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A Trend of Internet-based Novels Being Adapted for Films

2004/08/27 Source

Films produced from 'Internet published novels' have become a trend in Korea.

Two Internet novel adapted films, He Was Cool - "The Guy was Cool" (Geunomeun Meoshit seot da) and Romance on their own - Temptation of Wolves (Nukdae eui Yoohok) were released almost at the same time this summer. Both films' original stories were written by the same person: the popular on-line storywriter, Lee Yun-se (better known by her penname, Guiyeoni). Her new on-line serial story 'To My Boyfriend' has also been picked up for adaptation and other on-line stories such as 'Baekjowa Baeksu', 'Samsusaeng Sarang Iyagi', 'Oktapbang Goyangyi' (Cat in the Rooftop Room), 'Keanu Reeves Kkosigi', 'Saekma Jeonseol', 'Naesarang Iljinnyo', 'Mihonmo Iyagi', 'Naneun Aknyoilsubakae upda', are in development or pre-production stages to be produced as films.

The first popular on-line novel turned into a film was Toemarok (aka Soul Guardians)(1998); then the subsequent on-line novel adapted films such as My Sassy Girl (2001) and My Tutor Friend (2003) gained huge successes in theaters, prompting production companies and investors to regard on-line stories as a 'golden goose'.
Well then, how did these on-line novels become popular materials for films?
First of all, since the novels have proven to be popular by its numerous on-line hits and off-line sales, the film production may be able to start with less risk and may hold some guarantee for a certain amount of success. Production companies are able to cut down the time and expense consumed in developing new ideas and the success of My Sassy Girl (2001) and My Tutor Friend (2003) has raised the interest of film investors. Moreover, the major readers of on-line novels are also the main moviegoers- teenage girls and women in their twenties.

There are already six films released- Toemarok (aka Soul Guardians)(1998), "My Sassy Girl" (2001), My Tutor Friend (2003), "100 Days with Mr. Arrogant" (2004), "He was Cool" (2004) and Romance on their own - "Temptation of Wolves" (2004) - adapted from on-line novels. Even though "My Sassy Girl" and "My Tutor Friend" were huge hits at theaters, "100 Days with Mr. Arrogant"t and "He was Cool" didn't earn as much as expected in theaters. On the other hand, Romance on their own has become another big success; more than 2 million people have seen the film and the main lead Gang Dong-won is a new heart-throb to young Korean women (from teens to women in their twenties). Despite its success, critics hypercriticized the film. The common criticism levelled against Internet novel adapted films is that the story is not well structured. Since the internet- based novels are published on-line serially, the episodes became desultory and weakly structured when it is made into a film. Furthermore, as the three films "100 Days with Mr. Arrogant" (2004), He Was Cool - "The Guy was Cool" (2004), and Romance on their own (2004) were films about high school teenagers, those films were expected to be able to express teenagers' stories about love and anguish of youth, yet they turned out to be films concentrated on surrealistic elements- fantasy, romance and action.

Films have been adapted from lots of different sources such as bestselling books, comics (cartoons), non-fiction stories and TV dramas that were popular at the present time. Currently, Internet novels are one of the major resources for film ideas, although it might change to other materials some other day. As for now, the hot trend of on-line novel adapted films is dominant- more Internet novels are lined up to be scripted for film productions. Yet it is extremely dangerous to assume that those films will gain as much success as the on-line novels did. If the story is not well structured, the fact that the original story is from an on-line novel may become an obstruction to the success of the film. The solution for Internet novels to serve as a spring of ideas for films is to develop various genres of on-line stories and not to reproduce similar romantic comedy films. More up-to-date, striking ideas should be found and developed with in-depth visions and tensions so that the film stories can become better structured and more realistic.

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