Korean Film Newsletter #2 -- July 9, 1999

Welcome to the second edition of the Korean Film Newsletter. This letter is distributed every 2-3 months to inform the reader of the latest events in the industry. An archive of past newsletters is available on the Korean Film Page. If you have any questions about anything in this issue, send an email message to darcy@asia.com

Note: if you have signed up to receive this newsletter by email, and have not received it, email me at the above address.


The Opening ["Sin-jang-kae-op"] Directed by Kim Sung-hong. Starring Kim Seung-woo, Jin Hee-kyung, and Park Sang-myun. A "cult comedy" about a Chinese restaurant. The owner of a small Chinese restaurant is baffled by the success of a new rival establishment across the street. He goes to eat there in disguise, only to discover a severed finger in his bowl of chajjang-myon. May 1.

The Ring Virus ["Ring"] Directed by Kim Dong-bin. Starring Shin Eun-kyung and Jung Jin-young. A Japanese-Korean co-production based on the best-selling Japanese novel. A journalist, investigating the mysterious death of her neice, comes across a videotape filled with strange images and a chilling message: "Exactly one week after you watch this videotape, you will die." Read more about this movie on the '1999' film page. June 12.

The Uprising ["Yi-Jae-Su-ui Nan"] Alternative title: "Les Insurges". Directed by Park Kwang-soo. Starring Lee Jung-jae, Shim Eun-ha. A historical drama about a peasant revolt on Cheju Island in 1901 against corrupt local officials and Catholic missionaries. From the director of Black Republic and Chilsu and Mansu. June 26.

Yellow Hair ["Norang Mori"] Directed by Kim Yoo-min. Starring Lee Jae-eun, Kim Ki-yeon. The story of two outcast teenagers and the man they start living with. Re-edited for release after being rejected by the ratings board earlier this year (read more about this issue below). June 26.

Fly Low ["Ha-u-deung"] Directed by Kim Si-eon. The independently-produced 16mm debut feature by Kim Si-eon which has screened at several international film festivals over the past year. Divided into three sections: "Summer", "Rain" and "Lantern." July 3.


Yonggary Directed by Shim Hyung-rae. The Korean Godzilla. The most expensive Korean film ever made at ~$8 million, shot in English with American actors. Financed by Hyundai, high hopes are pinned on this film becoming an international success. Directed by Shim Hyung-rae, a well-known comedian. Opens July 17.

Nowhere to Hide Directed by Lee Myung-sae. An action movie from the director of My Love, My Bride and First Love. Starring Park Joong-hoon and Ahn Sung-ki. Opens July 17.

Phantom the Submarine Directed by Min Byung-chun. An action thriller that takes place in a submarine. Starring Choi Min-Soo and Chung Woo-sung. Opens August 7.

Ch'unhyang-jon Directed by Im Kwon-taek. Korea's most beloved folk tale, directed by perhaps the most famous director in Korea's history. Anticipated release: January 2000.


"A Picnic" wins Short Film Jury Prize at Cannes.

Song Il-gon, a 28-year old film student currently studying in Poland, took home Korea's first-ever award from the Cannes Film Festival on May 23. His 14-minute piece "A Picnic" ["So-Poong"] was a co-winner of the Short Film Jury Prize together with an entry from France titled "Stop." Read more about this film in the '1999' section of the Korean Film Page.

Korean Film Commission (KOFIC) replaces former Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation.

Under changes to Korea's Motion Picture Law, the former Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation (KMPPC) has been transformed into a new body named the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC). The new organization continues to receive financial support from the government, however, unlike the KMPPC, it is a self-regulating body that can institute film policy without having to submit it for ratification to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Also, whereas the old organization was headed by a president, KOFIC is run by a ten member committee which meets periodically to discuss and vote on major issues. Everyday operations are supervised by two members of the committee: a Chairman, Shin Cegill, who used to head the European subsidiary of a major (non-film related) Korean conglomerate; and a Vice-chairman, Moon Sung-Keun, a well-known actor and spokesman for Korean film. Other members of the committee include Lee Ji-Mi, a former actress and head of the Korean Motion Picture Artists Association; director Im Kwon-taek; Yoon Il-bong, former president of the KMPPC; and director Chung Ji-young.

Ministry of Culture and Tourism withdraws its support of Screen Quota System.

Once again, the Screen Quota system has become a topic of controversy, as the Ministry of Culture and Tourism withdrew its earlier assertion that the system would be kept without fail (see the "Issues" section of the 1998 film page). The United States has continued to pressure Korea to reduce the quota, claiming that the US-ROK Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), currently under negotiation, would not be signed unless the quota was reduced from its present level of 106 days to 18 days/year. In June, newly-appointed Culture Minister Park Jie-won announced that the quota would be open to further review, giving rise to speculation that Korea had agreed to reduce the quota in order to wrap up the BIT before President Kim Dae-jung's visit to the U.S. in early July.

This announcement sparked a series of protests by members of the film industry, who claim that without the Quota System, theater owners will be pressured by U.S. distributors to screen only Hollywood films. Protesters held a major rally in downtown Seoul on June 16, at which over 100 producers, directors, and film students shaved their heads in protest. A one-day boycott of American films was staged on July 1, and for the past several weeks 20 people have been taking turns staging a hunger strike in front of Myungdong Cathedral in Seoul. Popular actor and producer Myung Kye-Nam was recently hospitalized after falling into a coma brought on by 6 days of fasting.

Culture Minister Park Jie-won has come under additional fire amidst claims that he bribed local television stations not to cover the rallies (an accusation he denies). On June 6, he appeared before the country's lawmakers to answer questions about the screen quota, and was grilled by politicians from the opposition Grand National Party. At this session he acknowledged for the first time that no agreement was yet in place concerning the screen quota, and that the Ministry would attempt to maintain the quota in upcoming negotiations. Members of the film community remain skeptical of his assertion, however.

"Yellow Hair" released in Korea.

Earlier this year, the Korean Performing Arts Promotion Committee (KPAPC), a civic organization that determines ratings for all foreign and domestic releases, refused to give a rating to a locally produced film named Yellow Hair. The six members of the committee voted unanimously to deny the film a rating, which in effect banned the film from release. "The film contains scenes which are disgusting and totally unacceptable to our moral standards." explained Cho Hee-mun, a film professor at Sangmyoung University and a member of the committee.

In 1996, government censorship of films was ruled unconstitutional, thus bringing about the abolition of governmental screening authorities. Nonetheless, the civic body that has taken their place has continued to utilize its power to limit the sexual content of domestic releases. In the past two years, Jang Sun-woo's Bad Movie and Im Sang-soo's Girls' Night Out have all been re-edited to conform to suggestions made by the KPAPC.

Yellow Hair, co-produced by the former Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, was the first film to be rejected outright by the committee, and thus it was forced to undergo a two-month waiting period before it could be resubmitted for consideration. An edited version of the film, with roughly a minute of sexual content removed and with several scenes darkened and blurred, was approved by the committee and released in theaters on June 26th, opposite Star Wars: Episode One. The film itself concerns the life of two teenage outcasts and a man they start to live with. The last scene of the film contains clear lesbian overtones, which seemed to disturb a certain percentage of its viewers.

PiFan '99 to open on July 16.

The 3rd Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) will kick off on July 16 with an outdoor screening of David Cronenburg's latest release, eXistenZ. This year's festival will present 101 films from 29 different countries. Newly added this year is a competition section for about 50 short films, to complement the "Puchon Choice" competition section for (eight) feature-length works. Non-competitive sections include "World Fantastic Cinema" (30 films), "Korean Cinema Showcase" (10 contemporary films) and "New Zealand Fantasy Retrospective" (5 films), which showcases 20 years of fantasy-filmmaking in New Zealand. The festival will conclude on July 24th.

Korean films to be screened at PiFan: Art Museum by the Zoo, Harmonium in My Memory, An Affair, The Ring Virus, Yellow Hair, Mystery of a Cube, The Gingko Bed, Birdcage Inn, Dr. K, and The Spy.

July 9, 1999
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Darcy Paquet/ darcy@koreanfilm.org /Posted July 9, 1999