Category Archives: Korean Cinema

The rise of Korean film on the global stage

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Yoo Sun-hui, staff reporter, Hankyoreh

Parasite Family

S. Korean film industry eyes US market as “Parasite” dazzles American audiences

This year marks the centennial of the first Korean film, “Fight for Justice,” which debuted at the Dansungsa Theater on Oct. 27, 1919. Korean cinema has undergone enormous advancements since then. In May, the Hankyoreh began looking back at the path traveled by Korean film, sharing the stories of lost works, South Korean film stars, North Korean cinema, and women’s movies in an inaugural feature series titled “100 Years of Korean Film, 100 Works,” which highlights 100 quintessential Korean films. Now it is going beyond simply looking back on and assessing Korean film’s past and present to make predictions for its future. These days, Korean cinema is envisioning the “globalization of K-movies”: venturing beyond the domestic market into those of other Asian countries — and even Hollywood itself, the home of film. As another 100 years begins, can Korean film shift its position from the periphery of the global film industry to its epicenter?…

Parasite Korean Film

“Parasite” part of vanguard eyeing US market

The US debut of “Parasite” is being viewed as a test case for future Korean films. If the winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or prize proves commercially successful in America — and even gets honored at the Academy Awards next February — Korean cinema will be poised to make a major stride from the fringes to center stage. Positive signals are all around. In its first week, “Parasite” raked in US$376,264 in early runs after debuting on Oct. 11 at three theaters: the Landmark and ArcLight Hollywood in LA and the IFC Center in New York. Averaging US$125,421 per theater, it was the highest total ever for a foreign-language film premiering in North America. As of Oct. 18, “Parasite” had debuted at a total of 33 theaters in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, ranking 10th in the US box office 10 days after its release and 11th for its second weekend. By Oct. 24, its cumulative earnings had passed US$2 million. Critics and audiences have showered the film with praise. It had a “freshness” rating of 99% on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 95 on the review aggregation site Metacritic. Celebrated directors Martin Scorsese and James Gunn have lauded it on social media as the “best film of the year.” Its Oscar prospects are looking brighter after Bong received “Hollywood Filmmaker Award” honors at the 2019 Hollywood Film Awards…

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Rapid strides toward globalization, Korea-US co-productions

Alongside the success of “Parasite,” the Korean film industry has been speeding up its efforts to make inroads into the US market. Its aim is to find new opportunities beyond the domestic film market, which has remained stagnant with cumulative viewership in the range of 200 million admissions for several years now. The US, which ranks as one of the world’s two biggest markets alongside China, accounts for 30% of global box office sales…

Stay tuned for more on this two-part series!

(Excerpted from

Hyun Bin film ‘Confidential Assignment’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Riddhiman Mukhopadhyay

South Korean star Hyun Bin’s latest action movie called ‘Confidential Assignment’ is expected to be distributed to an impressive 42 countries. This is indeed great news for fans of the ‘Secret Garden’ actor.


As reported by website Soompi, on January 27, CJ Entertainment, the company that is in charge of distributing the film, announced that ‘Confidential Assignment,’ also known as ‘Cooperation,’ would be released in many countries across the globe. Currently, the distribution company has set its eyes on the United States, Australia, and New Zealand on February 9, Hong Kong and Macau on February 16, Taiwan on February 17, and Vietnam on March 3.

As per a statement released by CJ Entertainment, they have already sold the film to several countries, including India, countries in the Middle East, Mongolia and Philippines. They also mentioned that Hyun Bin is quite popular in countries apart from South Korea, which is what drawing the crowd to the movie.

“Hyun Bin is highly popular overseas due to his drama roles,” CJ Entertainment said.

However, the movie has a topical element as well: tensions between North and South Korea. But to what extent this political and social issue is addressed in the film remains to be seen. The movie seems to be mostly a Die Hard-esque action thriller with Hyun Bin as the titular handsome but tough good guy, playing a North Korean special investigator. His comic sidekick is played by Yoo Hae-jin, who is a South Korean detective.

The trailer for the film looks good, and promises two hours of escapist fun at the least. The movie also features popular actors Kim Joo-hyuk and Girls’ Generation‘s Im Yoona in supporting roles.

Hyun Bin has often been in the limelight for his relationship and marriage plans with girlfriend Kang So-ra. He recently said he is busy with his work and will think about going out on a date with her later. During an interview for ‘Cooperation‘ Hyun Bin also gave his two cents regarding the responsibility of an actor towards society.

“An actor isn’t someone who is voted in by the people, but just someone who is famous. I don’t think we need to be perfect and take responsibility for our actions, but since there are young people who look at us and follow us, I don’t think we can just say that we have no responsibilities, either,” Hyun Bin said, as quoted by Soompi.


Korean cinema of 2016: Women, politics, horror

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Rumy Doo (

Women, female relationships and political intrigue were the hallmarks of Korean cinema this year.

A number of films that delved into the world of the occult, driven by unfathomable forces of evil, also stood out in a year that saw the return of some of Korea’s most renowned directors, including Park Chan-wook and Na Hong-jin, who each added significant pieces to their idiosyncratic oeuvre.

Spotlight on women




Arguably the most globally lauded Korean film of the year, Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” took on the subject of a lesbian thriller romance, featuring two female lovers against a world of demented male figures. Provocative scenes were portrayed against a fairy tale-like backdrop.

“Handmaiden” has nabbed various international accolades since its screening at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. named it among the “10 Most Fashionable Movies of 2016” for its lavish mise-en-scene, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards gave it a best production design award.

The New York Times listed Kim Tae-ri, who stars as Japanese lady Hideko’s earthy, unabashed handmaiden Sook-hee, in a September article titled “Four Actresses Everyone will be Talking About this Fall.”

Female romance also featured in Lee Hyun-ju’s indie film “Our Love Story,” a subtle, realistic tale of an encounter between an art student and a stranger.

Antagonistic relationships between women were explored in films like Kim Tae-yong’s “Misbehavior,” which draws on the jealousy and pride between two female teachers fighting for the affections of a male student. Both Kim Ha-neul and Yoo In-young are excellently cast in their roles: One is reticent and downtrodden, while the other is vivacious, young and self-absorbed.

Director Lee Eon-hee’s “Missing,” meanwhile, saw the unlikely reconciliation between two women — a mother and the nanny who kidnapped her daughter, played by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin.

In a mature tale of womanhood, “Bacchus Lady” explored the world of Korea’s elderly prostitutes and the universal solitude of growing old.

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung portrayed the feisty protagonist, who, at 65, turns tricks for a living. Directed by E J-yong, the film offers an emotional reflection on life and death as Korea advances into an aging society. It was screened at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Scandalous politics



This year also saw a number of films portraying disasters and authorities’ damnable responses.

Director Park Jung-woo’s “Pandora,” set to be streamed globally on Netflix, depicted a nuclear power plant meltdown and the lack of an emergency response system, resulting in the preventable deaths of nuclear power plant workers and residents of surrounding areas.

Kim Seong-hun’s “Tunnel” saw actor Ha Jung-woo trapped inside a collapsed tunnel for weeks on end, with members of the rescue squad wringing their hands at the ineffectual orders from those higher-up in the government.

Kim Sung-su’s “Asura: The City of Madness” depicted a bloodstained web of criminals and politicians.

The latest political thriller “Master,” helmed by Jo Eui-seok, stars actor Lee Byung-hun as a con artist who amasses astronomical wealth and bribes government officials to exert power in state affairs. The flick which opened last week, rang an eerily familiar bell in Korea, which is currently embroiled in an influence-peddling political scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye.

Ride into the occult


Two of this year’s most striking films were in the horror genre, ruminating on morality and human nature.

Yeon Sang-ho’s apocalyptic zombie thriller “Train to Busan” showed everyday characters — from students to office workers — fighting for their lives while trapped on a torpedoing train swarming with flesh-hungry zombies. It premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival’s Midnight Screenings section and has been picked up for a US remake by Gaumont, a French film studio.

Na Hong-jin’s occult thriller “The Wailing (Goksung),” which also screened at Cannes’ Out of Competition section, took viewers on a terrifying journey toward unreasoning evil. Fourteen-year-old actress Kim Hwan-hee delivered a chilling performance as a possessed child.

A period in time


A number of period pieces also sought to reinterpret historical events from the Japanese occupation era.

Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” transformed the story of Korean independence fighters smuggling in bombs from Shanghai to Korea into a stylish noir.

In “The Last Princess,” director Hur Jin-ho focused on the early stages of the Japanese occupation of Korea through the eyes of Joseon princess Deok-hye, weaving the historical into a personal tale.

“The Portrait of a Poet” by Lee Joon-ik offered a moving portrait of poet Yun Dong-ju, in colonial Korea where the Korean language was banned.