.”

This is the fifth film in which Ryu has cast his younger brother. With the exception of “The City of Violence,” in which director Ryu starred himself, he has worked with his brother in all of his films. “My decision to cast him isn’t just because he’s my younger brother,” Ryu said. “It has mostly to do with the fact he’s a great actor and it’s comfortable for me to work with him.”

In response, the younger Ryu said, “A relationship between actor and director is always a professional one and it wasn’t any different in our case.” “Having said that, he is known as a tough director to work with, and there were times I wanted to smack him.” “Also, I was paid the same amount I would be paid for any other film. There was no, shady, under-the-table trade going on like our characters do in the film,” Ryu joked.

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October 8, 2010

Actors in their 40s draw highest audience

Source: Herald Online

The influence of actors varies according to their age. Recent statistics by Korea Film Council proves male actors in their 40s pull the highest audience figures. The experienced actors’ growing charisma and acting skills are just two of the reasons for their boost in popularity.

Song Kang-ho, 43, attracted the highest average number of viewers for his films. In the younger 20-40 age group, Ha Jung- woo, 32, was recorded as the most popular star.

Stars in their 40s’ Mighty Power: Song Kang-ho, Sul Kyung-gu and Jung Jae-young

Since 2005, the most popular films Song Kang-ho appeared as the lead in were “The Host” (2006), ‘”Thirst” (2009) and “Secret Reunion” (2010). In total, Song Kang-ho appeared in a main role in seven movies and attracted 28.8 million viewers.

Sul Kyung-gu, 42, followed Song Kang-ho for audience figures. He was as a main character in nine movies and attracted 26 million viewers.

Jung Jae-young ranked third for the total number of viewers, following Song Kang-ho and Sul Kyung-gu.

Since 2005, Hwang Jung-min, 40, played main roles in 10 movies, more films than any other actor.

Stars in their 30s, Ha Jung-woo’s heyday and Won Bin’s sudden rise

Ha Jung-woo has been nominated as the actor who played the most diverse roles in the last five years. “National Team, Take-off” (2009) and “The Chaser” (2008) were his most successful films. From the five movies he was cast in, Ha Jung-woo has had 14.3 million viewers.

Then there was the best comeback in some time, from Won Bin. After his military service, he came back to the big screen with “Mother” (2009) and this years’ hottest movie “The Man from Nowhere” (2010). After his comeback, Won Bin attracted over 9 million viewers.

Stars in their 20s, Kang Dong-won’s rise

Kang Dong-won, 29, has had unmatched numbers of viewers when compared to other actors in their 20s. After 2005, the five films he was cast in the leading role, including the “Voice of a Murderer,” appealed to 15 million viewers. Even film critics commended Kang Dong-won’s work as without fault. The only thing likely to interrupt his success is his need to serve in the military for two years, soon after the up-coming movie premier of “Psychics” (2010).

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Thanks to the fan-highlight & sharing at GBWcafe.daum 6354 & 6352

Good Downloader 2010 Star Supporters interview clip

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October 21, 2010

Dirty deals sell well in 'Unjust' conspiracy

By Lee Hyo-won (hyowlee@koreatimes.co.kr)

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Hwang Jung-min, right, appears in a scene from "The Unjust." The new conspiracy drama

by Ryu Seung-wan co-stars Ryu Seung-beom and Yu Hae-jin. /Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

Theatrics is not limited to show business ― a scriptwriting prosecutor, a police officer with a knack for producing a convincing mise-en-scene and a sponsor with acting skills can team up to stage the perfect conspiracy.

"The Unjust" takes the red-hot issue of sponsored prosecutors and spins it into solid, star-powered entertainment.

While devoid of the usual hip action that defined his earlier works, Ryu Seung-wan’s new film keeps the intrigue alive. It retains a critical view of social ills but does not drown in zealous preaching; rather it gives the noir subject matter an incisively witty and at times humorous ― though never light ― treatment, which is rendered all the more compelling by its talented cast.

"The Unjust" is essentially a story about natural selection in the urban jungle, an imperfect place where corruption pierces through the heart of law enforcement bodies.

A terrorizing serial murder seizes the entire country. But when there is no one to blame for the crime, and the pressure of direct presidential orders and the prospects of a promotion loom big, well, then, there are other ways to close the case: hire an actor and put on a show.

Cheol-gi (Hwang Jung-min), the police officer who is in charge of the case, is the best in the business but lacking the right pedigree, he has not been able to climb up the ladder. As the movie’s catch phrase says, "If there is no criminal, then make one," and when his desperate boss promises him a promotion Cheol-gi decides to jump right into a dirty deal to fool the public. He uses his sponsor, Seok-gu (Yoo Hae-jin), the head of a construction company, to hire an actor and the curtains close to a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Ju Yang (Ryu Seung-beom) has been sponsored by a real estate tycoon. But when Cheol-gi arrests his sponsor, Yang is determined to avenge the policeman for cutting off the generous financial support and starts digging around in order to retaliate. Just in time, Ju is asked to cover the serial murder case and during the course of the investigation, he discovers the illicit deal between Cheol-gi and Seok-gu, and proposes an arrangement of his own to Cheol-gi.

The narrative is largely propelled by the characters and their intentions as they become engaged in a complex web of power struggle and raw human desires. The film makes it clear why each character wants to become a part of the conspiracy but refrains from giving away all the facts and figures, whether or not they are telling the truth. It reveals just enough to keep the audience interested.

As fit for a crime drama, "The Unjust" surprises the viewer with one twist after another. However, such turns are far from providing cathartic thrills ― they rather evoke a sense of pity as they depict without a blink of an eye the weak-willed and violent nature of man.

Moreover, the power struggle is most interesting because there is no dominant power, as everyone is just snooping around, trying to capitalize on the weak points of others.

The fact alone that the director’s younger brother-cum-actor Ryu and the two other irreplaceable actors are joining forces has incited a great expectation for the film, and fans will not be disappointed.

In theaters Oct. 28. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.

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October 29, 2010

The Unjust (2010)

Source: englishnews@chosun.com

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Genres: Crime and Thriller

Running Time: 119 min.

Directed by: Ryoo Seung-wan

Starring: Ryoo Seung-bum, Hwang Jung-min, Yoo Hae-jin

Synopsis: A serial killer targeting elementary schoolchildren is on the loose, and 5 victims even get the president involved in the investigation. When the prime suspect dies in custody and the case looks like it's reached a dead end, high ranking police brass decide to create a killer. Although Detective Choi Cheol-ki boasts an incredible number of arrests over his career, his rank never showed it. He was framed and demoted for another crime and decides that this is his last chance at professional redemption. He makes a deal with the mob boss who he has been investigating, and together they decide to set up one of the existing suspects as the serial killer.

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Well done The Unjust panda1-1.gif Hwang JungMin-ssi!

November 1, 2010 Source: Seen in Jeonju

Korean Box Office: October 29-31

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Unjust took the top spot this week and, together with the owl animation Legend of the Guardians, knocked the previous first-ranked movie down to third place. Unjust actors (Ryu Seung-beom, Hwang Jeong-min and Yoo Hae-jin) were undoubtedly a big part of the draw to this film as all are extremely talented. The movie opened on about twice the number of screens as Legend of the Guardians, but pulled in 4 times the viewers over the weekend and is well on its way to overtaking Midnight FM’s attendance total despite that film having been number one for the past two weeks.

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November 1, 2010

New local film "The Unjust" tops weekend box office chart

Reporter: Heidi Kim heidikim @ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 1 l 2

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New Korean film "The Unjust," which opened on Saturday, took the top spot on the box office during the weekend of October 29 to 31.

Data released by the Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS) showed that "The Unjust" which opened in 573 theaters attracted a total of 616,496 viewers during the three-day period. The new film, an action-packed thriller that delves into widespread corruption which occurs within a prosecutors' office, stars some of the biggest names in Korea including Hwang Jeong-min, Ryoo Seung-beom and Yoo Hae-jin.

"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga 'Hoole," another newcomer distributed by America's Warner Bros., Claimed second place on the box office with 147,702 viewers. The pic is a computer-animated fantasy adventure film based on a novel by Kathryn Lasky.

"Midnight FM" which had topped the box office for the past two weeks, took two steps down to end at No. 3 with 145,990 viewers. Starring Soo Ae and Yoo Ji-tae, "Midnight FM" is a suspense movie about a radio deejay forced to confront a psychotic killer who intrudes into her house during a live broadcast of her show.

Other films that placed within the top 10 of the chart were "Paranormal Actvity: 2," "Banga? Banga! "," Cyrano Agency, "" Letters to Juliet, "" Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps "and" Reign of Assassins. "

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November 5, 2010

[Jainnie's Cine Korea]

A hard look at corruption with some unusual suspects

By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr] joongangdaily.com

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Choi Cheol-gi (Hwang Jeong-min), right, brings in an actor for questioning in a scene from “The Unjust.”

Provided by CJ Entertainment

In his latest film, “The Unjust,” Korea’s favorite action kid Ryu Seung-wan shows hidden depth as a competent director with an intricate story about corruption and moral decadence that avoids the pitfalls of political thriller cliches.

When news of a child getting murdered shocks and angers the nation, the pressure of a direct presidential order leads to a scheme organized by a dirty sponsor, Jang Suk-gu (Yoo Hae-jin), and an executive police officer, Choi Cheol-gi (Hwang Jeong-min). The two hire an actor to play the role of the criminal. At this point, public prosecutor Ju Yang (Ryu Seung-beom) gets involved and when Choi arrests Ju’s sponsor, a real estate mogul, Ju seeks revenge. But he accidentally finds out the scheme between the police officer and the dirty sponsor and uses this knowledge to his advantage.

The Unjust presents a web of characters typical of the political thriller genre, which usually has the bad guys conflicting with the good. The unsettling thing about The Unjust, however, is that all four characters are ultimately “bad” and it is hard for the audience to like any of them. None of them have an “aha!” moment that saves them from their corrupt ways. But while lesser films would try to squeeze some tears out of the audience, The Unjust remains unapologetic about the characters’ deception and unfortunate fate.

What saves their collective menace from appearing flat are their moments of weakness. Each encounter their “Hamlet with the bloody sword” moments in their own way, but none of them can swim out of the mess they are in.

The film’s conflicting themes - money versus status, justice versus personal gain, or the public against the state - show that struggle is relative and that no matter which side you are on, you are faced with decisions that have no guarantees.

Whether it is the criminal actor at the bottom of the food chain, the power-hungry police officer who strives for higher status, or the prosecutor who feels insecure about having gotten his job through personal connections, the characters all act based on fear, fueled by their own insecurity or greed.

In a mature step forward as a storyteller, director Ryu tempers his rebellious style to bring out a certain rawness in the sensitive, yet complicated plot.

*This film can be seen with English subtitles at four CGV theaters in Gangnam, Yongsan, Myeong-dong and Guro. CGV, in conjunction with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, plans to screen 20 Korean films with English subtitles throughout the year.

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November 8, 2010

"The Unjust" sees second box office win

Reporter: Heidi Kim heidikim @ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia 1 l 2

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Korean film "The Unjust" [CJ Enterainment]

Korean film "The Unjust" directed by Ryoo Seung-wan remained on top of the box office chart for second consecutive week.

According to the Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS) on Monday, "The Unjust" starring Hwang Jeong-min, Ryoo Seung-bum, Yoo Hae-jin and Cheon Ho-jin attracted 452,328 viewers during the weekend of November 5 to 7.

The movie, an action-packed thriller that delves into widespread corruption which occurs within a prosecutors' office, had debuted atop the box office after its premiere two weeks ago.

The second runner was US action film "Red," starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich, that premiered last Thursday with 181,690 visitors during the three-day period.

Another Korean film "Bad Couple" starring actor Lim Chang-jung and actress Uhm Ji-won came in third place selling 172,647 tickets followed by a new US supernatural horror flick titled "Devil" directed by M. Night Shyamalan with 56,630 tickets.

The 3D animation "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" came in fifth, after being sought by 55,914 moviegoers over the weekend.

Other blockbusters that settled in this week's top 10 chart included "No Doubt," "After Shock," "Paranormal Activity: 2" and "The Social Network."

[CHART] Weekend Box Office: November 5-7

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November 10, 2010

Hwang Jung-min's Music Picks

Senior Reporter: Kang Myoung-Seok two@ Photographer: Lee Jin-hyuk eleven@ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim@ <ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia

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Actor Hwang Jung-min [10 Asia]

Let’s start out like the “Knee-drop Guru” of the MBC variety show “Golden Fishery.” What is actor Hwang Jung-min’s biggest worry? His answer: “I want to improve my acting.” For some actors who needs that far more than Hwang does, what with pronunciation problem and all that, Hwang’s worries will stand as a big question mark.

After all this was the man who appeared as the charismatic gang boss in the film “A Bittersweet Life (2005),” the same guy who received rich praises with his heart-rendering act in the film “You Are My Sunshine (2005)” the same year and the one that gave the famous speech “I merely laid a spoon on the table (while the credit goes to the director and all the staff members that arranged everything from storyline to setting,)” in the award ceremony -- and he is worried about his acting now.

“They’re not worries about technical parts. Don’t we have worries for 30s when you turn 30 and worries for 40s when you turn 40? It’s something like that. If most of my worries during my youth were about how to express the character well, my worries I have now is different.” Indeed, it goes beyond just understanding and acting out the character perfectly, to have himself fully immerse into the story.

“When I was working on the drama “The Accidental Couple (2009)” people asked me whether the tight schedule was burning me out. Actually I felt more comfortable that way. Because the shooting schedule continued to ho on, I could just sleep on the spot wearing the clothes of the character I play, making it much easier for me to get absorbed into that role,” said Hwang. Like a Zen riddle he explained he wanted to act like he’s not acting and currently looking for ways to reach that goal. This issue is probably not limited to acting for Hwang. Just like worries for 30s differ from that in the 20s, Hwang seems to be preparing for another leap in his acting career that suits his age. 10Asia therefore asked Hwang to recommend music that reminds Hwang of his life and his acting career he has paved for himself so far, the kind that brings back his youthful memories.

1. 2010111018563549344_2.jpgJackson Browne “Load Out/Stay”

Hwang recommended Jackson Browne’s “Load Out/Stay” the instant 10 Asia spoke of music recommendation. Browne who is often referred a troubadour of piano music is known to provide a moment of deep speculation with his music. Hwang came across his song in Germany. “I was invited to Germany for the musical “Line 1.” After the performance there was a beer party. That was a rare gesture from the organizers who prepared out of respect for our writer and director Kim Min-gi. And then one of the staff members with Browne’s CD turned then music on. We all put our arms around each others’ shoulders and sang a song. It was an unforgettable moment.”

2. 2010111018563549344_3.jpgKim Min-gi’s “Past Life Of Kim Min-gi”

Speaking of director Kim Min-gi, 10Asia also asked Hwang to recommend his favorite among Kim’s songs as well. “But Mr. Kim wouldn’t like having his music recommended like this,” Hwang said with a hesitant smile, probably because he didn’t want to cause even the slightest complications to the man who was his teacher when he was in his 20s and also a great musician whose song “Morning Dew” swept the whole country in the 70s. Hwang took his time choosing “Bongwoori (mountaintop)” among many songs in Kim’s album “Past Life of Kim Min-gi.” “The acting experience in “Line 1” had a great impact in my life. I believe the reason I managed to hang on to the film business this long is because of that experience. In that sense Kim’s music is my energizer, especially this piece “Bongwoori.”

3. 2010111018563549344_7.jpgPierre Van Dormael’s “Le Huitieme Jour”

The third album Hwang recommended was the soundtrack of the 1996 film “Le Huitieme Jour (The Eight Day).” “It’s a story of friendship between a patient with Down’s syndrome and a man who teaches business techniques,” Hwang said calmly. “When you get past the youthful years you start thinking more about work and life. This is what happens to the protagonist of “Le Huitieme Jour.” The movie shows that you have to start feeling responsible for others as your innocence slips away, very moving in that sense. I got me thinking that don’t we all agonize about it once we get even older? I can still hear the main theme of the movie.”

4. 2010111018563549344_4.jpgKim Kwang-seok’s “Kim Kwang-seok’s Life Story”

Who could talk about youth in the 90s without mentioning the legendary folk rock singer Kim Kwang-seok? It’s been a while since the rocker passed away yet he continues to stand in the center of Hwang’s memory. “I love all of Kim’s performances. I even did part-time job for his performance. I was only a student at the time and I still remember how everything. Once he was performing in Daehangno district and there were lines stretched all the way outside the concert building. Because people kept coming in all the seats were filled up instantly leaving many others to sit on the aisle all the way up to the stage. At the end the concert hall got so packed that the only space left was the place for rocker Kim to sing. So during the performance Kim had himself surrounded by all these people singing to his song right next to him.

5. 2010111018563549344_5.jpgBobby Kim’s first album “Beats Within My Soul”

“The fellow actor Ryoo Seung-beom ‘ can really sing “Falling in Love Again,” ha ha,” said Hwang. He chose Bobby Kim’s album, especially the song “Falling in Love Again (Feat Kim Young-geun)” as his final music pick. Bobby Kim is musician who covered wide genres of music starting with reggae then hip hop, R&B and ballad and made it into his own style. He is one of the best musicians to portray the sentiment of Korean male. “The song “Falling in Love Again” is different from the lyrics. In the song there appears a whale leaving in search of something. There is hope to it but pain as well in the process of searching for the dream. It’s just like our life. The answer probably lies within that searching process.”

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November 11, 2010

[REVIEW] Film "The Unjust"

Reporter: Wee Geun-woo eight@ Editor: Heidi Kim heidikim@ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim@ <ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia

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The film "The Unjust [CJ Entertainment]

In film “The Unjust,” detective Dae-ho (Ma Dong-seok) calls his boss Choi Cheol-gi (Hwang Jung-min) 'big brother.' Dae-ho’s son too addresses Choi as 'uncle.' Some may regard it as being courteous to an older person (according to Korean manners) but it is an entirely different story when one who graduated from the Korea National Police University refers to someone from another school as his senior. One of the excuses that Choi’s superior Gang (Cheon Ho-jin) uses to persuade Choi to join in the big scam of the movie is his promise to help Choi’s own 'little brothers' advance in society. It is this family-like loyalty and friendship within the organization that fuels Choi’s team. Furthermore, Cheol-gi does have the ability and charisma fit to be called a 'big brother.' Thanks to Cheol-gi’s competency and the hard efforts of his perfectly loyal 'brothers,' his team rises as the ace among the metropolitan investigation unit.

To put it simple, Choi meets all the necessary conditions to be the hero of a movie. He is one tough guy, swift in capturing big business tycoons and adept in even handling public prosecutors. He was “the” big brother who had many loyal 'little brothers,' and even his failure to get promoted for not being a Policy University graduate only added to his heroic image. However “The Unjust” is not a movie about heroes. In this movie that largely focuses on the clash between policeman Cheol-gi and prosecutor Ju Yang (Ryoo Seung-beom) with ugly cases which continuously arise in-between, the most clear outcome is Cheol-gi's downfall.

Of course, it all started with Cheol-gi accepting the 'unjust' deal. Nonetheless, the deal was only a trigger to his decline, since the real reason behind Cheol-gi's speedy collapse had much more to do with the widespread corruption that already existed within his family-like organization. On the surface, paternalism in Cheol-gi's group looks humane and peaceful enough, the way they share soju in broad daylight and worry for each other. But such kind of peace was only possible because Cheol-gi looked the other way when his 'little brothers' received bribes from local arcades.

For all the “righteous” ordinary people

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The film "The Unjust" [CJ Entertainment]

This is why Cheol-gi’s downfall in “The Unjust” is not met with sympathy but rather with sarcasm toward the epic of a Korean-style hero who puts smartness and loyalty above all other principles. More precisely, it is about Koreans’ typical preference for someone smart and well-off. Let us face it. Although Cheol-gi was hardly a 'righteous' guy he was definitely smart, capable and loyal at his workplace. Cheol-gi was the last person to contribute to making this society a brighter and just place but at the same time the kind of guy we often make a hero out of.

We may be living in the 21st century yet we still have people in support of the Yushin Regime (1972-1979) that argue that although the late President Park Chung-hee's (1917-1979) dictatorship and violation of human rights was problematic, one should still acknowledge his charisma made economic growth possible. The same nostalgia applies for loyalty within the workplace. What difference is there between the old generations with the aforementioned mindset and young people who say they hate the former President Chun Doo-hwan (1931-) who is responsible for the massive numbers of deaths in the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Movement but find Jang Se-dong, (1936-) the chief of the presidential security service at the time 'cool'? The President we have now who was once nicknamed 'Bulldozer' for his bold business projects rose to his present position by arousing expectations to resurrect the economy like in the past with the Yushin Regime. This high expectation toward someone 'smart' and 'competent' goes beyond the movie world to form a basis for a Korean-style hero. This was exactly what the high officials in the film had in mind when they used Cheol-gi, taking full advantage of the media.

What comes to mind in contrast, is KBS TV series “SungKyunKwan Scandal” that has recently finished its run. In one of the episodes the students of SungKyunKwan Royal Academy abandoned their classes to plead to the king the innocence of their fellow student Lee Seon-joon who was captured and jailed. Although it was main characters Gu Yong-ha (Song Joong-ki) and Kim Yoon-hee (Park Min-young) who led the protest, the campaign would not have been possible if it were not for the students who believed in what is right. It is not one smart person but many ordinary righteous people that move the world. Yet we tend to get swept away by a story of a hero time to time, a dangerous fantasy that leaves us idle of our duties.

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November 12, 2010

The Unjust has strong domestic opening

Nigel D’Sa (KOFIC)

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The Unjust, a new high-voltage thriller from City of Violence director RYOO Seung-wan, topped the Korean box office after opening Oct 28 nationwide. Over its 3-day opening weekend to Oct 31 it grossed US $4.35 million, playing on 572 screens.

Starring top lead HWANG Jung-min and the director’s younger brother, RYOO Seung-bum, the film delves into corrupt practices by individuals within the Korean justice system. It is the first time director RYOO has worked with material written for him.

RYOO is considered one of Korea’s top directors starting with his breakthrough debut Die Bad (2000) to his 2002 feature No Blood, No Tears and follow-up hits Arahan (2003) and Crying Fist (2004). The film is his fifth collaboration with his younger brother, a popular lead actor in many Korean features including last year’s No Mercy.

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November 12, 2010

Founder of largest English K-pop site 'Soompi'

Korean-American web developer creates first global online community devoted to K-pop, Asian entertainment

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

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Main page of the ultimate K-pop site “Soompi”

If you’re looking for news about a SuperJunior concert, reviews for a 2NE1 album, recaps of Korean drama "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" or simply anything about Korean entertainment, chances are you’ll find it on Soompi.com.

Soompi.com is the oldest and currently the largest English-language online community devoted to Korean and Asian entertainment, with a million unique visitors every month.

Soompi has come a long way from its early days as a personal online shrine devoted to K-pop started by Korean-American Susan Kang in 1998.

"I had recently graduated from college with nothing much to do. As a recent fan of both K-pop and the Internet (AOL was all the rage), I noticed that there weren't any English-language sites devoted to Korean pop music or TV dramas, so I purchased a book called `Make Your Own Website with Microsoft Word '97’, and the rest, as they say, is history," Kang said, now a 35-year-old mother living in Irvine, Calif., in an email interview with The Korea Times.

Kang’s original site, Soompitown, was fairly simple. She would just upload photos of her favorite K-pop acts like H.O.T., S.E.S., Shinhwa and FinKL and English translations of Korean magazine articles, as well as post CD audio samples and her own album reviews. Basically, Kang ran the website out of "love" for K-pop.

(If you’re wondering about the meaning of Soompi, it simply refers to a nickname that a roommate’s family gave Kang in college.)

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In the early 2000s, hallyu or the Korean wave began spreading around Asia and international fans discovered Soompi, the first website that actually provided English-language information about their favorite Korean stars.

Soon Soompi became more and more popular, requiring more servers and more technical expertise. A team of volunteers helped moderate the forums and post content on the website, but Kang, who also worked full-time as a web developer, was running the website on her own as a hobby and it was starting to feel burdensome.

For one, it was getting expensive to pay for the server fees out of her own pocket, although it was partially funded by member donations and small ad buys.

Then came the fateful day, Oct. 5, 2005, when the entire Soompi website crashed. Its entire database of 80,000 members and millions of forum posts was gone. "I seriously thought of just making that the end of Soompi, as I'd been running the site as a hobby for seven years at that point, and was paying for the servers completely out of my own pocket," she said.

"The turning point was when we re-opened an empty forum with 0 members and 0 posts, and within 5 days, we already had 40,000 members. That's when I knew that Soompi was bigger and more important than just one person's hobby."

Soon, it became apparent that a more serious, business-oriented approach to Soompi was needed.

In 2006, Joyce Lan Kim, a lawyer then working for technology firms in Silicon Valley, joined Soompi to handle the business side, albeit on a part-time basis.

"I joined the company, working on advertising and thinking of ways the company can break even. Susan never started this with business in mind. It was always just about fun. It was about bringing K-pop to the people. But how we make this sustainable is our job," Kim told The Korea Times at a coffee shop in downtown Seoul, last week.

Last year, Kang and Kim both decided to leave their full-time jobs and focus on Soompi.

The 33 year old Kim, who studied at Cornell and Harvard universities and received a law degree from Columbia University, had no second thoughts giving up a law career. She sees Soompi as a good business opportunity with K-pop’s potential to expand around the world.

Soompi is may not yet be profitable, but there is no doubt it is an Internet success with 500,000 registered members, and attracts over one million unique visitors every month (``That's like a small city,'' Kim quipped.) Revenues are currently generated from ads, premium membership and affiliate programs, but not enough for the company to break even.

There may be other K-pop websites that attract more hits, but Soompi has the most activity among community members, such as posting content and comments on the site. "Our success comes from covering such a wide variety of topics - not only the latest K-pop news, but Korean dramas and variety shows, original fan fiction, our own member-run shops, beauty & fashion, among so much more," Kang said.

Aside from sections on entertainment news, fan clubs and beauty & fashion, Soompi also has its own weekly music chart and annual contests, such as Soompi Idol, Soompi Dance Idol, Soompi Ulzzang, fan fiction writing and graphics contests.

All contests were originally started by Soompi members themselves. This year, Soompi Ulzzang Contest, a modeling competition for Soompi members, has become an official event and sponsored by Korean entertainment company Sidus HQ.

Member feedback is invaluable to keeping Soompi relevant. Whenever new features are launched, Soompi looks at the comments from members and makes the appropriate tweaks. Members can also vote for which Soompi fan clubs should be created next, as well as recommend new forums and sub-forums.

Soompi is working to make the site more user-friendly. "It's not a hobby anymore. We have to do it for real. Functionality is very important for us. We are definitely working on making it easier to use, and on getting great content," Kim said.

In terms of technical innovations, the Soompi Street Teams Twitter application is being launched. This will make it easier for fans to get their favorite K-pop idols on Twitter’s top trending topics.

"We wanted to make it easier for everybody to join together and tweet in support of their celebs. Twitter is not just for K-pop, because it's for everyone... Each time a K-pop celebrity ends up as a Twitter topic, people go, `who is this guy?’ Like when (SuperJunior member) Kim Hee-chul was trending on Twitter, everyone was talking about him... We can expose more people to the world of K-pop," Kim said.

An Asian website

Soompi is no longer just devoted to Korean pop music, but Asian pop and entertainment in general. It is also very much a global community, with most members from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia.

The majority or 81 percent of Soompi members are Asian, while 8 percent are white, 5 percent are multi-ethnic and the rest are African-American, Hispanic and other ethnicities. The most surprising fact was 60 to 80 percent of the non-Asian groups said they "know some Korean."

"It’s mostly non-Koreans, as opposed to 7 or 8 years ago when majority were Korean-Americans. Now Korean Americans are a minority on the site. We have ever growing number of people who are not even Asian. We have Caucasians, African-Americans, Middle East, Latin American, South East Asians," Kim said.

Soompi stands out because of its tight-knit community and its members. "Soompi is very community-focused, not just information or gossip-focused. It feels like home to many, and there are many members who have literally grown up on the site ― from Junior High to High School to College to getting married and having children," Kang said.

Noticeably, the Soompi forums are relatively free from the anti-fans and trolls who frequent K-pop websites to post vitriolic comments that rile up fans.

"I think our biggest defining feature is our members. Our members are the ones who do the subtitles, episode recaps and organize fan meetings," Kim said. "We have good members."

Future of Kpop & Soompi

Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that Soompi has helped give a boost to K-pop and Korean entertainment’s popularity among English speakers.

But while K-pop is undeniably big in Asia, there is yet to be a real K-pop breakthrough in the U.S., despite attempts by Rain, Wonder Girls and Se7en. "Honestly, I'm not sure if the U.S. is ready to accept Asians as idols, as Asians are still widely portrayed as awkward geeks or kung fu masters on TV and film, but I do believe it's just a matter of 'when', not 'if'. I hope it's sooner than later," Kang said.

Looking back, Kang admitted being constantly amazed and inspired by the level of commitment and amount of time people will willingly volunteer to support their favorite idols. "Passion will drive people to do crazy and wonderful things," she said.

In the future, Soompi hopes to leverage its brand value as the oldest K-pop online resource, and to continue fanning the flames of K-pop and Asian pop fever around the world.

"In 10 years, I'll be 45 years old. I hope by then, the Soompi community will still be going strong, with the love for Korean and Asian pop being passed to a much wider audience. We'll still be providing the best place for people to express their fandom and meet others who share their passion," Kang said.

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