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Teen Romances Go From Internet to Big Screen

2004/07/22 | Permalink | Source

By Joon Soh
Staff Reporter

Summer is a time when vacationing teens make up a large portion of the movie-going public. Film companies, of course, are aware of this and are always on the lookout for that one movie idea or two that will grab young hearts and wallets.

Well, who better to know what 18-and-unders would relate to than someone who is a teen herself? That may be the mindset behind bringing the stories of popular Internet novelist Lee Yun-sae _ better known by her pen name Koeyoni _ to the big screen.

Two films based on the 18-year-old author's hit novels will be released in theaters in the following days: "Kunomun Mossissutta (The Guy was Cool)" and "Nukdaeui Yuhok (working title: Two Guys Meet a Girl)." A third is in the works and is set for release next year.

The idea of mining cyberspace for film ideas isn't new. "Yopgijogin Kunyo (My Sassy Girl)," the hit film that made an international star out of Jun Ji-hyun, started out as a popular Internet novel, as did the high school romantic comedies "Tonggapnaegi Kwaoehagi (My Tutor Friend)" from last year and "Naesarang Ssagaji (Can't Hate You, My Love!)" in January.

Given the commercial success of "My Sassy Girl" and "My Tutor Friend," it was only a matter of time before Lee would get her turn. Like all cyber novelists, Lee began writing her romantic adventures for fun. In 2001, as a junior in high school, she put out her first work "The Guy was Cool," a funny and sweet story about a young high school girl's relationship with a too-cool-for-words fellow student.

Full of humor, drama and dialogue that readers her age could easily identify with, "The Guy was Cool" and her subsequent novels, also about quirky and cute young girls falling for school toughs, made creative use of abbreviations and emoticons in a fast-paced style of writing befitting the Internet and text-message generation.

A few naysayers, however, took offense at what they said were her misuse of the Korean language. They included some students of Sungkyunkwan University, where Lee was accepted late last year.

Lee may not be Shakespeare, but still, it was obvious she had struck a chord with younger readers. The online version of the "The Guy was Cool" went on to record 10 million hits, and Lee has over 180 fan clubs at the portal site Daum ( alone.

Her novels also became an offline success, selling a total of a million copies locally. ("The Guy was Cool" sold 500,000 by itself.) Chinese, Japanese and Thai translations were published early this year.

The film versions of the novels aim for the same teen crowd that make up the books' readership. Both movies feature actors relatively new to the big screen, but most teenagers will have little difficulty recognizing them. "The Guy was Cool," which opens today, pairs up Jeong Da-bin, the cute-as-a-button actress of such popular dramas as "Oktapbang Koyangi (Cat in the Rooftop Room)," with TV heartthrob Song Seung-hun.

Opening tomorrow is "Two Guys Meet a Girl," based on Lee's second novel, which tells of a love triangle between a high school girl (Lee Chung-ah) and two leaders of rival high schools (Gang Dong-won and Cho Han-son).

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