Showing posts with label north korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label north korea. Show all posts

Monday, November 2, 2020

Busan 2020 Review: STEEL RAIN 2: SUMMIT Dives into Thrilling and Surprisingly Funny Geopolitical Waters

Part of MKC's coverage of the 25th Busan International Film Festival.

By Pierce Conran

Released three years, ago, the geopolitical action-thriller Steel Rain (2017) was a solid success on the charts but one that was completely overshadowed by two films that hit theaters within a fortnight of its release, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds and 1987: When the Day Comes. Given its closed narrative and what was a positive but muted reception, it hardly seemed a likely candidate for the sequel treatment, still a rarity in the Korean film industry. Yet, three years later that’s exactly what we got, but what’s even more surprising is that despite returning with the same director, stars and theme, Steel Rain 2: Summit completely reinvents itself and manages to surpass its predecessor in almost every way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review: NORTHERN LIMIT LINE Mistakes Nationalism For Narrative

By Pierce Conran

2014 gave us the nationalist call-to-arms Roaring Currents and, following its record-breaking run, the following summer unsurprisingly treated us to its own entree of patriotic balderdash, the melee of melodrama and jingoism that is Northern Limit Line. Going right for the tear ducts, this limp cash cow often feels more like a TV drama than the naval thriller it pretends to be.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: THE SPY GONE NORTH, Bold and Sumptuous Espionage Yarn Eschews Action for Geopolitical Intrigue

By Pierce Conran

Following his period action blockbuster Kundo: The Age of the Rampant in 2014, Yoon Jong-bin is back in the summer season lineup with his 90s-set espionage drama The Spy Gone North, which bowed earlier this year as part of the midnight lineup of the Cannes Film Festival. A timely though occasionally dense tale of covert agents and behind-closed-doors deals, the film employs detailed production values and a fascinating geopolitical context in a year that has seen the present-day Koreas draw closer than ever before.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: THE NET Is a Simple Catch from Kim Ki-duk

By Pierce Conran

Complex issues get a facile treatment in The Net, the latest work from Korean provocateur Kim Ki-duk. More coherent than his last two outings but a far cry from his best work, Kim's film comes off as little more than a simplistic sermon brought to life through routine indie specs.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: V.I.P. Is D.O.A.

By Pierce Conran

Following his period epic The Tiger, director Park Hoon-jung scales down his ambitions for the North Korea-themed investigative thriller V.I.P., a brooding procedural that lumbers its way through a serial killer tale mired in political intrigue. Much like his hit gangland opus New World, several (male) actors share top billing but each struggle in cliche-riddled roles.

Monday, August 14, 2017

BiFan 2017 Review: RYEOHAENG Casts Abstract Light on NK Refugees

By Pierce Conran

Director Im Heung-soon returns for his third feature, casting his artistic light on another under-served segment of the population with the documentary Ryeohaeng. Focusing on the lives of several female North Korean defectors in Korea, Im contrasts talking heads positioned in some unusual locations with dreamy reveries and musical sequences.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Borderline Life - DEAR DICTATOR Re-Frames the Gaze South

By David Bell

Renowned for his unflinching examinations of the socially, economically and culturally marginalised within South Korean society, Lee Sang-woo’s surefooted seventh feature Dear Dictator (2014) presents a wry meditation on the lives of several disadvantaged South Korean youths exposed to the propagandist gaze of a mysterious North Korean onlooker.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Strong Scenes Doth Not a Narrative Make in Genre-Hopping COMMITMENT

By Pierce Conran

Following on from this year's Secretly Greatly, another action-drama featuring Korean idols playing young North Korean spies who stay undercover in the south only to be targeted by their homeland, Commitment announces itself as a medley of genres, as commonly witnessed in commercial Korean film. Both works hail from Korean studio Showbox, but while Secretly Greatly starts out as a neighborhood comedy-drama, this new effort reserves its opening beats strictly for the thriller genre.

After his father's failed mission in the South, Myung-hoon and his sister are sent to a prison camp in North Korea. Accepting his own mission as an undercover spy to protect his sister from further harm, Myung-hoon infiltrates the south, where he poses as a high school student. He ends up helping a bullied girl in his school while going out interrogating people to learn what happened to his father during his free time. Soon his government learns what he is up to and sends someone to kill him.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: THE SUSPECT Eschews Drama for Action, and Lots of It

By Pierce Conran

Thinking back to Shiri (1999) and Secret Reunion (2010), North Korean spies have a history of success at the Korean box office. Local producers have been especially keen to capitalize on their appeal this year with no less than four big budget spy thrillers infiltrating screens. Of the three released to date, two of them (The Berlin File and Secretly Greatly) were big hits (around seven million admissions a piece) while last month's Commitment failed to generate much buzz (barely one million viewers). On Christmas Eve, The Suspect will bring its high-octane cocktail of action and intrigue to theaters, bringing the count to four.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: North Korea in South Korean Cinema (May 2013)

North Korea has been in the news a lot lately for its latest round of belligerent actions. Many believe that Western media has been exaggerating the danger the communist state poses to South Korea's national security. I can't say that I've noticed any especial alarm among the local populace yet there's no denying that the oppressive regime casts a long shadow over the country. Cinema is just one of the places where this is readily evident, so this month I asked the experts:

Has Korean cinema's representation of North Korea changed over the years?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today 2012 - Ideological Barriers and Invisible Borders in Poongsan (풍산개, Poongsangae) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).

Kim Ki-duk is one of the filmmakers who initially drew me to Korean cinema.  The first film of his I saw was The Isle (2000), which was, in a French DVD edition, packaged together with Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy (1999).  While the films may have been very different they were also a fantastic double bill that complemented each other in many ways.  I wasn’t as shocked by the violence as I may have been because I had already seen Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and before dipping into Korean cinema, had more or less exhausted Takashi Miike’s catalogue up until that point (around 2003).

Park’s film, while harrowing, was a pure piece of cinema brimming with adrenaline and the pure pleasure of filmmaking.  Lee’s poignant drama was elegant, realistic, literary, and propelled by social issues and recent Korean history.  Kim’s effort was slow and laconic, it was violent while at the same time elegiac.  The Isle had an artist’s touch and was unlike anything I’d seen before, just as the previous two films were.  Indeed I was very lucky to have selected the three Korean films that I did as my introduction to the nation’s cinema, the hooks were in deep from the start.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Korean Cinema News (12/15-12/21, 2011)

The big news in Korea this week is the death of the leader of the North, Kim Jong-il.  Given that he was a known cinephile I have included a pair of pieces on North Korea.  Besides that there is a lot of news, CJ is making big advances with business deals left and right, the mind boggles at how big a studio it could become.  Some great trailers this week, especially for Howling, by Ha Yu and starring Song Kang-ho, as well as some great one sheets, I need a copy of the Choi Min-sik poster for Nameless Gangster!  Lots of other news, great interviews, and box office as usual.



Korean Film Punch Invited to Berlin Film Festival
Korean film Punch (Wandeukyi) by director Lee Han has been invited to next year's Berlin International Film Festival, the film's local distributor said Thursday.  The movie will be screened in the "Generation" section of the 62nd festival for featuring movies for younger children and teens, CJ Entertainment and Media Co. said.  It marks the second time a Korean film has been invited to the section following the 2006 movie Like a Virgin from director Lee Hae-yeong.   Punch is currently the third highest-grossing Korean film of the year.  (The Korea Times, December 15, 2011)

A Look Back at the Year's Breakout Films
In 2011, Korean films brought attention to the individuals and issues that have otherwise remained unaddressed, underrepresented, or simply unexplored.  While the questions posed by these films varied, provoking responses ranging from angry shock to laughter and sympathy, all called for a collective reconsideration of the social dynamics and relationships that can be found in Korean society today.  (, December 15, 2011)

Korean Mega War Movie Targets Pan-Asian Audience
Kang Je-gyu's new pan-Asian movie My Way premieres on Dec. 22.  Kang, who drew over 10 million spectators with the clunking history epic Taegukgi in 2004, is now hoping for Asia-wide success with the biggest budget and the most ambitious scale in many years.  The cast includes top stars from Korea, China and Japan, such as Jang Dong-gun, Joe Odagiri and Fan Bingbing.  (The Chosun Ilbo, December 15, 2011)

Korean Film Week in Budapest
Considering the fact that Hungarian film distributors tend to release only one Korean movie a year, Hungarian viewers have two options to watch contemporary Korean films on the big screen:  the 'Titanic International Film Festival' and the annual 'Korean Film Week', both held in Budapest.  Supported by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korea Foundation and the Korean Film Council, this year the Embassy of the Republic of Korea has organized the Korean Film Week for the fourth time.  (The Korea Blog, December 15, 2011)

Secrets, Objects Sells to Hong Kong
Korean production company Film Front has announced that Secrets, Objects, directed by Lee Young-mi's film Secrets, Objects has been sold by Korean production company Film Front to Sundream Motion Pictures in Hong Kong. The romantic film features  Jang Seo-hee as a 40-year-old sociology professor preparing a dissertation on extramarital affairs and Jeong Seok-won, a 21-year-old student who enrolls in her seminar.  The film screened at the Moscow International Film Festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, and the Montreal World Film Festival this year. (KOBIZ, December 15, 2011)

The 6th London Korean Film Festival 2011

A great video summing up the highlights of the recent 6th London Korean Film Festival.  Watching the clip made me quite jealous of everyone at the event, one which I dearly would have liked to attend.  (, December 16, 2011)

John Hurt to Star in Bong Joon-ho's Snow Piercer
Up until now the only confirmed player in Bong Joon-ho's much anticipated global production Snow Piercer has been Song Kang-ho, though it is said that he will only play a small part.  In a recent interview acclaimed and veteran thespian John Hurt has confirmed that he will be joining the production for three months starting in March of next year.  (Gothamist, December 15, 2011)

Chicago Tribune Names Poetry Film of the Year
The accolades keep on rolling in for Poetry.  On Dec. 18, As the Chicago Tribune counted down its 10 best movies of the year on December 18th, Lee Chang-dong's Poetry wound up No. 1, ahead of Moneyball and French movie Copie Conforme, was deemed the best.  The Korean movie singled out by the paper’s movie critic is a tale about an elderly woman who strives to write poetry despite Alzheimer’s and the hardships of the life around her.  The film has also won the award for the best screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.  (Joong Ang Daily, December 20, 2011)

KAFA Partners With CJ E&M and CJ CGV
The Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) has renewed its partnership with leading entertainment media company CJ E&M and its affiliate exhibition company CJ CGV.  In an academic-industry partnership deal signed yesterday (Dec. 14) at the Academy, the three entities agreed to work together to cultivate filmmaking talent that could become the future center of the film industry.  (KOBIZ, December 19, 2011)

Sector 7 Hits Box Office Record in China
Sci-fi thriller Sector 7 is officially the highest grossing Korean film in China, according to South Korean investor/distributor CJ Entertainment.  Released Dec. 6 on approximately 4,000 screens, the sea creature feature took in CNY20 million (US$3.1 million) by Dec. 14.  (KOBIZ, December 20, 2011)

Young North Korean Defectors Produce Short Film in Seoul
A group of young North Korean defectors, aiming to show young South Koreans that they are the same, recently completed shooting a short film in Seoul, said a film producer at With Culture who helped them make the movie.  Choi Ji-hoon met the North Korean defectors in their late teens to early 20s at a film class for students at Durihana International School as part of the company’s volunteering work.  (The Korea Herald, December 14, 2011)

London Korean Film Festival Round-up and Ryu Seung-wan’s The Unjust
London Korea Links runs down the 2011 London Korean Film Festival and especially the work of Ryu Seung-wan.  Ryu has had several of his films released in the UK on DVD, but he is not as well-known to the viewing public as the likes of Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho.  (London Korea Links, December 21, 2011)

New images have been revealed for Song Kang-ho's new film Howling.  The directed by Ha Yu (A Dirty Carnival, 2006; Once Upon a Time in High School, 2004) is a thriller involving spontaneous combustion, excited?  So am I.  (Twitch, December 20, 2011)

The Front Line to Compete at Int'l Film Fest in Palm Springs
The Front Line which has won a flurry of domestic awards and is the Korean pic for the Oscars has been invited to compete at the upcoming Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) next month, according to its official website on Tuesday.  The Front Line will be up against a number of other international pictures for the FIPRESCI award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the 7th annual PSIFF from January 5 to 16 next year.  (, December 20, 2011)

Kim Jong-il: The Cinephile Despot
One of the more surprising facts about Kim Jong-il was his love of cinema. He reportedly owned more than 20,000 videos and DVDs and counted Elizabeth Taylor among his favourite actresses.  "The cinema occupies an important place in the overall development of art and literature. As such it is a powerful ideological weapon for the revolution and construction."  So wrote Kim Jong-il in his 1987 essay The Cinema and Directing.  (BBC, December 19, 2011)

North Korea was no cinematic powerhouse. Though exact numbers are unknown, Variety estimates the annual cinema production of the area was seven to 10 features in the 1970s and 1980s, only four or five in the 1990s, and a mere trickle after 2000.  In the past few years, however, there have been a number of documentaries by outsiders about life behind the Kimchi Curtain, as well as Hollywood and South Korean thrillers about North Korea as a terror state.  (The Globe and Mail, December 20, 2011)

Gov’t is Key to Cinemas’ Success
Film experts from South Korea and the United Kingdom said government support was a key to the success of their cinema industries in an international seminar held Friday in Phu Yen.  The event was part of the 17th Vietnam Film Festival currently taking place in the central province which opened on Thursday evening with the attendance of nearly 1,000 local film professionals.  (, December 18, 2011)

In an interesting piece of synchronicity it appears that Mia Wasikowska may be moving from Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook's English language debut Stoker to Spike Lee's remake of Park's breakout film.  Twitch has learned that Wasikowska has been offered the role of Marie, the female lead of the gritty thriller.  The role was previously offered to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara.  (Twitch, December 16, 2011)

Route One Films Enters $110 Million Korean Entertainment Partnership
Route One Films has entered into a $110 million film and television fund partnership with the South Korean government, CJ E&M, Lotte Entertainment and Sovik Venture Capial to form the Sovik Global Contents Investment Fund – the largest entertainment fund in Korean history.  (The Hollywood Reporter, December 15, 2011)

Song Hye-kyo to Star in Woo’s Film
Popular actress Song Hye-kyo will star in celebrated Chinese director John Woo’s upcoming epic love story film Love and Let Love, according to her local agency.  Song, who recently won the first film award of her acting career for her role as the grieving filmmaker in this year’s somber drama A Reason to Live, will star as a wealthy, driven woman in Shanghai who lives through the end of WWII and Chinese Civil War.  (The Korea Herald, December 20, 2011)

Clive Owen Offered Villain Role Spike Lee's Oldboy
Twitch has learned that the villain role in Oldboy has now been offered to Clive Owen.  Owen and Lee have history, of course, having worked together on Lee's underrated thriller The Inside Man. That the director and star know and like each other is certainly a plus but a much bigger plus is that Owen embodies the perfect blend of sophistication and menace that the part requires along with the sort of charisma needed to go toe to toe with Brolin.  (Twitch, December 16, 2011)
The director Kang Je Kyu who has written the history of Korean movies, said during the interview with News Y (news channel by Yonhap News) on December 15, "I gave my best effort and passion that I have spared for the past seven years while taking a break to produce the movie My Way."  (KBS, December 16, 2011)

Lovable Q&A with Star and Director
Q&A took place after a screening of Lovable at the Dong-Sang Art Hall in Daegu, South Korea (December 3, 2011).  Appearing as speakers are movie director Park Chul-Soon and actress Yoo Hae-Jung, who plays 9-year-old Da-Seul, who lives with her uncle who work as a waiter and her grandfather who works in a dry squid factory.  AsianMediaWiki editor Ki Mun was there and transcribed/translated the session.  (Asian Media Wiki, December 3, 2011)

King of Pigs: Korean Filmmaker Yeun Sang-ho Explores Dark Side
At this fall’s Busan International Film Festival, 33-year-old director Yeun Sang-ho drew attention with his first feature-length project:  an animated, cold-blooded adult tale called The King of Pigs that explores the underside of human nature at an all-boys middle school in Seoul.  The school is a microcosm of society, a harsh environment where there is no escape from constant bullying and violence.  (The Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2011)

Daniel D.H. Park, Director of International Promotion Center
Director of the International Promotion Center at the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Daniel D.H. Park is looking at his 20th anniversarywith the governmental organization.  He took some time out from his busy year-end schedule to meet with KoBiz and talk about his work supporting and promoting Korean cinema and the Korean film industry and how that is changing.  (KOBIZ, December 19, 2011)


Dancing Queen


Never Ending Story



(Modern Korean Cinema, December 19, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Love and the War (Jeokkwaui Dongchim) 2011

The villagers look on as North Korea invades

Since Korean cinema reemerged at the end of the 1990s one of the most popular topics it has mined has been the division of the peninsula.  Many credit Kang Je-gyu’s Shiri (1999) as the blockbuster that brought about a renaissance in Korean film.  Personally I believe that the industry was already reviving before this but Shiri certainly was the perfect storm that toppled box office records and made the world stand up and take notice.  As well as being the highest-budgeted Korean film up until that point ($8.5 million), Shiri was also a technical spectacle modeled on Hollywood action films which incorporated melodrama, perhaps more importantly, it was focused on North Korea.  A year later, Joint Security Area (2000), Park Chan-wook’s debut and an even more complex view on the relationship between North and South Korea, once again set the box office alight, beating Shiri’s record for Seoul admissions but falling just short on the national level.  The gangster film Friend reached new heights in 2001 and the next two films to break the record came in quick succession in late 2003/early 2004.  The first of these was Kang Woo-suk’s Silmido, telling the story of a group of South Korean convicts being trained to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in the late 1960s.  It was the first film to cross the 10 million admissions mark but was overtaken in a matter of weeks by Kang Je-gyu’s follow-up to Shiri, the enormous Korean war blockbuster Taegukgi.  Kang’s film followed brothers of the South Korean army who are eventually separated as one joins the North.

There is no question that the representations of North Korea often translate into box office success but these have changed over time.  2011 has given us a lot of films dealing with the North, more so than usual.  While some have been typical large-scale productions like Jang Hoon's The Front Line there have also been a number of smaller scale films tackling representations of the North from new angles, including Juhn Jai-hong's Poongsan and Park Jung-bum’s independent hit The Journals of Musan.  One film that falls between these two ends of the spectrum is In Love and the War (aka Sleeping With the Enemy), a melodramatic war comedy in the vein of Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005), another enormously successful North Korea-themed blockbuster.

Kim Jung-woong's platoon marches in

A quaint village in the southern part of the Korean peninsula goes about its business during the Korean war.  The locals are preparing for Sul-hee’s (Jung Ryeo-won) wedding when a North Korean military platoon, led by Kim Jung-woong (Kim Ju-hyeok), invades.  Sul-hee’s suitor, a member of the anti-communist youth league, flees with his family during the night.  Jung-woong sees himself as a liberator and the villagers, in order to ensure their safety, kowtow to their oppressors.  Sul-hee is strong-willed and is less gracious in her welcome.

You can guess how the rest of the film plays out which makes the 135 minute running time daunting but normally this kind of narrative succeeds on the basis of its details and characters rather than much originality from the direction that the story and intended moral focus will take.  Welcome to Dongmakgol was very successful with this tactic:  it began with an original and improbable conceit and after having introduced its great characters, it relied on them, good set pieces, and witty humor rather than the story which can only play out in one way.  Sadly, In Love and the War does not feature the same caliber of protagonists and suffers greatly because of its uneven tone.  It’s a war film, a drama, a comedy, and also a romance but rather than blend these elements throughout the narrative, separate scenes distinctly occupy one territory and clash with each other.

Jung Ryeo-won as Sul-hee

Much of the fault lies with the script, from Bae Se-young (Bronze Medalist, 2009; The Recipe, 2010), which, in its attempt to portray conflicting ideologies in a novel way, ends up humanizing, in cloying melodramatic fashion, everyone staying in the village during the occupation, while demonizing all that stand outside its borders.  I understand the need for us to empathize with the principal characters by streamlining the motivations of the antagonizing agents of action but here the paradox of the mutable ideologies of these protagonists versus the draconian dogmas of the outsiders strains credulity to breaking point.  Granted Welcome to Dongmakgol is guilty of this as well but it is less transparent and benefits from much better character progressions as a result of Jang Jin’s fine writing.

Also to blame is Park Keon-hong’s heavy-handed direction.  In his film, Park does not demonstrate a strong knowledge or understanding of film style, the mise-en-scene is only fleshed-out for the overwrought melodramatic peaks of the narrative and this, if anything, serves to undermine them as they seem to belong to a different film.  One of the reasons that Korea has been so successful in blending genres is its frequent ability to forge an exemplary and unified style and atmosphere through film production techniques, that way the oscillating themes, tones, and emotions can exist within the same framework.  Good examples of this include Jang Joon-hwan’s Save the Green Planet (2003) and Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (2006).  This is a trait that In Love and the War is sorely lacking.

Yu Hae-jin, Byun Hee-bong, and Shin Jeong-keun

The strongest point of the film has to be its ensemble cast, filled with veteran bit players and emerging stars.  Kim Ju-hyeok (The Servant, 2010) does well in his role even if he is a little dry but Jung Ryeo-won (Castaway on the Moon, 2009) is excellent as usual, she has gone from strength to strength in her career and I look forward to her being offered meatier parts.  The supporting cast, comprising of Yu Hae-jin (The Unjust; Moss, both 2010), Kim Sang-ho (Moby Dick, 2011), Byun Hee-bong (Memories of Murder, 2003; The Host), and Shin Jeong-keun (Running Turtle, 2009; Blades of Blood, 2010), are all wonderful, even if the script calls on them to overact from time to time.  I only wish this great cast had been given more defined characters and stronger dialogue.

Perhaps In Love and the War is a worthy experiment but as a narrative feature it ultimately fails due in part to its disparate ideas but mainly because it lacks restraint and balance.  However I will say that I was enjoying the film until the third act but at that point the film completely floundered, the climax is beyond absurd and frankly a bit of an embarrassment.  Given the film's anemic performance at the Korean box office, I imagine others felt the same way.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Korean Cinema News (11/10-11/16, 2011)

Another huge amount of news this week including some great features from Korean Cinema Today which among other things broke news regarding the start of production on Bong Joon-ho's much anticipated Snow Piercer.  Lots of great features but also a perplexing one from The Guardian which I discussed in the comments with its author.  Also lots of new trailers including a bombastic one for the upcoming My Way.


Arirang and The Yellow Sea play at Mar del Plata
Argentina’s Mar del Plata International Film Festival is screening Korean films Arirang, directed by Kim Ki-duk, and The Yellow Sea, directed by Na Hong-jin during its 26th edition, Nov. 5 – 13.  (KOBIZ, November 8, 2011)

Asiana International Short Film Festival closes with Promise
The 9th Asiana International Short Film Festival closed Monday, Nov. 7 after a six-day run with Jero Yun’s fiction short Promise winning the best film award.  At the Closing ceremony, Festival Director Ahn Sung-ki and jury head Kang Soo-yeon, both veteran Korean actors, were joined by jury members director Inudo Isshin from Japan, director Kim Tae-yong from Korea, Sarah Hoch Delong, founder and Executive Director of the Guanajuato International Film Festival, and Tono Seigo, Festival Director of the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia.  (KOBIZ, November 8, 2011)

YesAsia Sponsors the Fantastic Asia Film Festival in Australia
Leading online retailer is a premier sponsor of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival (FAFF) which runs from November 10 to 13 at the Cinema Nova in Melbourne, Australia.  In cooperation with distribution and production company Monster Pictures, the inaugural event brings a diverse and interesting mix of Asian genre films from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and the Philippines to film enthusiasts in Australia.  (, November 9, 2011)

Korean Agent Gets Remake Treatment From UTV
Indian entertainment giant UTV Motion Pictures is to make an official Hindi-language remake of South Korean hit My Girlfriend is an Agent (2009).  The new film, which will retain the English title, will be produced by director Imtiaz Ali and his wife Preety Ali under their new PI Films label. Choreographer Bosco will direct.  (Film Business Asia, November 10, 2011)

Punch VS A Reason to Live - Why did Yoo Ah-in laugh and Song Hye-kyo cry?
Song Hye-kyo's movie A Reason to Live is on the verge of disappearing.  The accumulated number of admissions as of today November 9th is 58,877, showing very slow progress.  This movie was greatly looked forward to as it was being directed by Lee Jeong-hyang, who returned nine years after the 4 million-plus admission box office hit The Way Home (2002) and the cast included Song Hye-kyo.  However, as soon as it came out, it was ignored by audiences and isn't showing any signs of doing better even after two weeks in release.  (, November 9, 2011)

First Images From Choi Min-sik Starring Thriller Nameless Gangster
The simple fact that Choi stars in this is reason to pay attention.  Not only is he a fabulously talented actor but he is also extremely selective about his roles, making very few missteps along the way.  And when the first images look as good as those in the gallery below ... well, all the better.  (Twitch, November 9, 2011)

New Stills for the Upcoming Korean Movie My Way
My Way, directed by Jang Je-gyu and starring Jang Dong-gun, was formerly known as D-Day.  My Way is a co-production between South Korea and the USA.  (, November 9, 2011)

Actress Son Ye-jin is planning on debuting in the Chinese film market...before it gets too late!  After making her big screen comeback with Lee Min-gi in the movie Chilling Romance, Son revealed on a recent interview with OSEN that she's currently eyeing out the Chinese movie scene.  (KBS, November 9, 2011)

Four Leading Korean Directors Working on Overseas Projects
The year 2012 looks like it will see an unprecedented rush of Korean directors working on foreign projects.  This phenomenon seems similar to the situation back in the late 1990s when Hong Kong directors John Woo, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark, Kirk Wong and Ronny Yu all directed films produced in Hollywood.  What’s different is that whereas they were inclined to make films only in Hong Kong’s specialty genre – the action film, their Korean counterparts are expected to make films that will retains the directors’ varying styles and sensibilities.  (Korean Cinema Today, November 9, 2011)

Korean Wave Rises to China Challenge
Very little is known of the personal life of Chinese President Hu Jintao, but we do know that he likes paper-cutting and cycling.  And that he is a fan of Korean costume dramas. China's deeply private head of state has gone on record to say that he is a fan of the blockbuster soap opera Jewel in the Palace, and is one of millions of fans of Korean movies and TV in the world's most populous nation.  (Korean Cinema Today, November 1, 2011)

Korean Crews in China
Films from Greater China increasingly employ technical specialists from Korea - Kim Seong-hoon reports.  For a long time, the film industry has evolved according to emergences of new technology and this has meant new opportunities for those working in the field.  We all know how when “talkies” were invented, many silent movie actors lost their jobs and at the same time, many other people found work as synchronized sound technicians and post-sync supervisors. (Korean Cinema Today, November 8, 2011)

South Korean Documentary Arirang Wins BIFFDOCS
Renowned South Korean arthouse filmmaker Kim Ki-duk has won BIFFDOCS, Australia’s richest documentary award.  Ki-duk’s entry Arirang beat 19 films from around the world to win the top prize of $25 000, including Queensland-produced documentary, The Trouble With St Mary’s, which received a $35 000 documentary production investment from Screen Queensland in 2009-10.  (, November 11, 2011)

Bong Joon-ho Opens Busan West Festival at Chapman University with 3D Version of The Host
Growing up in South Korea, Bong Joon-ho developed a love of American science fiction movies thanks to the Armed Forces Network.  Now, the acclaimed filmmaker and the new 3D version of The Host (2006), Bong's 2006 valentine to American creature features, come to Orange Friday to open the Busan West Asian Film Festival at Chapman University.  (OC Weekly, November 9, 2011)

Korean Films at the 13th Cinemanila International Film Festival
Another special Cinemanila section this year is “Focus on Korea,” which highlights the movies of acclaimed Korean filmmakers like Boo Ji-Young.  Mr. Aguiluz said Mr. Young will arrive in the country to present his film A Time to Love during the festival.  (Business World, November 10, 2011)

Filmmakers Lynn Lee and James Leong of Lianain Films gained unprecedented access to the Pyongyang’s main film academy for an exceptionally well observed documentary piece.  (North Korean Films, November 2, 2011)

The fine folks at Koryo Tours have given us a bit of advanced notice about the Pyongyang International Film Festival 2012.   It’ll be a great chance to not only see some of the best North Korean films of recent years but also a chance for North Koreans to experience some Western releases.   (North Korean Films, October 22, 2011)

Buyers Take Aim for Lotte's War of the Arrows
Korean box-office hit has sold to US, UK, German-Speaking Europe, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere.  Korean studio Lotte Entertainment has closed a number of deals on its local box-office smash The War of the Arrows.  (Screen Daily, November 4, 2011)

North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri has lambasted the inaugural two-day North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival, scheduled to be held this Thursday and Friday at a Seoul university theater.  (Daily NK, November 7, 2011)

An Up-to-Date Look at the Korean 3D Content Industry and 3D Imaging Technology!
To briefly talk about the present condition of the Korean 3D industry, much of the content is produced under the support of government-affiliated organizations related to cultural contents, and there are not many that are being produced by actual media content producers.  However, the fact that there is education regarding 3D image available for people, along with the support for production, presents much better conditions than neighboring Japan, where there is no government support for the 3D content industry.   (Advanced Technology Korea, October 4, 2011)

War of the Arrows – Causing Death and Saving Lives
The opening gala of the London Korean Film Festival was a more rambunctious affair than I remember even last year’s being, due in no small part to the sudden and unexpected entrance of SHINee (I was lucky enough to be two rows behind them, but many who had specially booked seats I gather were incandescent to have been re-seated!).   (London Korea Links, November 14, 2011)

Injunction to Ban You Pet Dismissed
The male solidarity's injunction to ban the movie You Pet has been dismissed.  The male solidarity requested the banning of the movie You Pet, saying it was insulting to men.  (, November 13, 2011)

S. Korean Film Festival Begins in Kathmandu
The Korean craze amongst the Nepalis, especially the youngsters, is a common scenario these days.  Films are one way to express the culture, life, human relations, religion and values of a particular country.  One can get an idea about a particular country from a film, which one may not get from reading dozens of books.  (The Seoul Times, November 13, 2011)

Top star Lee Byeong-Heon is attempting a historical drama for the fist time in his acting career.  He has recently confirmed as a cast member for King of Chosun.  This will be directed by Choo Chang-min and not Kang Woo-seok, who was initially supposed to direct this movie.  (, November 13, 2011)

Korean Cinema: Local Film Industry Goes Global
Korea is the 10th largest movie market in the world and is endeavoring to meet global standards.  Not only have veterans such as Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-duk and Hong Sang-soo made a name in arthouse films, but blockbuster hits appearing from Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and more.  (Korea Magazine, November 2011)

Bong Joon-ho's Snow Piercer Rumbles to Life
It was all the way back in 2006 when Korea's Bong Joon-ho first spoke about his planned big screen adaptation of French graphic novel Snow Piercer (Le Transperceneige).  With Bong riding high from the massive success of the The Host (2006) and with Oldboy (2003) director Park Chan-wook on board as a producer it seemed certain that this one would be up and running quickly.  That proved not to be the case. (Twitch, November 15, 2011)

Do South Koreans Actually Love Film?
In the noughties, South Korea earned itself a reputation as the new hotspot for cinephiles.  A cultural explosion followed the end of military rule in 1987: on the cinema front, film festivals and magazines sprung up to feed the new curiosity.  Attendance more than doubled between 2000 and 2006, when it stood at 153m admissions a year (comparable to Britain's, with a smaller population). (The Guardian, November 15, 2011)
Actors Ha Jeong-woo, Han Seok-Kyu and Ryoo Seung-beom will meet in director Ryoo Seung-hwan's 10-billion won project.  The Berlin File, by director Ryoo Seung-hwan, is a spy story based in Berlin, Germany about a man who infiltrates a South Korean organization and gets left behind in North Korea.  (, November 15, 2011)
In conjunction with the exhibition “Korean Eye”, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York presents “Unbridled Energy: Korean Animation”, a program that showcases the breadth and diversity of contemporary creativity in this Asian nation.  The series runs from December 2 to December 16, 2011 at MAD (2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019).  (, November 13, 2011)

LKFF: Why Dachimawa Lee is Thoroughly Groovy, and Why I’m Becoming a Fan of Ryu Seung-wan
I have to confess that when I heard that Ryu Seung-wan was to be the featured director, my reaction was lukewarm.  Of the films I had already seen, the silliness of Arahan (2004) did not endear the film to me, while seeing Jeon Do-yeon and Lee Hye-hyoung severely thrashed turned me off No Blood No Tears (2002). I had tried hard to like City of Violence (2006) and only succeeded on the third watching.  (London Korea Links, November 15, 2011)

Honorary Busan Fest Chief Kim Dong-ho to Make Directorial Debut
Honorary Festival Director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Kim Dong-ho is set to make his short film directorial debut with the Opening Film for next year’s Asiana International Film Festival (AISFF).  Yonhap News Agency reports AISFF has revealed that Kim will be directing the short film for the festival’s 10th anniversary edition.  (KOBIZ, November 15, 2011)

Jeonju to Meet Increased Demand with New Soundstage
Yonhap News Agency reports that the home city of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is planning to build more special studio space in the Jeonju Cinema Studio by July 2012.  The new space will be comprised of a 795㎡ soundstage along with 560㎡ of attached facilities including a make-up room.  (KOBIZ, November 11, 2011)

Choi Equan Appointed Head of KAFA
Chairman KIM Eui-suk of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) appointed film director Choi Equan as the new head of the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) on Nov. 10 in Seoul.  Established in 1984, KAFA has played a leading role in producing some of contemporary Korean cinema’s major filmmakers. Kim Eui-suk was actually one of the first graduates of KAFA before he directed the seminal hit Marriage Story (1992).   (KOBIZ, November 10, 2011)

After holding special screenings in support of The Front Line, South Korea’s submission to the Academy Awards best foreign language film category nominations, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has announced it saw a strong turnout and positive reactions.  About 500 industry professionals including members of the press from LA Times, Variety and the Hollywood Foreign Press attended the screenings. (KOBIZ, November 10, 2011)

Bong Joon-ho Gives Lecture at Chapman University
Film director Bong Joon-ho appeared at Chapman University in Orange County, California on Saturday (local time) to give a master class as part of the Busan West Asian Film Festival hosted by the university's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.  (The Chosun Ilbo, November 15, 2011)

Only Second Time Around, but Korean Cinema is Definitely Down Under
South Korea and Australia are celebrating the last stretch of their Year of Friendship, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, bringing more attention to the second annual Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA).  (Yonhap News Agency, November 7, 2011)

Poetry UK Blu-ray Detailed
Independent British distributors Arrow Films have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Korean director Lee Chang-dong's Shi a.k.a Poetry (2010), starring Yun Jung-hee and Lee David.  Last year, the film won Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Street date is Novemver 28th.  (, November 12, 2011)

Ryoo Seung-hwan Speaks About his New Movie The Berlin File
Director Ryoo Seung-hwan spoke about his next coming movie The Berlin File known to be a 10 billion won blockbuster.  He appeared as the final lecturer in a lecturing event that was held in the LIG Art Hall on the 11th.  His upcoming movie The Berlin File has been an issue and movie fans have been very interested.  (, November 11, 2011)


KOFIC Chairman Kim Eui-suk
Korean Film Council (KOFIC) Chairman Kim Eui-suk talks to Kim Seong-hoon about promoting Korean cinema internationally.  With his background as a filmmaker whose credits include the seminal hit Marriage Story (1992) and the period martial arts film Sword in the Moon (2003), Kim Eui-suk also spent seven years nurturing the next generation of filmmakers as a professor at the Korean Film Academy of Arts (KAFA), five years as a member the organizing committee of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF), and then time as KOFIC Vice Chairman and Acting Chairman before he was name Chairman in March 2011.  (Korean Cinema Today, November 4, 2011)

Acclaimed Director Pushing Back NKHR Envelope
The North Korea Human Rights International Film Festival (NKHRIFF), which opens this afternoon, is attracting domestic attention for its attempt to blend North Korean human rights-and film.  Optimists hope that the festival can turn North Korean human rights into a real social issue, using the silver screen to nag at viewer consciences.  (Daily NK, November 10, 2011)


Punch (eng sub)



(Modern Korean Cinema, November 14, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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