Korean Film Newsletter #15 -- October 23, 2002

Welcome to the fifteenth edition of the Korean Film Newsletter. This letter is distributed every three months to inform the reader of the latest events in the industry. An archive of past newsletters is available at http://koreanfilm.org. If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, or if you have any questions, send an email message to darcy@koreanfilm.org.

New at Koreanfilm.org: (a) reviews of Oasis, Chihwaseon, Bet On My Disco, Too Young To Die, Road Movie, Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, Camel(s), My Wife is a Gangster (2001), Waikiki Brothers (2001), and Die Bad (2000); (b) a new page devoted to films from 1997, with reviews of Green Fish and No. 3.

NEW RELEASES (July - October 2002)

Break Out ["Raiteoreul Kyeora"] Directed by Jang Hang-jun. Screenplay by Park Jung-woo. A man having the worst day of his life spends his last coins on a cheap plastic lighter. When a bad-tempered gangster walks off with it later, the man snaps and goes on an all-consuming chase to get his lighter back. Starring Kim Seung-woo, Cha Seung-won, Park Young-gyu, Kang Sung-jin, Lee Moon-shik, Bae Jong-shik, Yoo Hae-jin. Cinematography by Kim Sung-bok. Produced by Astars Entertainment. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 105 min. July 17. (http://www.sparklighter.co.kr)

Emergency 19 ["Gingeupjochi 19-ho"] Directed by Kim Tae-gyu. Screenplay by Kim Sung-dong, Lee Seung-guk. Feeling threatened after a rock star is elected president of the United States, the Korean government declares a state of emergency and attempts to put the nation's musicians all in prison. Starring Kim Jang-hoon, Hong Kyung-min, Gong Hyo-jin, Noh Ju-hyun, Ju Young-hoon. Cinematography by Hwang Seo-shik. Produced by Seo Se-won Productions. Distributed by SS1 Cinema. Rating: 15+. 95 min. July 19. (http://www.emergency19.co.kr)

The Phone ["Pon"] Directed by Ahn Byung-ki. Screenplay by Ahn Byung-ki and Lee Yoo-jin. A journalist starts receiving mysterious and disturbing messages through her mobile phone. As it becomes apparent that someone is pursuing her, a young girl answers her phone and develops strange behavioral and psychological problems. Starring Ha Ji-won, Kim Yoo-mi, Choi Woo-jae. Cinematography by Moon Yong-sik. Produced by Toilet Pictures. Distributed by Buena Vista International Korea. Rating: 15+. 100 min. July 26. (http://www.phone6644.com)

A Perfect Match ["Joh-eun saram isseumyeon sogae-shikyeo jwo"] Directed by Moh Ji-eun. Screenplay by In Eun-ah. A woman who works in a matchmaking agency finds herself falling in love with one of her clients. Starring Shin Eun-kyung, Jung Jun-ho, Gong Hyung-jin, Kim Yeo-jin. Cinematography by Hwang Chul-hyun. Produced by Ahn's World Productions. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 101 min. August 8. (http://www.romanticcomedy.co.kr)

Oasis ["Oashiseu"] Written and directed by Lee Chang-dong. A slightly retarded man who has trouble adjusting to society is let out of prison after a hit and run accident in which a man was killed. He visits the home of the deceased, and then becomes captivated by the dead man's daughter, a woman afflicted with cerebral palsy. Starring Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri, Ryu Seung-wan, An Nae-sang, Chu Gui-jeong. Cinematography by Choi Young-taek. Produced by East Film. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 18+. 130 min. August 15. (http://www.oasis2002.com)

Family ["Paemilli"] Written and directed by Choi Jin-won. Two young gangsters move into Incheon with the intent of taking over, but they come up against unexpected opposition from the madam of Incheon's leading hostess bar. Starring Hwang Shin-hye, Yoon Da-hoon, Kim Min-jong, Hwang In-young, Lee Dong-gun. Cinematography by Choi Jung-woo. Produced by Actorsvill. Distributed by Sinabro Entertainment. Rating: 18+. 107 min. August 23. (http://www.familyship.net)

Three ["Sseuri"] Directed by Kim Jee-woon (Memories), Peter Ho-sun Chan (Going Home) and Nonzee Nimibutr (The Wheel). Screenplay by Kim Jee-woon, Hui Joho, and Duangkamol Limcharoen. An omnibus-style film made up of three medium-length horror films by directors from Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Starring Kim Hye-soo and Jung Bo-seok (Memories); Leon Lai and Eric Tsang (Going Home); Suwinit Panjamawat and Savika Kanchanamas (The Wheel). Cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo, Christopher Doyle, and Nattawut Kittkhun. Produced by B.O.M. Productions, Applause Pictures and Cinemasia Co. Distributed by CJ Entertainment in Korea. Rating: 15+. 123 min. August 23. (http://www.moviethree.com)

Chow Yun-Fat Boy Meets Brownie Girl ["Ureong-gakshi"] Written, directed, and photographed by Nam Ki-woong. A man takes a mysterious huge earthen jar to his home one night, and finds that a woman appears magically from inside it. Starring Ko Guma, Chae Myung-ji, Gi Ju-bong, Choi Sun-ja. Produced by Intz.com. Distributed by Indiestory. Rating: 12+. 93 min. August 31. (http://www.woorung.co.kr)

Boss X-File ["Boseu-sangryuk-jakjeon"] Directed by Kim Sung-deok. Screenplay by Jang Kwang-il, Kang Kyung. A mob boss is suspected of political lobbying with funds laundered through a local hostess bar. When the police get wind of this scheme, they decide to set up a phony hostess bar in order to lure him in. Starring Jung Woon-taek, Kim Bo-sung, Lee Ji-hyun, Ahn Moon-sook. Cinematography by Jeon Jo-myung. Produced by Joy Entertainment. Distributed by A-Line. Rating: 18+. 105 min. September 6. (http://www.bossxfile.com)

Resurrection of the Little Match Girl ["Seongnyang-pari sonyeo-ui jerim"] Directed by Jang Sun-woo. Screenplay by Jang Sun-woo and In Jin-mi. A young man who works delivering Chinese food is drawn into a video game based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Little Match-seller". As the boundaries between real life and the video game start to blur, he finds himself falling in love with the Match Girl and battling the System which created the game. Starring Im Eun-kyung, Kim Hyun-sung, Kim Jin-pyo, Myung Gye-nam, Jung Du-hong. Cinematography by Kim Woo-hyung. Produced by Keyweck-shide. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 125 min. September 13. (http://www.sung-so.co.kr)

Lovers' Concerto ["Yeonae-soseol"] Written and directed by Lee Han. A young photography enthusiast meets two women, and immediately tries to win the heart of one of them. Although she turns him down, the three become friends and begin to spend a lot of time together. Starring Cha Tae-hyun, Lee Eun-ju, Son Yeh-jin, Moon Geun-young. Cinematography by Jin Young-hwan. Produced by Popcorn Film. Distributed by Korea Pictures. Rating: 12+. 105 min. September 13. (http://www.romanceguy.co.kr)

Marrying the Mafia ["Gamun-ui Yeonggwang"] Directed by Jung Hong-soon. Screenplay by Jung Hong-soon and Choi Hae-chul. A bright young law school graduate awakes one morning with an unknown woman sleeping next to him in bed. His life takes a turn for the worse when he finds out that she is the youngest daughter in a family of gangsters. Starring Jung Jun-ho, Kim Jung-eun, Yoo Dong-geun, Park Geun-hyung. Cinematography by Kim Yoon-su. Produced by Taewon Entertainment. Distributed by Cinema Service. Rating: 15+. 113 min. September 13. (http://www.gamun.co.kr)

Yellow Flower ["Dul hana sekseu"] Written and directed by Lee Ji-sang. Part one: A man in his thirties with unstoppable greed for money and power tries to conquer his desire through repeated sex. Part two: The same man as a 19-year old loses himself in drugs. Starring Kim Joong-ki, Suh Jung, Jang Mi-ru, Jo Hyung-il, Kim Seon-jae. Cinematography by Lim Chang-jae. Produced and distributed by Indiestory. Rating: 18+. 85 min. September 19.

Camel(s) ["Nakta(deul)"] Written and directed by Park Ki-yong. A middle aged man and woman, each with families of their own, set off together on a trip to an island without even knowing each other's names. A b&w digitally-shot feature starring Lee Dae-yeon and Park Myung-shin. Cinematography by Choi Chan-min. Produced by Fine Communications. Rating: 18+. 91 min. September 27.

Can't Live Without Robbery ["Dodukmatgon-motsara"] Directed by Im Kyung-su. Screenplay by Kim Jin, Im Kyung-su, Yoon Jae-gyun, Jung Hyung-su. A civil servant prides his home life above anything else, but when a recreational thief begins to repeatedly break into his home, he starts to lose his composure. Starring Park Sang-myun, So Ji-seop, Song Seon-mi. Cinematography by Kim Eung-taek. Produced by MBC Production. Distributed by Big Blue Films. Rating: 15+. 105 min. September 27. (http://dodook.co.kr)

YMCA Baseball Team ["YMCA Yagudan"] Written and directed by Kim Hyun-seok. A story about Korea's very first baseball team, which was formed in 1906 against the backdrop of Japanese imperialism. Starring Song Kang-ho, Kim Hye-soo, Kim Ju-hyuk, Hwang Jeong-min, Lee Dae-yeon, Kim Il-woong, Shin Ku. Cinematography by Park Hyun-chul. Produced by Myung Films. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: general. 104 min. October 3. (http://www.yteam.co.kr)

Are You a True Guy? ["Namja Tae-eonada"] Directed by Park Hee-jun. Screenplay by Lee Chang-ryul. In 1983, three young men who live on a remote island dream of going to university. A young boxing instructor hopes that through boxing, they will gain the opportunity to pursue their dreams on the mainland. Starring Lee Won-jong, Jung Jun, Hong Kyung-in, Yeo Hyun-soo, Kim Sarang. Cinematography by Lee Seok-hyun. Produced by Twin Entertainment. Distributed by Gilbert Film Co. Rating: General. 108 min. October 11. (http://www.namzazzan.co.kr)

Sex of Magic ["Mabeop-ui Seong"] Written and directed by Bang Sung-woong. Seong-bin is not impotent, but he cannot satisfy women, leading his girlfriend of two years to break up with him. His girlfriend then begins to date another man. Starring Koo Bon-seung, Kim Ji-eun, Lee Ju-hyun, Choi Eun-ju, Kim Jin. Cinematography by Shin Beom-seop. Produced by Cinefilm. Distributed by Sinabro Entertainment. Rating: 18+. 118 min. October 11. (http://www.sexofmagic.com)

Saving My Hubby ["Gutse-eora Geumsoona"] Written and directed by Hyun Nam-seop. A young housewife and former volleyball star gets a call from a group of gangsters who are holding her husband hostage after he couldn't pay a $1400 bill for liquor. Strapping her baby onto her back, she goes out to rescue her husband. Starring Bae Doona, Kim Tae-woo, Lee Chan-min, Joo Hyuk, Ko Du-shim. Cinematography by Choi Young-hwan. Produced by Eins Film. Distributed by Korea Pictures. Rating: 12+. 91 min. October 18. (http://www.9ssengirl.co.kr)

Roadmovie ["Rodeu mubi"] Written and directed by Kim In-sik. A young businessman loses everything in a stock market crash, and abandoned by his wife, takes to living on the street. Another homeless man named Daeshik takes him under his wing and the two set off traveling. A young prostitute joins them on their journey and begins to develop feelings for Daeshik, but soon she realizes that he is in love with his companion. Starring Hwang Jeong-min, Jeong Chan, Suh Rin, Jeong Hyung-ki, Pang Eun-jin. Cinematography by Kim Jae-ho. Produced by Sidus Uno Films. Distributed by Big Blue Films. Rating: 18+. 115 min. October 18. (http://www.roadmovie.co.kr)

2424 ["2424"] Directed by Lee Yeon-woo. Screenplay by Kim Hyung-jin. Some thieves lose a huge stash of diamonds while in transport, leading to a frantic search by the police force and a group of gangsters. Starring Jeon Kwang-ryul, Jung Woong-in, Yeh Ji-won, So Yoo-jin, Kim Rae-won. Cinematography by Ham Soon-ho. Produced by JR Pictures. Distributed by CJ Entertainment. Rating: 15+. 95 min. October 18. (http://www.funny2424.com)

Popee ["Bbobbi"] Written and directed by Kim Ji-hyun. A film director's dog dies, and partly to console himself he undertakes a series of interviews with other dog owners. An independent film shot on digital video. Starring Baek Hyun-jin, Oh Yoon-hong, Suh Young-hwa, Park Hyun-young, Lee Jung-pyo, Oh Hyun-ri. Cinematography by Hwang In. Produced by Angel Underground. International sales by Mirovision. Rating: general. 63 min. October 18.

Documentary Hahn Dae Soo ["Dakyumenteori Han Dae-soo"] Directed by Lee Chun-woo and Jang Ji-wook. A digitally-shot documentary about Hahn Dae Soo, a singer whose politically charged songs from the 1970s fell foul of the military regime. In 2001, after twenty years of inactivity due to political reasons, he returned to Korea for a concert. Starring Han Dae-soo, Kim Myung-shin. Cinematography by Jang Ji-wook, Lee Chun-woo, Lee Do-yoon. Produced by Cinewise Film. Rating: 12+. 80 min. October 18.


Arirang One of the all-time classics of Korean cinema is the 1926 silent feature Arirang, which like all Korean films from the 20s and 30s was lost through neglect and the destruction of the Korean War. Recently veteran director Lee Doo-yong has shot a remake designed to reproduce the film in a manner as close to the original as possible. The film's screenplay, compiled after years of research, is based on oral recollections and published accounts of the film. It has been shot as a silent feature in black and white with intertitles, and it will be screened with live narration in the manner of 1920s cinema. In early October, director Lee Doo-yong received permission to travel to Pyongyang and screen the film in front of a North Korean audience. Lee noted that the screening was followed by a surprisingly frank discussion of the issues raised by the film, and that in subsequent discussions with North Korean officials he received permission to carry out shooting for his next film in North Korea next spring. Arirang will also screen at the opening ceremony of the Gwangju International Film Festival in late October.

Sa-inyong Siktak* (Korean title means "Table for Four") This film will mark the long-awaited return to the screen by actress Jeon Ji-hyun, who starred in the pan-Asian smash hit My Sassy Girl. This latest film is described as an "occult thriller", and will re-team the actress with Park Shin-yang, who co-starred in Jeon's little-known debut film White Valentine (1999). The film, which centers around a man who encounters ghosts, will be shot by debut director Lee Su-yeon, best known for her short film The Goggles. Release date: Spring 2003

Memories of Murder ("Sarin-ui chueok") The second film by acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho (Barking Dogs Never Bite) will center around a real-life incident in the 1980s involving a serial killer in rural Korea who was never captured. The film will focus on the efforts of two investigators, one a local detective played by top star Song Kang-ho and the other an investigator sent from Seoul to be played by Kim Sang-kyung (Turning Gate). Shooting started on August 27 and the film is expected to be released in the first half of 2003.

Human Rights Omnibus (as yet untitled) The Korean Human Rights Commission, which was established in August 2001 after years of lobbying by human rights groups, has announced it will sponsor an omnibus-style film made up of six 10-minute shorts which will each illustrate a different aspect of discrimination. The films will be directed by Park Chan-wook (JSA), Jeong Jae-eun (Take Care of My Cat), Song Hae-sung (Failan), Park Kwang-su (A Single Spark), Lee Hyun-seung (Il Mare), and Yeo Kyun-dong (La Belle). To be overseen by Lee Jin-sook, the producer of Die Bad and Popee, the film is expected to be complete by early 2003.

Classic Director Kwak Jae-yong, who returned to the film industry in triumphant form last year with My Sassy Girl, has opened shooting on his next feature, a romantic drama called Classic. Featuring three up-and-coming stars in Cho Seung-woo (Who Are You?), Son Yeh-jin (Lovers' Concerto) and Jo In-sung (Fruit Chan's Public Toilet), the film will tell the story of a love from the past that finds its way into the present. A tentative release date is set for winter 2003.

Addicted ("Jungdok") The latest film by hot actor Lee Byung-heon (JSA, Bungee Jumping Of Their Own) is scheduled to open on October 25 in a record number of theaters. Co-starring actress Lee Mi-yeon (Pisces, Last Witness), the film tells the story of two brothers who suffer tragic accidents on the same day. A year later the younger brother awakes from a coma believing that he is his older brother, and calling his sister-in-law "honey". The film will also mark the debut of new distributor Showbox, a subsidiary of the Tongyang Group that aims to become a major studio like Cinema Service or CJ Entertainment.

* official English title not yet available


Oasis awarded at Venice fest

Celebrated director Lee Chang-dong's third feature Oasis made history by winning the Best Director award at the 59th Venice International Film Festival, held from August 29 to September 8. Oasis was the sixth Korean film to screen in Venice's main competition, and it joins Im Kwon-taek's 1986 feature Surrogate Woman (Best Actress, Kang Su-yeon) as the only films to win a major award. In addition to the best director award, actress Moon So-ri won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress for her portrayal of a woman with cerebral palsy, and the film also won the FIPRESCI Award (selected by international critics for the best film in the festival), the Cinema Verine prize, and the SIGNIS prize from the World Catholic Association for Communication. The top prize of the festival was awarded to British director Peter Mullan's feature The Magdalene Sisters.

Oasis, a challenging film which nonetheless hit #1 at the Korean box-office just prior to the festival, has also been invited to the Toronto, Vancouver, London, Bergen, Viennale, Tokyo Filmex and Pusan film festivals.

Too Young To Die banned in home country

On July 23, Park Jin-pyo's acclaimed digital film Too Young To Die was effectively banned in Korea, following a decision by the local Media Ratings Board to give the film a 'restricted' rating. The rating prohibits advertising of any kind, and obliges the film to be shown in specially-designated adults-only cinemas. However, with the legal basis of such venues still in question, none currently exist in which to screen the film.

Too Young To Die, which has already screened in the Cannes, Toronto, and Vancouver Film Festivals, is based on the true story of an elderly couple who meet, fall in love and rediscover sex. A seven-minute long take capturing the real-life couple having sex at night in the absence of a film crew was cited of particular concern by the Ratings Board.

The decision reportedly divided the government-appointed civilian board, with votes split 4-4 and board chairman Kim Su-yong, the subject of a retrospective at this year's Pusan festival, casting the deciding vote. The decision was upheld a second time by the board on August 27 after the film's production company May Film re-applied for a rating. In the wake of this decision, three members of the Ratings Board submitted their resignation in protest. The film has also received public votes of support from the national teacher's union and the Korean Federation of Trade Unions.

This marks the second instance in which the Ratings Board has issued the 'restricted' rating to a film, following a May 21st decision regarding North Korean documentary Animal Copulation. The 290-minute documentary, which has screened on public television in North Korea, was suppressed by the board for its explicit presentation of animal genitalia and sex.

Production company May Film has announced that they will not agree to voluntary cuts in Too Young To Die, however they re-submitted the film for consideration on October 23 with some problematic scenes darkened. Distributor Big Blue Films had originally intended to release the title at the end of August, after receiving financial assistance from the Korean Film Commission through a fund which supports the distribution of digital films. The film has been invited to screen in the upcoming Tokyo Filmex festival as well as the Pusan International Film Festival, where it will compete in the New Currents section for young Asian filmmakers.

CGV theater to open in LA

Korean multiplex chain CGV has announced plans to open its first overseas theater in LA's Koreatown in 2004. The three-screen, 700-seat venue will be located on Western between Wilshire and 6th avenues and will screen Korean films with English subtitles, as well as Hollywood and foreign features with Korean subtitles. This venture marks the first effort to target the sizeable Korean community in the U.S. through theatrical, rather than video markets.

Los Angeles is home to the largest Korean population outside of Korea, with latest census figures placing the number of Koreans in Los Angeles County at 186,000. Already many Korean companies release video titles simultaneously in Korea and the U.S., but Korea remains years behind national cinemas such as India's in promoting its local films to diaspora populations abroad.

CGV is Korea's largest multiplex chain, which is operated and 50% owned by CJ Entertainment. Recently Australian film studio Village Roadshow sold its 50% stake in CGV to the Dutch-based Asia Cinema Holdings, made up of funds from the U.S. and Britain.

Mixed results, but success overall for Korean cinema at the box-office

With over three-quarters of the year completed, Korean films have continued to show strength at the box-office, despite the absence of any box-office hit on the level of Friend, JSA or Shiri. According to figures published by the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC), local films have captured a 44% share of the Seoul market to September 30, compared to 49% for Hollywood features and 3.7% for Japanese films. The number of films released has also seen a sharp rise from previous years, with 67 Korean films released to date compared with 35 at this time last year.

Nonetheless the industry has shown rising concern over the fate of big-budget genre films, following the high-profile flops of Yesterday (total budget $5m), R U Ready? ($6.7m) and Resurrection of the Little Match Girl ($9.2m) over the past several months. Audiences' lukewarm response to Match Girl in particular has caused much soul-searching in the industry, which will likely make it harder for similar-themed films to find financing in the future.

Other films have fared much better, however. Horror title The Phone became the second-best performing film of the summer after Minority Report with close to $11m at the box-office. Even bigger was the latest high-concept gangster comedy, Marrying the Mafia, which has drawn over 4.4 million admissions ($22m) since its September release to become the best-selling film so far this year. In addition, melodrama Lovers' Concerto, starring the male lead from last year's My Sassy Girl, has drawn 1.6 million admissions, and historical drama YMCA Baseball Team has drawn 1.3 million admissions in its first three weeks on release.

PIFF 2002

The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) has announced the line-up of its 7th edition, which will be held from November 14-23. Featuring 228 films from 58 countries, this year's festival will be the largest ever. It will also feature some new venues, with the Pusan Promotion Plan and many of the festival screenings moving to new locations alongside the beach at Haeundae.

As the opening film, the festival will screen the world premiere of director Kim Ki-duk's eighth film The Coast Guard, which features top star Jang Dong-gun. Japanese director Kitano Takeshi's film Dolls will close the festival. The Korean selection for this year will feature fewer premieres than in 2001, instead highlighting the range of films that have won critical and box-office success over the past year. Newer titles include debut director Park Chan-ok's Jealousy is My Middle Name, Byun Young-ju's Ardor, Kim Sang-jin's comedy Jail Breakers and director Jang Sun-woo's Resurrection of the Little Match Girl.

Special sections will be devoted to the last twenty years of Independent Taiwanese Cinema, films of Oshima Nagisa that deal with Korea, and a retrospective of veteran Korean filmmaker Kim Soo-yong, including classic films Mist (1967), Flame in the Valley (1967), Night Voyage (1977) and A Seaside Village (1965). More information about screening times and ticket sales will be posted on PIFF's website at www.piff.org.

Oasis to represent South Korea for Best Foreign Language Oscar

Lee Chang-dong's Oasis has been picked to represent South Korea in the preliminary selection process for the best foreign language Oscar. According to Academy rules, each country may choose one film to submit for consideration, after which Academy members view all submissions and choose five final nominations in mid-February.

The decision to submit Oasis was made on October 21 by a seven-member committee appointed by the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC). Other films reportedly under consideration for the nomination included Lee Jeong-hyang's The Way Home, Im Kwon-taek's Chihwaseon (winner of the Best Director award at Cannes), and Kim Hyun-seok's YMCA Baseball Team.

This year's selection committee was headed by film professor Jeong Jae-hyung and also included director Park Chul-soo (301/302); director Park Ki-yong (Camel(s)); Lee Seung-jae, CEO of LJ Films; An Jeong-sook, editor of film magazine Cine21; cinematographer Jin Young-hwan, and scenarist Gong Su-chang.


Note: by popular request, I will be including a section on Korean TV dramas in all subsequent newsletters. The links between the television industry and the film industry are strong, and much acting and directing talent crosses back and forth between the two media. Korean TV dramas have enjoyed increasing popularity in other parts of Asia, and have also found a niche in Hawaii. More information about dramas can be found at http://www.koreanwiz.org and http://www.soompi.com.

The following is a list of the dramas which have drawn at least a 25% audience rating over the last three months.

Top rated dramas, July 29 -Oct. 21, 2002

1. Ya-in Shidae (SBS) -- 45.5%, Oct. 15
2. Inuh-agassi (MBC) -- 34.8%, Sep. 27
3. Dangshin-yeopi Joh-ah (KBS) -- 30.5%, Sep. 17
4. Rival (SBS) -- 30.1%, Oct. 6
5. Taeyangin Ijema (KBS2) -- 28.2%, Aug. 8
6. Nesarang Nugulkka? (KBS2) -- 26.4%, Oct. 20
7. Daemang (SBS) -- 26.0%, Oct 13

(Source: TNS Media Korea.)

Ya-in Shidae -- "The Rustic Period" (SBS, from Jul. 29) Written by Lee Hwan-kyung. Directed by Jang Hyung-il. A drama based on the childhood and political life of Kim Doo-han, who rose to fame as a gangster under the Japanese occupation and later became a politician in the late 1960s. Starring Ahn Jae-mo, Kim Young-chul, Choi Dong-jun, Lee Deok-hee, Jung Young-sook, Jeon Mi-seon, Ko Du-shim, Jo Hyung-ki, Lee Soon-jae. (http://tv.sbs.co.kr/period/)

Inuh-agassi - "Little Mermaid" (MBC, from Jun. 24) Written by Im Sung-han. Directed by Lee Ju-hwan. A TV drama writer seeks to get revenge on her father and his new family, years after he left with another woman. She decides to write a drama that will expose her father's wrongdoing. Starring Jang Suh-hee, Jung Bo-seok, Woo Hee-jin, Lee Jae-eun, Kim Sung-taek, Han Hae-sook, Ko Du-shim. (http://www.imbc.com/tv/drama/mermaid/)

Dangshin-yeopi Joh-ah - "It's Nice Being Next To You" (KBS1, from Jul. 1) Written by Jung Sung-hee. Directed by Lee Sung-ju. A daily TV drama series about two girls growing up in the 1970s and 1980s who fall in love with the same person. Starring Ha Hee-ra, Jung Hye-young, Lee Jae-ryong, Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Ja-young, . (http://beside.kbs.co.kr)

Rival (SBS, from Aug. 3) Written by Jin Su-wan. Directed by Lee Chang-han. A poor woman who dreams of being a golf star is stuck with a huge debt after her brother runs off. Starring So Yoo-jin, Kim Jae-won, Kim Min-jeong, Kim Ju-hyuk, Park Kyung-rim, Park Chul. (http://tv.sbs.co.kr/rival/)

Taeyangin Ijema - "Man of the Sun, Lee Je-ma" (KBS2, from July 24) Written by Kim Hyang-myung. Directed by Ko Young-tak. The story of a pioneering Korean doctor who lived in the 1800s as the Chosun Dynasty was drawing to a close. Starring Choi Su-jong, Kim Yu-mi, Yu Ho-jung, Park Chul-ho, Song Ok-sook, Yang Geum-seok. (http://ijema.kbs.co.kr)

Nesarang Nugulkka? - "Who's My Love?" (KBS2, from Mar. 2) Written by Kim Su-hyun. Directed by Jung Eul-young. A contemporary drama about a large family that all lives in the same building, together with two outspoken female renters. Starring Ryu Jin, Myung Se-bin, Yoon Da-hoon, Lee Tae-ran, Kim Jung-hyun, Lee Seung-yeon. (http://mylove.kbs.co.kr/)

Daemang - "Great Ambition" (SBS, from Oct. 12) Written by Song Ji-na. Directed by Kim Jong-hak. A 24-episode historical drama about two brothers: one who chooses to expand his father's power at all costs, and the other who takes a humanitarian view. Starring Jang Hyuck, Han Jae-suk, Lee Yo-won, Son Yeh-jin, Park Sang-won. (http://tv.sbs.co.kr/daemang/)


Awards at international film festivals

Lee Chang-dong's third film Oasis was screened at the 59th Venice International Film Festival to great acclaim, winning the Best Director award, the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress (Moon So-ri), the FIPRESCI prize (chosen by international film critics), the Cinema Verine prize, and the SIGNIS prize from the World Catholic Association for Communication (see above story for more details). In addition, Public Toilet, a HK-Korean co-production by Hong Kong director Fruit Chan, was awarded a Special Mention in the Upstream section of the festival. The film stars Korean actors Jang Hyuck and Jo In-sung.

After War, which was commissioned by the 2002 Jeonju International Film Festival and which consists of three mid-length digital films by directors Moon Seung-wook (Korea), Suwa Nobuhiro (Japan), and Wang Xiaoshuai (China), won the top prize in the video section of the 55th Locarno International Film Festival. The Golden Leopard Video Sony, which was shared with the US-French production Love and Diane by Jennifer Dworkin, provides 30,000 Swiss francs to the winners.

Kim Ki-duk's Bad Guy was named winner of the Grand Prix at the 2002 Fukuoka Asian Film Festival held in Japan (not to be confused with the Focus on Asia: Fukuoka International Film Festival held in September). The film was praised by the festival jury for its "excellent description of the ultimate love between a gang leader and a college student." The festival also screened Kang Woo-suk's Public Enemy as its opening film.

Nabi (2001), the digitally-shot feature by director Moon Seung-wook, was named winner of Best Sound Design, Best Cinematography, and the Gaia Film Award for Environmental Awareness at the 16th Wine Country International Film Festival (July 18-August 11). Held each year in the vineyards of Napa Valley and Somona Valley in California, the festival mixes world cinema with food and wine events, galas, and seminars.

Aaron Lim's 3D-animated short film Angel was presented with a Special Prize at the 2002 Hiroshima International Animation Festival, which took place from August 22-26. The event, considered one of the top four animated festivals in the world, is held every two years in Hiroshima, Japan.

Celebrated auteur Hong Sang-soo was named Best Director in the 47th annual Asia Pacific Film Festival for his film Turning Gate. The festival, which is held in a different Asian country each year, was held this year in Seoul. More of an awards ceremony than a festival, the event featured 250 foreign guests from 13 countries.

Jeong Jae-eun's Take Care of My Cat (2001) was named winner of the Debut Prize, the top award conferred by the 11th Cologne Feminale festival in Germany. The movie also screened as the festival's opening film. Held from October 2-6, the Feminale festival screened a total of 120 short and feature-length films made by women.

Korean American Filmmaker Young Man Kang won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film with his film Soap Girl at the Asian American Showcase section of the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival. Kang's third film delves into the lives of women who work in Hollywood's massage parlors. In addition, Grace Lee's acclaimed short Barrier Device was awarded the Best Student Film in the main competition section. Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, located in California, is now in its second year.

At the 21st Vancouver International Film Festival, held from Sept. 26 - Oct. 11, Park Jin-pyo's Too Young To Die was cited with a Special Mention in the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema. In addition, Lee Chang-dong's Oasis was named winner of the Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award, for the film that best exemplifies "the values of human understanding and compassion, while providing the audience with a high degree of entertainment." Both Oasis and Kim Tae-gyun's Volcano High were also voted one of the 30 most popular films out of the total 210 non-Canadian films at the festival.

New DVD releases with English subtitles

The following are the latest releases of Korean films on DVD with English subtitles. For ordering information, more details and a full list of subtitled Korean films available for purchase, visit http://www.koreanfilm.org/subtitles.html or my wife's online DVD store at http://www.yeondvd.com.

BET ON MY DISCO (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
BREAK OUT (2002), from Cinema Service in Korea.
JUNGLE JUICE (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
THE CUT RUNS DEEP (2000), from Premier Entertainment in Korea.
2009 LOST MEMORIES (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
NO COMMENT (2002), from Cinexus in Korea.
TWO COPS (1993), from Cinema Service in Korea.
MARRIAGE IS A CRAZY THING (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
NABI (2001), from Pop Entertainment Asia in Korea.
SURPRISE PARTY (2002), from Cinema Service in Korea.
MAKE IT BIG (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
A PUBLIC CEMETERY OF WOL-HA (1967), from Bitwin in Korea.
NO BLOOD NO TEARS (2002), from 20th Century Fox Korea.
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002), from CJ Entertainment in Korea.
MY BEAUTIFUL DAYS (2002), from I Vision in Korea.
IRON PALM (2002), from Starmax in Korea.
ASAKO IN RUBY SHOES (2000), from Metro DVD in Korea.
EMERGENCY 19 (2002), from Starmax in Korea.
FRIEND (2002), from EnterOne in Korea.
SAULABI (2002), from Infinity DVD in Korea.
WHITE VALENTINE (1999), from Cinexus in Korea.

PISCES (2000), from Fortex Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
LOVE BAKERY (2000), from Fortex Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
THE ANARCHISTS (2000), from Fortex Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
INDIAN SUMMER (2001), from Fortex Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
LAST PRESENT (2001), from Fortex Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
GUNS & TALKS (2001), from Universe Laser in Hong Kong.
HI, DHARMA (2001), from Universe Laser in Hong Kong.
PARADISE VILLA (2001), from Best Perfect Ltd. in Hong Kong (cut version)
MY SASSY GIRL (2001), from Edko Films in Hong Kong.
MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER (2001), from Edko Films in Hong Kong.
BLOODY BEACH (2000), from Deltamac in Hong Kong.
VOLCANO HIGH (2001), from Megastar in Hong Kong.

Coming soon: Champion (2002), The Contact (1997), Over the Rainbow (2002).

Korean films abroad

In August, the Korean historical epic Musa received a large-scale release in France, where it was given substantial marketing support and dubbed into French. Titled Musa, Princess of the Desert and marketed around Chinese star Zhang Ziyi, the film debuted at #9 and has drawn over 197,000 admissions (US$1.03m) to date, which is a new record for a Korean film in France. Nonetheless given the number of screens on which it opened (145) and the marketing budget of the film, many view this performance as under expectations.

Two Korean films have opened recently in the U.S. Kim Ki-duk's The Isle (1999) opened on one screen in New York, playing from August 23 to September 20 with respectable screen averages for a total of $18,165. In addition, Jeong Jae-eun's debut film Take Care of My Cat was released by Kino International in New York on October 18, earning $3,137 on two screens for its opening weekend. The company plans to release the film nationwide shortly -- for play dates and more information, visit the film's website at http://www.kino.com/takecareofmycat/. Note that Kino International has also picked up rights to Im Kwon-taek's award-winning Chihwaseon.

Meanwhile Lee Jeong-hyang's The Way Home opened at #3 in Hong Kong on Sept. 19 on a medium release of 10 screens. As of October 20, it had accumulated HK$ 3.61m (US$475,000). The film also recently opened at #2 in the box-office in Taiwan, and broke into the top ten in Singapore as well. Hoping to carry this success into the North American market, Paramount Classics plans to release the film in the U.S. on November 15.

In other Hong Kong news, Media Asia released Lee Sung-gang's My Beautiful Girl, Mari on August 15 on 4 screens resulting in medium box office. The same company also released the international version of Volcano High on August 29, grossing close to HK$ 2m. The Hong Kong-Korea-Thailand production Three opened in Hong Kong on August 15 and grossed HK$ 7.36m on a 30-screen release (it would also perform well in Thailand, but not in Korea). Other Korean films to receive small-scale releases in Hong Kong include Phantom, the Submarine (1999) on Sept. 12 and A.F.R.I.K.A. on Oct. 17. Just Do It (2000) was released on an ambitious 18 screens on Oct. 17 but with a disappointing result. Upcoming releases include Champion (Nov. 22), My Boss My Hero (Nov. 29), 2009 Lost Memories (November) and The Phone (release date t.b.a.).

Lastly, a number of small-scale releases have taken place in Japan in recent months, including A Day (June 1), The Gingko Bed (June 8), The Legend of Gingko (June 15), Korean-Japanese-HK co-production One Fine Spring Day (June 22), and Club Butterfly (Sept. 7). This coming December 21 will see a large-scale release of the film Volcano High by Amuse Pictures, in a new version re-cut by the Japanese distributor and featuring a soundtrack with Japanese rock music. The same company also plans to release My Sassy Girl in February, with the scale of the release depending in part on how well Volcano High performs in December.

International sales

Note that sales to a given country do not necessarily guarantee a release. This is not a comprehensive list; I am merely passing along what I have heard.

NORTH AMERICA: Chihwaseon (2002); Volcano High (2001).
HONG KONG: Marriage is a Crazy Thing (2002); Phone (2002); Over the Rainbow (2002); My Boss My Hero (2001).
TAIWAN: Volcano High (2001); My Beautiful Girl, Mari (2002); Chihwaseon (2002).
CHINA: Marriage is a Crazy Thing (2002).
SINGAPORE: Surprise Party (2002).
THAILAND: Elysium (2002).
INDONESIA: Volcano High (2001); Marriage is a Crazy Thing (2002).
FRANCE: Turning Gate (2002).
UNITED KINGDOM: Three (2002).
ITALY: Elysium (2002).
NETHERLANDS: Volcano High (2001).
RUSSIA/CIS: Elysium (2002).
BALKAN STATES: Volcano High (2001).
AUSTRALIA: Volcano High (2001).
NEW ZEALAND: Volcano High (2001).
SOUTH AFRICA: Volcano High (2001).

SPECIAL NOTICE: This year, I am hoping to provide in-depth coverage of the Pusan International Film Festival (November 14-23) on a special section of Koreanfilm.org. For this I am looking for volunteers among the people who will attend, to provide their thoughts and impressions of the time they spend at the festival. Rather than covering news, I hope to provide a spectator's perspective of the event, where people will discuss what they did, where they stayed, which films they watched, who they met, etc. I would also welcome photographs. If you are interested in assisting me in this project, please email me at darcy@koreanfilm.org. More information will be forthcoming.

Special thanks to Yeon Hyeon-sook (YeonDVD.com), Ryan Law (Krmdb.com) and Stephen Cremin (Asian Film Library Bulletin) for their help in compiling this newsletter.

October 23, 2002
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Darcy Paquet/ darcy@koreanfilm.org /Posted October 29, 2002