SEOUL, KOREA — The Korean film industry has a lot to offer for the year of 2012. Korean films have been gathering more attention around the world and in the domestic market, as Korean films gain attention and Korean actors and producers take part in more international collaborations.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the market share for Korean films was 51.9%, up from 46.5 in 2010 and marking the first time in modern history that Korean moviegoing audiences showed a marked preference for domestic movies. As well, film exports increased by 14% in 2011.
Five Korean films sold more than four million tickets in Korean theatres in 2011, up from just two in 2010. Those include Sunny by director Kang Hyeong-cheol and Detective K, directed by Kim Seok-yoon, as well as Kim Han-min’s War of the Arrows, which sold almost 7.5 million tickets. The Crucible, based on the novel of the same name by Gong Ji-young, shone a light on the sexual abuse scandal at Gwangju Inhwa School, causing the public, the media, and lawmakers to sit up and take notice.
Already several movies have been released this year. Dancing Queen stars Uhm Jung-hwa as the wife of a politician who leads a secret life as a dance singer. Veteran actor Ahn Sung-gi stars in Chung Ji-young’s Unbowed, which depicts the 2007 incident known as the “crossbow terror” incident, in which a university professor fired a crossbow bolt at a judge. A 3D animated feature film, The Outback is a joint Korea/U.S. coproduction about a circus koala.
February will see yet another film starring Song Kang-ho, who has received acclaims throughout his career for films such as JSA, Memories of Murder, and The Host. He appears this time in action-drama Howling, in which he pursues a killer dog. Ha Jeong-woo is set to appear in three films this year; in February he and Oldboy star Choi Min-sik will costar as gangsters in Nameless Gangster, and also as a “Male Bridget Jones” in Love Fiction, both films out in February. Later in the year he will appear as a North Korean spy in The Berlin File. Other releases for the month include Han Ji-won’s The Angel’s Breath, a drama about an actor who dreams of becoming a star, and 2 Lines, a documentary by Ji Min about cohabitation.
March will be a busy month for new releases. Lee Sun-gyun, who broke through in the TV drama The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, will appear in Train, a mystery thriller based on the novel All She was Worth by Miyabe Miyuki. Speaking of coffee, the historical drama Russian Coffee depicts King Gojong’s love of coffee, based on a novel by Kim Tak-hwan. Kim Ji-woon, who is currently in the U.S. directing Arnold Schwartzenegger for the 2013 film Last Stand, will showcase his directing talents alongside colleagues Han Jae-rim and Lim Pil-seong in The Fall of Humanity, an omnibus of three science fiction stories. Kim’s segment deals with a robot that gains sentience. Lim’s segment tells the story of a zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a zombie, and Han’s chapter is a musical movie set at the end of the world. If you want something a little safer, Bae Gwang-soo’s drama Eighteen and Nineteen tells of a scandal with adolescent fraternal twins Hoya and Seoya, and Lee Kwang-kuk’s Romance Joe tells a more conventional love story about a struggling film director and a coffee shop waitress.
After that, there seems to be a bit of a break in Korean releases until June, with the release of horror movie Don’t Click by Kim Tae-kyeong starring Park Bo-yeong. After watching an unidentified video, her character Se-hee must save her sister and her boyfriend from...something, presumably this time not a ghost who likes to crawl out of televisions.
Set for a summer release is Yeongasi, which is described as a natural disaster movie but with a plot more akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Parasitic horsehair worms -- Yeongasi in Korean – mutate and begin infecting humans, controlling their minds. The star, Kim Myeong-min, received a neck injury while filming a scene where he is attacked by an angry mob. He had anticipated the injury and didn’t let it slow him down.
Many other Korean films are set to be released this year with no definite opening date yet. International star Lee Byeong-heon is set to appear in both an American and a Korean film, revisiting his character Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and taking on a double role in I am King of Joseon, an adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper about a king and a beggar who switch roles. Rain stars in war film Soar into the Sky, a remake of Shin Sang-ok’s 1964 film The Red Muffler about air force pilots. Rain himself began his compulsive military service in October 2011 following the wrap of filming.
Two of the most anticipated films of 2012 will square off for best heist movie. Director Choi Dong-hoon will release his fourth movie, the highly anticipated The Thieves, a heist film set in Macao which has been called the Ocean’s Eleven of Korea. It features a star-studded cast including Lee Jung-jae (Oh! Brothers), Kim Yoon-seok (The Chaser), Kim Hye-su (Tazza: the High Rollers), and Jun Ji-hyun (My Sassy Girl), along with Chinese actors Simon Yam and Angelica Lee. It may face stiff competition from Kim Joo-ho’s The Grand Heist, which has been described as the Joseon Dynasty version of Ocean’s Eleven. Rather than cash or diamonds, the target of the film’s heist is a rare commodity of the Joseon era: ice.
The latter part of the year should see the release of a diverse array of Korean films. Ko Hyeon-jeong stars in Miss Conspirator, a mob comedy about the hunt for misplaced drugs. Shin Jeong-won’s film The Fortune Tellers is a mystery film that sends an ensemble cast to Uljin to solve a mystery. Korea, directed by Moon Hyeon-seong, depicts the story of the first victory of the inter-Korea team at the 1991 Chiba Worldwide Table Tennis Championships. Featuring actresses Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona, it should deliver some stirring performances. For the romantics, there’s also An Introduction to Architecture, a melodrama about an architect who rebuilds the home of his first love, in a nonlinear plot that skips between present and past.
There will doubtlessly be many more Korean films released throughout the year. In order to make Korean films more approachable to foreigners residing in Korea, Korean films are often screened with English subtitles at theatres such as CGV Yongsan. Listings may vary throughout the year. For more news on Korean films, visit www.hancinema.net.
*Article from Korea Magazine
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