March 03, 2006


Like a last minute rescue by the calvary coming over the hills, the Seoul Theater Association has announced that they will independently observe a screen quota of 106 days for Korean films even though the government has lowered that number by almost half. 60% of the STA has agreed to observe the previous quota no matter what the government decides. Lotte, Megabox and CGV are the major theater chains that have agreed to do this and it makes sense when you realize that CGV is part of CJ, one of Korea's major film production companies. This could be hot air and we'll see if it lasts, but this is a passionate issue in Korea and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens at least for the rest of 2006.

In a further "F*%# you" to the government, theater owners in Korea have announced that they will also change the existing 60/40 profit split with foreign film distributors (where the foreign distributors get 60%) to a more equitable 50/50.

Polls show that 3 out of 4 Koreans favor keeping the old screen quota, and a move is underway to make the original quota law, which would endanger current Free Trade Agreement talks with the US. There are also rumors of a massive protest planned for Cannes, and Chung Dong-Chae, the head of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, has been replaced by actor, Kim Myung-Gon.

I think the MPA assumed that Koreans would simply "get over" the reduction in the screen quota system, unfamiliar with the fact that Koreans don't just quietly "get over" anything they don't like. Haven't they seen OLDBOY?

March 3, 2006 at 07:40 AM in News | Permalink


and the fools thought they'd just bend over and let it come in. Serves them right. Kim Myung-Gon is a good choice (he's the father in Sopyonje, and the Communist leader in The Taebaek Mountains, BTW), but I don't know if he can do anything on the political side.

Now they've got theaters showing them the finger, and they'll have to give that 5% of ticket sales back anyway. When you want to eat the entire pie in a rush, you end up choking on it...

This is like the best script written all year long. And it's getting more interesting by the minute.

Posted by: x | Mar 3, 2006 8:21:08 AM

Quote by Gardy
Haven't they seen OLDBOY?

There is reason enough to make them have to sit and watch stuff from the US. God theres two hours I can never have back. Manos the Hands of Fate was far more enjoyable. No matter how much money these films make Korean cinema will never be more then a pale and pathetic imatation of Hong Kong cinema, boring and crappy. The will never be a Korean Chow Yun Fat or Jet Li and Bey Logan was right when it said thats why Korean cinema will never eclispe HK in quality

Posted by: Ian Friedman | Mar 3, 2006 10:14:55 AM

Ian - Whoa. WTF? I just almost did a spit take with my Manhattan clam chowder while reading that.

I understand why people react the way you do to OLDBOY, although I myself thought it was alright (while not a patch on Park Chan-wook's previous two features). And you're certainly entitled to whatever opinions you have on whatever subject you like, although I'm mystified whenever I hear anyone dismiss a country's entire cinematic output in one blithe sentence, and I can't give much credit for knowing what they're talking about to anyone who makes such a blanket statement.

What's really bizarre here, though, is the comparison with Hong Kong film. "Whaaaa?!" as one might say if one were *in* a Hong Kong film. What on earth makes you peg Korean film as an "imatation" [sic] of HK's? With the first few Korean movies I saw, I was very struck with the feeling that it resembled Hollywood more than it did any other major Asian cinema, in terms of genres, sensibility, visual and acting styles, etc. I certainly don't see much affinity with the frantic, catch-as-catch-can and often surreal HK style in the polished, more naturalistic Korean style. And I don't think the remarkable use of color in so many Korean movies I've seen has any counterpart in any other cinema. And in terms of genre focus, Korea has seemed to prefer melodrama and romantic comedy over the martial arts and action that has dominated HK for a generation or more.

The terms "crappy" and "quality" can mean a million different things, I guess. But just focusing on technical matters, there's no denying that the average Korean film is more professionally put together and presented (higher budget, probably?) than the average HK movie. And the acting is usually on a much higher level, as well - more nuanced and convincingly human.

What do you mean by "a Korean Chow Yun-fat or Jet Li"? If you're talking in terms of crossover recognition in the West, since when was that a measure of quality? And I hope you'll forgive me if I'm not convinced by a citation from Bey Logan.

I'm not saying certain Korean movies and filmmakers haven't ever imitated HK. But how many countries hasn't made imitation HK movies at this point?

For the record, I love Hong Kong film, too. I just don't see a need to compare the two - they're vastly different animals. And I much, much prefer New England clam chowder to Manhattan clam chowder.

Posted by: Michael Wells | Mar 3, 2006 12:09:07 PM


Sorry I just tend to get annoyed with the overprasing IMO of Korean Cinema while I feel everyone loves to claim the death of Hk cinema. I feel that even given the downturn still puts out some great flicks (Election SPL< Colour of the Loyalty, AV). I've just seen a lot of people compare the two and comment negative on HK cinema. Just take the term crappy as an annoyed person

Korean cinema I meant to put is a pale imatation of American style blockbusters (that was my mistake). Which I agree leads to a higher production value but I just feel it loses something that the less polished HK films has (a sorta anti hollywood feeling, not that it hasn't popped up). I like that frentic gritty feeling. I think that may explain our differences in prefernces.

The Bey Logan quote dealt not with cross over just the lack of name stars emerging even in fan circles


Posted by: Ian Friedman | Mar 3, 2006 5:30:09 PM

Those articles seem to be saying that Korean audiences like their home-grown movies, and therefore theatre owners are not reducing the amount of Korean movies shown, even though they are now allowed to. But if that's true, why are the quotas necessary in the first place, and why do they have such popular support? Are the Korean people afraid that they don't really like their own movies?

Posted by: jic | Mar 3, 2006 7:35:10 PM

Well, that kinda makes more sense. Yeah, from what I've seen, plenty of the big Korean movies are pale imitations of Hollywood blockbusterdom. On the other hand, distinctively Korean movies do get lots of attention, praise and viewers: for example, MEMORIES OF MURDER, OASIS, OLDBOY (it's distinctive, whether or not your like it! - I can't imagine what they'll do with that plot in the American remake), and the current KING AND THE CLOWN, which I read today will probably break the all-time admissions record this weekend.

As far as lack of name stars, I just don't think that's true (even if you just mean among us Western cultists looking in from the outside, which I assume you did). There are fewer than in Hong Kong. But Korea makes far fewer movies than HK did in the heyday out of which Chow and Jet and their ilk emerged, and a big Korean star doesn't make ten or twenty movies a year the way a big HK star sometimes would. Song Kang-ho, Bae Doo-na and Lee Sung-jae come to mind as name Korean stars of whom I'm a fan - and I don't even follow K-cinema that closely, compared to a lot of people I know.

I would say to the people you're complaining about the same thing I said to you - why compare HK and Korean film and rate them against each other? "Comparisons are odorous." -Shakespeare

Posted by: Michael Wells | Mar 3, 2006 7:54:10 PM

Look, don't get me wrong, I adore HK cinema. I love it, it was my door into the entire Asian film world, from Japan to Bollywood. But frankly, the whole "Seriously, HK's done some great movies recently" thing reeks of apologia. Yes, in this past year, I've genuinely LOVED a couple of HK pictures. Moonlight in Tokyo was one of the most unexpected treasures in recent memory. Seven Swords (I know it was in Mandarin, but come on) has unambiguous love from me. Election is just better than we deserve. But citing The Colour of the Loyalty (a proficient but unremarkable Triad picture) and AV (um, okay) just doesn't convince. There's no denying that the energy just isn't there, not in the mass sense that it used to be. One has to cherry pick now, where in the past one could just grab anything with Anthony Wong on the cover and go home pretty damn happy. Equally, there's no denying that Korea has exploded onto the scene in a major way. You can call polished production values bland, but you sure couldn't call the gloriously psychedelic romance of Duelist bland. Nor could you deny the sparkling individuality of Welcome to Dongmakgol or the fact that A Bittersweet Life has no HK competition (maybe Sha Po Lang, but only maybe) as one of the best action pictures of the year. The President's Last Bang, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, King and Clown, Green Chair, Crying Fist...the list keeps going. The energy, ingenuity and talent on display in this year's crop of Korean film is pretty amazing. Look. HK cinema isn't dead, not by half. I know it, everyone knows it. But Korea's current blast of the good stuff has been on a roll for several years now. If it tapers off, it tapers off, but I don't think it's beholden to Hollywood except in the professional nature of its presentation (which, by the by, HK has recently embraced as well; even Wong Jing's movies are starting to look good). Anyway, the two scenes are as different as different could be, and if new HK were punching its weight, the comparison wouldn't be so painful.

Posted by: Abe Goldfarb | Mar 4, 2006 12:56:49 PM

What's interesting is that once the Seoul Theater Association announced they will continue to keep the 106 day screen quota system for Korean films, the Screen Quota Alliance commented that this was merely a tactical stunt, a combine effort by the Theater Association and the government to calm strong public opinion against the reduction of the screen quota. The alliance added that the Theater Association is composed mostly of major Korean studios that constantly collaborate with Hollywood majors and have no reason to keep the previous screen quota. Okay, now the alliance is really just pulling things straight out of their ass. First of all, multiplex theater screens take up about 80% of all screens in Korea, and most of these multiplexes are owned and operated by the same companies that distribute the majority of all Korean films. Why would these studios want to give more screen time to Hollywood films rather than promote their OWN films that proved to be more profitable anyway? The alliance has got to get over this. The screen quota doesn't do anything anymore. All it represents is a symbol of pride and protection, a symbol that says they will never bow down to the selfish demands of the US, a symbol of cultural integrity. That's all good and all, and I hope they come out on top and give the US a big 'I told you so' speech, but stop hootin' and hollerin' over something that doesn't even help the domestic film industry anymore.

Posted by: John | Mar 6, 2006 10:17:11 AM

You are a f***in' moron Ian Friedman!
The HK movie industry is a lot older than the Korean one, Arschloch. Korean films hit their stride in the 1990s, so how can you say that they will never "catch up" to Hong Kong films (I don't think Hong Kong movies are worth "measuring" up to anyways). You seem to think that Hong Kong filmmakers are somehow innately superior which I find disgusting and extremely offensive. I guess you're one of those UGLY Americans who thinks that Asia is just one big homogeneous glob, and therefore all Asian films have to conform to your precious Hong Kong style.

Posted by: Debs | Sep 6, 2006 7:46:12 AM

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