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Korean Wave Crosses the Pacific

2006/03/22 | Permalink | Source

The Korean Wave is hitting hard the shores of American West coast. Many cities such as Los Angeles have shown that Korean movies and dramas are currently receiving more attention from not only ethnic minorities, but also Americans.

As a result of the growing interest in the Korean culture shown by the American public, an increasing number of Americans and ethnic minorities, including Chinese and Vietnamese have are now renting DVDs on Korean movies.

Only a few years ago, video and DVD rental stores in the U.S. such as Blockbuster and Hollywood, had only a small selection of Korean movies. But as Korean movies gain popularity in the U.S., such stores have increased the selections of the Korean movies dramatically for American movie maniacs.

Blockbuster, the U.S. largest rental store of video and DVDs, now has dozens of DVDs on Korean movies. The selection of Korean movies at Blockbuster includes such Korean masterpieces as "Old Boy", "Taegukgi", "JSA - Joint Security Area", "3-Iron", "The Way Home".

These Korean movies have won awards at international movie festivals and received rave reviews from movie critics over the past few years.

"Unlike other Asian movies, Korean movies reflect people's lives and emotions more directly. They also show the distinctiveness of Korean culture in a manner that Americans could not otherwise see over here", a Los Angeles resident Calvin Appleton said. "I want to see as many Korean movies as possible. It is great that so many Korean movies have been recently been introduced in rental stores".

Jeff Miller, one of the managers of the Rock Video, a movie rental store in L.A., also notes, "The number of American customers e looking for the Korean movies has been increasing steadily since last year".

"The interesting trend in rentals of Korean movies is that the customers are not solely Koreans, or Asians, but often other Americans as well", Miller added.

There are slight differences in the number of Korean movies available at rental stores in the U.S. However, chains such as Blockbuster and the Hollywood have quite a good selection.

Summary of some Korean movies by the Blockbuster are as follows:

"JSA - Joint Security Area"

Riding the trend of Korean action blockbusters after the phenomenally popular Swiri, Park Chan Wook directs this murder mystery thriller about death on the DMZ. The film opens with a shooting along the heavy militarized border between North and South Korea, which leaves a North Korean soldier (Shin Ha-kyun) dead and a South Korean soldier injured. Hoping to reduce the potentially explosive political fallout by solving the crime quickly, both countries agree to an investigator of Korean-Swiss descent named Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae).

As she methodically sifts through the evidence, Sophie learns that the testimony of two other soldiers -- North Korean Oh Kyeong Pil (Song Kang-ho) and South Korean Lee Soo Hyeok (Lee Byung-hun) -- are completely contradictory. Another witness (Kim Tae-woo) tries to commit suicide rather than divulge information. Sophie soon concludes that a group of guards from the North and South, after years of eyeing each other, started meeting in the North Korean guard house to chat, fawn over porn, and to play cards.

Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Tae-woo, Lee Young-ae

"Old Boy"

South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook directed this violent and offbeat story of punishment and vengeance. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is a husband and father whose reputation for womanizing is well known. One day, for reasons he doesn't understand, Oh Dae-su finds himself locked up in a prison cell, with no idea of what his crime was or whom his jailers may be. With a small television as his only link to the outside world and a daily ration of fried dumplings as his only sustenance, Oh Dae-su struggles to keep his mind and body intact, but when he learns through a news report that his wife has been killed, he begins a long and difficult project of digging an escape tunnel with a pair of chopsticks.

Before he can finish -- and after 15 years behind bars -- Oh Dae-su is released, with as little explanation as when he was locked up, and he's soon given a wad of money and a cellular phone by a bum on the street. Emotionally stunted but physically strong after 15 years in jail, Oh Dae-su struggles to unravel the secret of who is responsible for locking him up, what happened to his wife and daughter, and how to best get revenge against his captors.

Starring: Choi Min-sik, Kang Hye-jung, Yoo Ji-tae


A battered woman finds her soul mate in a most unusual manner in this drama from Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk. Tae-suk (Jae Hee) is a young drifter who appears to be homeless by inclination as much as necessity; he squats in the homes of strangers while they're away, carefully seeing to it that no damage is done to the property and sometimes performing small household chores as a display of gratitude. One day, Tae-suk sneaks into a house where a number of photos of a beautiful model adorn the walls. After eating, washing up, and doing some minor repairs, Tae-suk discovers he's being watched by the woman of the house, Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), and he soon recognizes her as the model in the photos.

However, Tae-suk sees that Sun-hwa has been badly bruised, and suspects that she's been the victim of domestic violence. When Tae-suk returns to the home later that evening, he sees Sun-hwa being slapped around by her husband Min-kyo (Kwon Hyuk-ho). Tae-suk impulsively bursts into the house, grabs a golf club, and attacks Min-kyo with it; moments later, Tae-suk and Sun-hwa ride away together on his scooter, and she silently joins him in his existence as a squatter, which slowly blossoms into a love affair. The movie "3-Iron" received its North American premiere at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival.

Starring: Lee Seung-yeon, Jae Hee

By Jun Hwi-kon

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