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Korean Film “The King and the Clown” Wraps up its Run

2006/04/20 | Permalink | Source

Selling 12,301,289 tickets by April 18th, the Korean movie "King and the Clown" broke the former "Taegukgi" record and has newly earned its spot as the most viewed film in Korea.

Cinema Service, the film's distributor, announced that April 18, 2006 was the last day of viewing, with a final recorded, nationwide ticket sale of 12,301,289 including 3,659,525 in Seoul. They added, "Though some independent theaters are still showing the film, we consider the number of tickets sold by April 18th to be the final official figure".

"The King and the Clown" breaks the mold of an event film like Taegukgi or JSA - Joint Security Area with its lack of star casting, its period setting, its focus on the traditional arts, and an explicit gay subtext. The story of the film focuses on a pair of clowns who perform comic plays, songs, and acrobatic tricks for aristocrats and commoners during the Joseon Dynasty.

Jangsaeng, played by Kam Woo-sung (Spider Forest), possesses a disarming self-confidence and disrespect for authority that is likely to get him into trouble one day. Konggil, portrayed by Lee Joon-gi (Flying Boys), plays the woman to Jangsaeng's man in the comic skits they perform. Konggil also possesses a certain self-confidence and grace that turns him into an object of fascination and desire for the pair's aristocratic patrons. In contrast to his later relationship with the insane King Yonsan, romantic tension between Konggil and Jangseung is strongly implied, but never explicitly confirmed.


After the two arrive in the capital Seoul (or Hanyang, as it is called at the time), the entrepreneurial Jangsaeng hits upon the idea of performing a skit that satirizes the king and his famous concubine Noksu. The somewhat lewd and hilarious parody earns them quick fame and piles of cash, but before long they wind up in chains at the feet of the king himself. Though the plot is solid, the film's real highlight is the play-acting by the two clowns.

When "The King and the Clown" premiered late last year, it attracted more than 1 million people in just five days of showing. By March, it had become the most viewed film in Korea, with more than 12 million tickets sold, meaning that one in every four Koreans has watched the movie. Because the film has sparked discussions about homosexuality—something that was rarely discussed publicly in Korean society previously—the film is considered a cultural phenomenon.

By Lee Jae-seok

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