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Director Bae Jong, 'Welcome to my movies'

2005/12/07 Source

The 2005 award ceremony of the Blue Dragon Awards was held at the KBS Hall in Yeouido on November 29. It was truly a festival of high flying stars. Every movie star and director representing Korea gathered together at the event. Although the award ceremony lasted for only a short while, viewers had the chance to get an overview of the trends in the Korean film industry during the year 2005 at the event, and to try to predict future leaders of the nation's burgeoning film industry.

The 26th Blue Dragon Awards was more competitive than any other previous occasion. In particular, the coveted Best Picture Award category saw fierce competition among its entries -- director Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance;" Park Jin-pyo's "You are My Sunshine", which drove many movie fans to tears; Chung Yoon-chul's "Running Boy", which was the most popular movie in the first half of 2005; Kim Dae-seung's "Blood Rain;" and Bae Jong's "Welcome to Dongmakgol".

The event no doubt produced a flurry of hot topics of discussion. Except for Park Chan-wook and Kim Dae-seung, all the directors of the movies nominated for the award were rookies, and most of the films were blockbusters at theaters, which illustrated huge growth potential for the nation's movie industry and constituted a hot topic of discussion in itself. "Welcome to Dongmakgol", which has drawn 8 million fans since its premiere on August 3, was also a much-talked-about topic during this year's festival. In addition to the best film award, the movie was nominated in a total of eight categories, including best actor, best actress, rookie director of the year, music, art, technology, and best screenplay, garnering the honor of being nominated in the most number of categories, together with "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance", at this year's Blue Dragon Awards. It is director Bae Jong who created all these records, and created such a stir as well.

Bae Jong, a simple storyteller

Park, born in 1969, studied visual design at Hongik University before working as a director of TV commercials. Many people remember the tagline "Don't bet your life", in the commercial for a popular fast-food chain. Many also remember an impressive statement made by actor Choi Min-sik in a commercial for a life insurance company. But few people know who created these commercials. Not many are aware that Park, the director who created "Welcome to Dongmakgol", was also the creator of those popular commercials that won the grand prizes at domestic and international commercial competitions.

Park's commercials are simple and modest, rather than glaring. He had a special talent for conveying episodes of people's daily life through his commercials. Park, who was widely recognized for his outstanding capacity in commercial productions, made his movie-directing debut with the film "My Nike", part of a series of three movies released in 2002 called "Don't Ask". "My Nike" is a story about the youngest son of a taxi driver who is struggling financially. Park demonstrated his talent for excellent storytelling that he had been cultivating on his own, with the story unfolding as the son dreams of having Nike shoes one day. He successfully narrates the story of simple people in familiar neighborhoods and their warm relations in the movie.

Welcome to Dongmakgol!

Eventually, Park began drawing keen public attention as a rookie director in 2005 because of "Welcome to Dongmakgol". In his second movie, Park shed light on the Korean War, which broke out on June 25, 1950 and caused lasting suffering and pain among the Korean people. In the tragic situation of the war, during which people were forced to kill each other without even knowing the exact reason for their struggle, Park found a unique story to tell about unusual people. He chose as his central characters the villagers of Dongmakgol, who were completely unaware of the tragic war that lasted for over three years. In the movie, the Dongmakgol villagers, with no knowledge of the war, receive unexpected visitors -- North Korean, South Korean, and U.S. troops. The soldiers, who have became extremely hardened and distraught by the war, do not initially understand the leisurely behavior and attitude, and warmth, of the Dongmakgol villagers.

But as they reside together with the villagers, they recover their humanity and the warmth that they had lost due to the war. This is exactly what Director Park wishes to convey to his audience. Park beautifully describes through the movie that people's warmth and kindness can bring even a war to a halt. The movie did not draw much public attention before premiering at theaters. But it attracted 8 million viewers to box offices nationwide thanks to word-of-mouth after it was released. The figure represents the fourth highest number of viewers among all domestically-produced movies. And words from the Gangwon Province dialects featured in the movie have become trendy and fashionable, being commonly used in parodies on TV comedy shows, while the movie itself has become so popular that almost everyone in Korea immediately recognizes the title, "Welcome to Dongmakgol.
Constantly takes on challenge to produce best movies
It is never easy to create a movie. Park was not an exception to the rule. Even though he did not have an adequate budget for production, he did not give up. Park's biggest source of ability was his recklessness and competitive spirit. Many even derided the fact Park sent a letter to Hisaishi Jo, a movie music composer in Japan, asking him to take charge of the music in his movie. They scoffed because they strongly doubted Hisaishi Jo would even consider an offer made by an unknown rookie director in Korea. But Park did not hesitate to ask him nonetheless. A staunch fan of Japanese movie director Miyazaki Hayao, Park believed Hisaishi Jo was the most suitable music director for "Welcome to Dongmakgol". He definitely needed the Japanese movie composer in order to create his own best work. Even if it was impossible to bring him on board, Park did not want to give up without even trying. He chose to be reckless and brave. In the end, his recklessness resulted in success.

Several months later, Park ended up completing his movie, which proudly features Hisaishi Jo's music. "Welcome to Dongmakgol" was the most popular movie in the second half of 2005, but this is just beginning for the young director. Park has said he wants to create movies with simple stories that are full of humanity. Now, movie fans are earnestly waiting for his next movie, which is sure to be touching and full of warm emotion.

Born: 1969
Education: Visual design department, Hongik University
Awards: Golden prize in the 2002 New York Advertising Festival
Movies: of the 2002 three-part movie series "Don't Ask"
2005 Welcome to Dongmakgol

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