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Rise of Korean Films Seen in World Cinema

2007/09/25 Source

The New York Times ran a story in June headlined "Korea emerges as epicenter of Asian film and music", which focused on the rise of Korean films in world cinema.

The story said Asian genre films, especially those from Korea, have built a steady following in the West since Hong Kong cinema broke out of Chinatown theaters.

The Korean monster blockbuster "D-War", directed by comedian-turned-director Shim Hyung-rae, earned $1.55 million in the U.S. on its opening day Sept. 14. The figure was the highest for a Korean film in the U.S. The flick opened in 2,275 theaters across the nation.

Shim's movie is different from other Korean movies in that it was made outside Chungmuro, a road in Seoul known as the Korean Hollywood.

Chungmuro was named after legendary Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who earned the posthumous title of Chungmugong, meaning "martial subject of loyalty". The "gong" was dropped and replaced with "ro", or road.

Movies made in Chungmuro witnessed phenomenal growth in quantity and quality especially after the 1990s. The string of box-office hits included "Shiri" (1999); "JSA - Joint Security Area" (2000); "My Sassy Girl" (2001); "Friend" (2002); "Memories of Murder" (2003); "Taegukgi" (2004); "The King and the Clown" (2005); and "The Host" (2006).

Chungmuro has lately seen a decline in violent flicks due to public dissatisfaction with gangster movies. More viewers at home and abroad are opting to see Korean movies about North Korea, the Korean War and homosexuality.

Korean blockbusters have enhanced interest in Korean movies, which naturally has led to higher competition in the domestic film market and improved quality in Korean cinema.

Chungmuro's first movie was screened during the early 1900s of the silent film era. During the 1960s, actors Shin Sungil and Um Aengran shot to stardom in the movie "Barefooted Youth".

Korean cinema declined in the 1970s with the advent of television, but soon saw a revival by winning international cinema awards in the 1980s. Director Im Kwon-taek's "The Surrogate Woman" won the best actress award at the 1987 Venice International Film Festival.

Chungmuro has not only strived to develop better movies, but also to expand its global influence by hosting major film festivals, including the Pusan International Film Festival, Asia's oldest global cinema event.

The Pusan festival will open for the 12th year on Oct. 4 in Busan, Korea's second largest city. This year's edition will feature 275 films, 193 of which are making their international or Asia premiere.

The festival will present a cascade of Asian films, many of them portraying individuals grappling with modern-day problems like war, family trouble and urban poverty. Commercial films from Japan, China and India will also be presented.

The state of today's Korean cinema will be highlighted during the event, with screenings of the latest films by veteran Korean directors. They include "Beyond the Years" by Im Kwon-taek, "Secret Sunshine" by Lee Chang-dong and "The Old Garden" by Im Sang-soo.

By Ro Ji-woong

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