Film Awards Ceremonies in Korea

  Korea established its first film awards ceremonies in the 1950s, as the film industry began its post-war recovery. The decade saw the establishment of the Seoul Cultural Awards (launched in 1955 by the City of Seoul), the Golden Dragon Awards (launched in 1955 by a group of filmmakers), the Buil Awards (launched in 1958 by Busan Daily News), the Quality Film Awards (launched in 1959 by the Ministry of Education), the Film Art Awards (launched in 1959 by the critical magazine Film Art), and the Korean Film Awards (launched in 1959 by the Industry and Economic Daily Newspaper). None of these still exist today. Subsequent decades tell a similar story of many short-lived awards ceremonies which were later halted due to the bankruptcy or reorganization of their sponsors.

The Grand Bell Awards Only a few of Korea's awards ceremonies boast a long history. Korea's longest-running film awards are the Grand Bell ("Daejong") Awards, which were first established in 1962 by the Ministry of Culture and Information. Although it underwent some changes in format in the late 1960s and has missed a few years here and there, popular opinion recognizes the government-sponsored event as the most prestigious -- or at least the best known -- of Korea's awards ceremonies. The Grand Bell's biggest rival is the privately-financed Blue Dragon ("Cheongryong") Awards, which were launched in 1963 by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper but later disbanded in the 1970s. In 1990 the Sports Chosun newspaper revived the awards, and they have been held every year since. The hosting of the Grand Bell Awards in the spring and the Blue Dragon Awards in December tend to draw the most local press coverage.

A sampling of other awards ceremonies that currently exist include the Baek Sang Art Awards (run since 1965 by the Hankook Ilbo newspaper; covers film, TV, and theater); the Critics Choice Awards ("Yeongpyeong-sang," established in 1980 by the Korean Film Critics Society); the Chunsa Film Art Awards (founded in 1990 by the Korea Film Directors' Society and named after the pioneering Korean filmmaker Na Un-kyu); the Pusan Film Critics Awards (founded in 2000 by the Pusan Film Critics Association); the Directors' Cut Awards (launched in 1998 by director Lee Hyun-seung, based on voting by young directors); and the Golden Cinema Festival ("Hwanggeum-chwalyeong-sang," launched in 1977 by the Korean Society of Cinematographers).

Korean Film Awards, 1962-present
Microsoft Excel file
(Click on the tabs at the bottom of the file to navigate)

As with Korean filmmaking in general, the various awards ceremonies have become a site of both political and popular contention over the years. Past military governments have taken an active interest in the awards ceremonies' ability to influence popular opinion. For many years the Grand Bell and other major awards ceremonies presented a special "Anti-Communism" prize for the feature that best depicted the evils of communism. Other films with political themes were barred from eligibility, one example being the 1981 film adaptation of the novel A Small Ball Launched by a Dwarf (pictured below left). Although the film was a critical favorite and considered a front-runner for the Best Picture prize, on the day of the awards ceremony it was removed from eligibility due to pressure from the new military government.

A Small Ball Launched by a Dwarf In recent years, different kinds of controversy have surfaced, such as accusations of vote-buying and corruption in the late 1990s. The Blue Dragon Awards has also been hindered by its association with corporate parent the Chosun Ilbo, one of Korea's most conservative right-wing newspapers. Several film companies, notably East Film which produced Oasis (2002), have refused nominations to protest against the political stance of the Chosun Ilbo.

From the early 2000s, strong viewer objections to the awards ceremonies' choices have also caused controversy. The Grand Bell Awards in 2001, in which the little-watched A Day won Best Director and Best Actress, drew particularly fierce outrage from viewers, leading to the resignation of the organizing committee and a new nomination system that factors in the opinions of ordinary viewers (for better or for worse).

A public opinion poll held in July 2004 was telling: when asked which local film awards ceremony they most respected, the greatest number of respondents (30%) answered "none." The Baek Sang Art Awards (18.7%), Grand Bell Awards (18.7%), Blue Dragon Awards (14.8%), and Critics Choice Awards (11%) each claimed moderate levels of support.

Personally, I feel that the most important value of film awards ceremonies, aside from their glitter, is in establishing a history of achievement that later generations can back on. In future years, cinema fans will be able to look at the awards choices as a rough guide of how films were judged by contemporary critics and viewers. It can also serve as a useful (if incomplete) list of films to watch in order to get a sense of Korean cinema's past achievements.

Judged by these criteria, Korea's established film awards ceremonies fail the test of usefulness. Throughout their history, government interference and organizational mismanagement have resulted in a list of awardees that owe as much to personal/political connections as to artistic achievement. The Korean public seems to recognize this, and the awards ceremonies -- though followed on TV and covered in the press -- have nowhere near the influence on ordinary viewers that awards in other countries do.

I only follow one awards ceremony with interest: the Pusan Film Critics Awards. Established in 2000, this young awards ceremony is run by a small but independent-minded group of critics based in Busan. Each year they announce their choices shortly before the opening of the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), and a ceremony is then held at the festival to present the prizes. Their choices are not swayed by popular opinion, but represent a thoughtful and serious attempt to judge the greatest achievements of each year. In a show of support to Korea's most interesting awards ceremony, the past recipients of the Pusan Film Critics Awards are listed below in their entirety.

The Pusan Film Critics Association Awards

Rules of Dating

2005 (6th ed.), Rules of Dating

Best Picture 2005 Rules of Dating (dir. Han Jae-rim)
Best Director: Ryoo Seung-wan (Crying Fist)
Best Actress: Kang Hye-jung (Rules of Dating)
Best Actor: Cho Seung-woo (Marathon)
Best Cinematography: Kim Ji-yong (A Bittersweet Life)
Best Screenplay: Goh Yoon-hee (Rules of Dating)
Best Supporting Actor: Oh Dal-soo (Mapado)
Best Supporting Actress: Na Moon-hee (You Are My Sunshine)
Best New Director: Han Jae-rim (Rules of Dating)
Best New Actress: Kim Ji-soo (This Charming Girl)
Best New Actor: Cheon Jeong-myung, Kim Kang-woo (The Aggressives)
Jury Prize: My Generation (dir. Noh Dong-seok)

Lee Pil-woo Award: Lee Hye-yun, costume designer of Ae-ran (1987), etc.

Old Boy

2004 (5th ed.), Old Boy

Best Picture 2004 Old Boy (dir. Park Chan-wook)
Best Director: Park Chan-wook (Old Boy)
Best Actress: Kang Hye-jung (Old Boy)
Best Actor: Jeong Jae-young (Someone Special)
Best Cinematography: Jeong Jeong-hoon (Old Boy)
Best Screenplay: Jang Jin (Someone Special)
Best Supporting Actor: Baek Yoon-shik (The Big Swindle)
Best Supporting Actress: Goh Doo-shim (My Mother, the Mermaid)
Best New Director: Choi Dong-hoon (The Big Swindle)
Best New Actress: Kwak Ji-min (Samaritan Girl)
Best New Actor: Kang Dong-won (Romance of Their Own)
Jury Prize: Repatriation (dir. Kim Dong-won)

Lee Pil-woo Award: Lee Kyung-soon, sound designer of Obaltan (1961), My Houseguest and My Mother (1961), Chunhyang-jeon (1955), etc.

Save the Green Planet

2003 (4th ed.), Save the Green Planet

Best Picture 2003 Save The Green Planet (dir. Jang Jun-hwan)
Best Director: Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder)
Best Actress: Moon So-ri (A Good Lawyer's Wife)
Best Actor: Shin Ha-kyun (Save The Green Planet)
Best Cinematography: Lee Mo-gae (A Tale Of Two Sisters)
Best Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho & Shim Seong-bo (Memories of Murder)
Best Supporting Actor: Kim Gap-soo (Mutt Boy)
Best Supporting Actress: Yoon Yeo-jung (A Good Lawyer's Wife)
Best New Director: Jang Jun-hwan (Save The Green Planet)
Best New Actress: Im Su-jeong (A Tale Of Two Sisters)
Best New Actor: Park Hae-il (Jealousy Is My Middle Name)
Jury Prize: A Tale Of Two Sisters (dir. Kim Jee-woon)

Award for Artistic Contribution: Yu Hyun-mok
Lee Pil-woo Award: Lee Sung-choon, cinematographer of Five Marines (1961),Rain Shower (1978), Mulleya Mulleya (1983), etc.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

2002 (3rd ed.), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Best Picture 2002: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. Park Chan-wook)
Best Director: Park Chan-wook (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance)
Best Actress: Bae Doona (Take Care of My Cat)
Best Actor: Sol Kyung-gu (Oasis)
Best Cinematography: Jung Il-sung (Chihwaseon)
Best Screenplay: Lee Chang-dong (Oasis)
Best Supporting Actor: Gong Hyung-jin (A Perfect Match)
Best Supporting Actress: Kim Yeo-jin (Chihwaseon)
Best New Director: Kim In-sik (Roadmovie)
Best New Actress: Kim Hye-na (Flower Island)
Best New Actor: Hwang Jeong-min (Roadmovie)
Jury Prize: Lee Jeong-hyang, The Way Home

Lee Pil-woo Award: Kim Hyun, film editor of Whale Hunting (1984), Chilsu and Mansu (1988), Road to the Racetrack (1991), Oasis (2002)

One Fine Spring Day

2001 (2nd ed.), One Fine Spring Day

Best Picture 2001: One Fine Spring Day (dir. Hur Jin-ho)
Best Director: Hur Jin-ho (One Fine Spring Day)
Best Actress: Lee Young-ae (One Fine Spring Day)
Best Actor: Choi Min-shik (Failan)
Best Cinematography: Kim Hyung-gu (Musa)
Best Screenplay: Song Min-ho (Ray Bang)
Best Supporting Actor: Jo Jae-hyun (Address Unknown)
Best Supporting Actress: Oh Ji-hye (Waikiki Brothers)
Best New Director: Yoon Jong-chan (Sorum)
Best New Actress: Jang Jin-young (Sorum)
Best New Actor: Kim Myung-min (Sorum)

Lee Pil-woo Award: Kim Dong-ho, lighting director of The Lovers of Woomook-Baemi (1990), Christmas in August (1998), Chihwaseon (2002), etc.

Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors

2000 (1st ed.), Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors

Best Picture 2000: Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (dir. Hong Sang-soo)
Best Director: Bae Chang-ho (My Heart)
Best Actress: Jeon Do-yeon (Happy End)
Best Actor: Lee Byung-heon/Song Kang-ho (JSA)
Best Cinematography: ()
Best Screenplay: Hong Sang-soo (Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors)
Best Supporting Actor: Yoo Oh-sung (Attack the Gas Station)
Best Supporting Actress: Kim Ho-jung (Barking Dogs Never Bite)
Best New Director: Byun Hyuk (Interview)
Best New Actress: Ha Ji-won (Truth or Dare)
Best New Actor: Yu Ji-tae (Ditto)
Jury Prize: Ryu Seung-wan, Die Bad

Lee Pil-woo Award: Jung Il-sung, cinematographer of Insect Woman (1972), Mandala (1981), Soponje (1993), etc.

  * Thanks to Tom Giammarco, Ryan Law, and Tom Swarthout for compiling the Excel document of past award winners.

Back to Korean Film Page, last updated October 19, 2005.