Seen in Jeonju

Archive for June, 2010

Park Yong-ha

30th June 2010

park yong-haToday, the Korean film and entertainment world was rocked by yet another shocking suicide, this time by actor/singer Park Yong-ha.  The Associate Press article about his death, written by Kim Hyeong-jin reads as follows:  A popular South Korean actor and singer killed himself Wednesday in distress over career pressures while caring for his terminally ill father, police said, the latest in a string of high-profile suicides in the Asian country. Park Yong-ha, 33, is believed to have “impulsively” hanged himself with the electric cord of his camcorder at his Seoul home hours after he came home intoxicated, Seoul’s Gangnam Police Station said in a statement.“We have determined that it’s obvious he killed himself,” the statement said. No suicide note was found and Park didn’t have medical problems such as depression or money troubles, it said. Police, however, said Park had been under stress because he had to juggle management of his entertainment company and his career while his father was fighting stomach cancer.  “I must be sick instead of you, father. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the police statement quoted Park as tearfully telling his father before his mother later found the entertainer dead in his room.  Park also told acquaintances earlier this week that his work was “difficult and this kind of life is so hard.”  The actor had been faithfully nursing his 62-year-old father and had been taking sleeping pills due to insomnia, an official at Seoul Metropolitan Agency said, citing Park’s mother.  Park debuted in the late 1990s and starred in the 2002 television drama “Winter Sonata,” which drummed up a following in Japan and Southeast Asia. He held several concerts in Japan and released eight CD albums there. One of his fans was said to be Japan’s former first lady, Akie Abe.  Park’s death was the top news in Japan along with the country’s grueling loss to Paraguay on penalties Tuesday at the World Cup. Some Japanese TV networks had live coverage from Seoul with TV reporters standing in front of Park’s home.  Park’s online fan sites both in South Korea and Japan were paralyzed due to massive traffic. He was supposed to hold 12 concerts across Japan from July 2 to Aug. 22 and the tickets were sold out, according to Japanese record company Pony Canyon Inc.   Park’s body was moved to a Seoul hospital for a three-day mourning period before cremation, Yonhap news agency reported, citing his family.

The above article, for some reason concentrating on his fan reactions in Japan, fails to mention Park’s contributions to movies and especially tv in addition to his albums (9 in all).  His debut was actually in film.  In 1989, when he was just 12 years old, Park appeared in The Island of Women directed by Ha Ryun.  When he was a little older, he had his second role on MBCs Theme Game. This led to steady acting parts throughout the 90s but it wasn’t until the daily drama See and See Again (March 1998-April 1999) that he became a household name.  Also in 1998, he starred in his second film, If It Snows on Christmas, alongside Kim Hyeon-ju.  Between 1999 and 2002 when he had his third film role, Park appeared in seven other tv dramas including the abvoe mentioned Winter Sonata. There was a third film in there called Summer Story, but it was never released in theaters. His fourth movie was a remake of the classic, I Hate You, But Again (there is a confusing number of translations for this title) called simply Again in English. Sometime while appearing in all these tv shows and movies, Park found time to graduate from Jungang University’s department of Performing Arts. His singing career took off during the early part of the 2000s and he returned triumphantly to television with the well-received All In starring Lee Byeong-heon. More recently, Park was in a tv drama called Love Song and was in the thriller Scam in theaters. 

His life was much too short.  

Park Yong-ha:  August 12, 1977-June 30, 2010

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Korean Box Office: June 25-27

27th June 2010


Knight & Day came out of the blue and wrested the top spot from 71: Into the Fire although the latter film generally took first in the provinces. Barefoot Dreams received terrible reviews and posed no threat at all to the top two films.


1. I Came From Busan (kr)– d. Jeon Soo-il, starring Park Ha-seon, Kim Jeong-tae

2. I Love You Phillip Morris (fr/us)– d. Glenn Ficarra, starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

3. Pagwedwen Sanai (kr)– d. Woo Min-ho, starring Kim Myeong-in, Uhm Gi-joon  <no official English title yet–will update later this week>

4. Shrek Forever (us)– d. Mike Mitchell, starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy,kr

5. Splice (ca)– d. Vincenzo Natali, starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley

6. White Ribbon (at)–d. Michael Hancke, starring Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi

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DVD Releases: June 26-July 3

26th June 2010

flying giants

Three new DVDs are set to be released this week.  First up is FLYING GIANTS (1-disk), a baseball documentary about the Lotte Giants.  The Giants have one of the worst records in Korean baseball, coming in last or near last for the past decade–except for the 2008 season when they came in third.  However, despite their terrible playing ability, the team consistently has among the highest fan attendance records in the league. Subtitles: Korean only/ Rating: All Ages/ Form at: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0/ Region Code: 3/ Running Time: 85 minutes/ Special Features: None/ Suggested Price: 22,000 KRW/ Availibilty: June 30

OUTLAW (1-disk)–starring Gam Sang-woo, Jang Shin-yeong, Lee Seung-min. Subtitles: Korean, English/ Rating: Ages 18+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Region Code: 3/ Running Time: 94 minutes/ Special Features: Trailers, Special Clips/ Suggested Price: 22,000 KRW/ Availibity: June 30

pastaPASTA (9-disks)–MBC-TV drama starring Kong Hyo-jin, Lee Seon-gyun, and Alex that ran from January 2009-March 2010. The set includes a 52-page photobook and three postcards. Subtitles: Korean, English/ Rating: Ages 15+ / Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo/ Region Code: 3 / Special Features: Interviews with director Kwak Seok-jang, writer Seo Sook-hyang and stars Lee Seon-gyun, Kong Hyo-jin, Making of drama, NG, Deleted Scenes, Behind Story, Optional Commentary with Kwak, Seo, Lee and Kong/ Suggested Price: 110,000 KRW/ Availibilty: July 2

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DMZ (1965)

26th June 2010

dmz posterI recently purchased the lasted KOFA release, DMZ, and after watching it I am happy to say that I was happily surprised. I had read a little bit about the story prior  to watching it and I was expecting a fairly standard 60s melodrama.  And if I had watched the original 90-minute theatrical release, that is exactly what I would have seen. I did not count on was the editing skills of director Park Sang-ho.  Recognizing that the drama part of his ’semi-documentary’ was lacking and the happy ending detracted from the power of the film, Park cut close to 30 minutes out of the movie–all scenes involving famous actors and actress were removed. All that remains are the children and one or two other characters who are briefly on screen.  It was this version that won several ‘Best Documentary’ prizes between 1965 and 1967.  (This is confused in the English part of the booklet that came with the DVD–I was very confused after reading it and it said that the theatrical version survived even though the film I watched clearly was just an hour long.  However, after comparing that chapter with the Korean version also in the booklet, I realized it was mistranslated.)

The acting of the children in the movie is quite good and the ending is very powerful.  What is even more interesting is the story of the making of the film. Park decided to make a story about the DMZ after talking with some foreign tourists in Japan who wanted to visit it.  It saddened him that this scar across the nation had become a tourist attraction (It still is today…).  Citizens are not allowed in the demiltarized zone which stretches for two kilometers on each side of the 38th Parallel. However, Park received special permission to film within the southern section of that area and was accompanied by armed guards and mine detector units.  Landmines were a real problem and Park Sang-ho admits to being terrified for the children who kept running around between shots.  Landmines also play a significant role in the film on more than one occassion.

Naturally, because of the time it was made, Park got in trouble with censors and the government. In the sixties, to talk about reunification could have you labeled as a communist and subject to criminal investigation. Park was questioned about the scene where the children on the 38th Parallel–which is just marked by tape–barbed wire fences only exist at the 2km marks to the north and south.  The children’s actions while ‘marking their territory’ (literally in the boy’s case who is playing the south) and then sitting with their backs to each other refusing to speak spoke volumes of Park’s opinion of the situation.  Fortunately, the making of the film had received a lot of press and people wanted to see it, so with some editing for the theatrical version, it was allowed to screen.  One of the things he had to cut from the film was the signs marking the DMZ, but these appear in the documentary version as does the above-mentioned scene with the children.

The original film had subtitles burned into it for the film festival, and these remain, however KOFA has added new, better subtitles to the DVD.  I recommend this movie–but not as a movie. It was filmed on location and Park mentions that many of the things they shot around–the abandoned train, the destroyed tank, the ruined village–were all there. It is an intersting slice of history that I found surprising good even 45 years after the film was made.

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Index of 1971: 61-75

25th June 2010

Here are the next 15 films produced in Korea in 1971. Click the thumbnail to see a larger image. You can also view the films by director through the tab at the top of the screen marked ‘Movies of the 70s’.


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Korean Box Office: June 18-20

21st June 2010


 I am sure that it didn’t take anyone by surprise that the number one film last weekend was 71: Into the Fire.  What was more surprising was some inexplicable movement in the mid-regions of the box office charts.  Sex in the City 2 rising 3 places nationally (do to its where it placed in Seoul) even as it fell 2 in Jeonju and the rest of the country.  Meanwhile Karate Kid rose a spot in Jeonju even as it dropped three places nationally.  I can’t explain it.  Next week, Barefoot Dream is opening and, while I normally would expect a film that took in nearly 50% of the box office to remain in the top spot for a second week, I think 71: Into the Fire is going to have a struggle on its hands to hold its place against an all-ages, ’feel-good’, soccer film. All the films opening this week are listed below.


1. Barefoot Dream (kr)– d. Kim Tae-gyun, starring Park Hee-soon, Ko Chang-seok

2. Keeper (us)– d. Keoni Waxman, starring Steven Segal, Steph Duvall

3. Knight & Day (us)– d. James Mangold, starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz

4. Mistress of Spices (us) — d. Paul Mayeda Berges, starring Aishwarya Rai, Dylan McDermott

5. Nabbeunnomi Deo Jaljanda (kr)– d. Kwon Yeong-cheol, starring Kim Heung-soo, Jo An

6. Runaways (us)– d. Floria Sigismondi, starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Flemming

7. Sorority Row (us)– d. Steward Hendler, starring Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes

8. War of the Misses (fr)– d. Patrice Le Conte, starring Benalt Poelvoorde, Olivia Bonamy

9. Yosool (kr)– d. Ku Hye-seon, starring Im Jin-guy, Seo Hyeon-jin

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DVD Releases: June 20-26

20th June 2010


Three films that had very small theatrical releases will be given the DVD treatment this coming week. These are all single disks–special features are only on Vegetarian.

First up is Sadness In BeautySubtitles: Korean only/ Rating: ages 18+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby 5.1/ Region Code: 3/ Running Time: 79 minutes/ Recommended Price: 25,000 KRW/ Available: June 20

VegetarianSubtitles: Korean, English/ Rating: ages 18+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby 5.1/ Region Code: 3/ Running Time: 113 minutes + extras/ Recommended Price: 25,000 KRW/ Available: June 20   Special features: Optional commentary track with director Im Woo-seong and actors Chae Min-seo, Kim Hyeon-seong, Making, Trailer, TV Spot

Looking For My WifeSubtitles: Korean, English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Region Cold: 3/ Running Time: 108 minutes/ Recommended Price: 25,000 KRW/ Available: June 25

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71: Into the Fire (2010)

18th June 2010

lposter041112-k6Now that finals have been scored and grades have been uploaded, I have the next two and a half month to study, write and watch movies. And that is exactly what I did today. I took the opportunity to watch 71: Into the Fire.  The trailers I had been seeing made me excited to finally be able to see the movie and I went into it expecting a lot.  Why wouldn’t I? I like films that make me feel something when I watch. Being directed by Lee Jae-han, the same man who directed the very emotional Eraser in My Head, I had good reason to believe that the move would not ignore the complex emotions that are necessary to make a successful war film. If a war film is simply fighting, shooting, shouting and posturing, it is ultimately boring. No matter how good the special effects are, I have to feel something to stay interested. That is why I liked Taegukgi so much when I actually hated war movies when I was growing up.  One of my younger brothers loved watching John Wayne World War II war movies–they all seemed the same to me…  I am happy to say, that I was also very impressed with 71: Into the Fire.

The story, based on actual events, takes place in the early days of the Korean War when North Korean troups swept through the nation.  Every able-bodied man was needed in the war effort and students were no exception. The northern army was almost at Busan and there was no time for proper military training. One such student is Oh Jang-beom, who finds himself assisting on the battlefield and who is clearly over his head. The pace, the confusion, the sounds and the horror of the battle are overwhelming. But despite it all, and despite the terror Oh is clearly feeling, he completes his futile mission and begins an even more terrifying journey to evacuate the area.  I am unsure how long this opening sequence lasted because I was completely caught up in the action, but when it was over, I found that I had tears rolling down my face. That caught me by surprise–I don’t usually cry during an action scene–but that was a testament to the power of the acting in this first part of the movie.

Oh Jang-beom is played by Choi Seung-hyeon, known to hs fan as T.O.P of the band Big Bang. T.O.P. has previously appeared in the successful tv drama Iris and the little seen movie Nineteen. He has clearly been working on his acting skills because he delivers a powerful performance throughout the film–and especially in the opening. He no lines in the entire opening yet everything his charater is feeling is delivered through his eyes and body language. TOP is in his early 20s yet his character, at times, seems almost half that age–and the terror and confusion he’s feeling is palatable. 

TOP is listed third in the credits, even though his character has most of the screen time. The first two names in the credits are Cha Seung-won and Kwon Sang-woo, two well-known and very popular actors.  Unfortunately, in this film, both of the overact throughout the movie.  Perhaps it is partly the fault of writing–the characters seemed like one-note stereotypes–the evil North Korean commander and the gangster, but as actors they should have tried to make them feel real.  I was a little disappointed in them–especially Kwon.  He really needed to tone the character down and realize that he was not the star of the film.

The first half of the movie I thought was better than the second, which is a lot of fighting without the same emotional impact.  Even though I complained about some of the acting, I loved the movie and recommend it without reservation.  I also look forward to seeing more of TOP in future films.  I think that young man has a bright future ahead of him.

Incidently, the poster shown above is my favorite and the most powerful of the half dozen choices available. First it features TOP who really needs to be recognized for his work on this film, but second because of the tagline in blue which reads in English “Mom, I might die today…” It really brings home the fact that these characters in the film are all just students. These days much of the military are university students between their freshman and sophomore years fulling their mandatory 2-year duty. It was impossible for me not to think about the recent sinking of the Cheonan while watching this movie and I think that made the story even more emotional for me. I get very attached to my students, and I hate to think of them potentially facing such extreme dangers.

Posted in 2010s, Review | 3 Comments »

DMZ (1965) now on DVD

17th June 2010

dmzThe Korean Film Archives has been gradually releasing classic films on DVD and this week the drama DMZ was made available. The movie is about a family that becomes separated while attempting to escape from North Korea. Left alone, the two young children attempt to make the dangerous journey on their own in the hopes that they can be reunited with their parents. It was the first and only film for the child stars, Joo Min-ah and Lee Yeong-gwan but they co-starred with some familiar faces of the time including Nam Goong-won, Jo Mi-ryeong and Kim Hee-gab.  The original poster proclaims that this is a ’semi-documentary’ which I am guessing is another word for ‘fiction’ but I will politely reserve judgement until I see it. I just ordered my copy.  The DVD is a single disk with English subtitles, Region 3 and rated for ages 12 and older. The sound is Dolby Digital Mono and it is formated as anamorphic widescreen.  The recommended price is 15,400 KRW, but I just paid  13,800.  The movie was directed by Park Sang-ho who helmed just twenty films between the mid-50s to 1971–most of his film being prior to 1968.  Included on the disk is a 45 minute documentary also directed by Park, though the title and subject of the documentary was not included in the information I read…I guess I will have to wait to see what it is. 

If you are curious about dramas from the 60s..or if you just want to encourage KOFA to release more of them… they you may want to pick this up!

Posted in DVDs: New Releases, News | 2 Comments »

Korean Box Office: June 11-13

14th June 2010


The new twist on the Chunhyang story, The Servant, held its position as the number one film in Korea last weekend for a second week in a row. I think I can also safely predict that it is its final week there as 71: Into the Fire will officially open.  ‘71′ received a limited test screening in theaters this past weekend and did very well. That and the other films opening this coming week are listed below.


1. 71: Into the Fire (kr)– d. Lee Jae-han starring Cha Seung-won, Kwon Sang-woo

2. Back Up Plan (us)– d. Alan Poul, starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin <opening as Plan B>

3. Boto (kr)– d. Jo Yeon-soo, starring Han Tae-il, Oh Soo-hyeon

4. Hear Me (tw)– d. Fen-Fen Cheng, starring Eddie Peng, Ivy Chen

5. Hottie and the Nottie (us)–d. Tom Putnam, starring Paris Hilton, Joel Moore

6. Ip Man 2 (hk)– d. Wilson Yip, starring Dennie Yen, Xiong Dai-lin

7. No Impact Man (us)– d. Laura Gabbert, starring ColinBeavan, Michelle Conlin

8. Sex, Party and Lies (sp)– d. David Menkes, starring Maria Casas, Ana de Armas

9. Street Dance 3D (uk)– Dania Pasquini, starring Richard Winsor, Nichola Burley

10. Thomas & Friends (us)-d. Greg Tiernan, starring Kerry Shale, Togo Igawa

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