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[Interview] Yeon Sang-ho for the Release of "Peninsula" in the USA on August 21st


Yeon Sang-ho answered questions from William and Panos before the release of "Peninsula" in the USA on August 21st.

1) All three movies of your zombie trilogy make a comment about human nature, and particularly the fact that humans tend to put themselves first and not care for others during dangerous times, as much as becoming increasingly violent and inhumane when the circumstances permit or dictate it. Is this your opinion about humanity as a whole?

사람은 아주 작은 계기로 악인되는 길과 선인이 되는 길 사이에서 선택을 하게 된다고 생각한다. 부산행에서 비슷한 유형의 인간처럼 보인 석우와 용석의 최종적 모습이 다른 것처럼 말이다.
우리가 최종적으로 어떤 모습으로 최후를 맞이 할지는 인간 스스로 선택할 수 있다고 생각한다.

I think through every small moment, humans make the decision to go down the road of evil or good. Just like how in "Train to Busan", both Seok-woo and Yong-suk were both seen as similar humans in the beginning, but turned out to be very different at the end.

I think ultimately, humans make the choice for themselves on how they will end up.

2) The arena scene is particularly impressive. Can you tell us about its conception and the way you shot it?

숨바꼭질 장면에서 내가 원한 것은 그 경기장에 들어간 구철민의 입장이 관객에게 전달되길 바란다는 것이었다. 그래서 나는 그 장면을 하나의 컷트로 구성되기를 바랬다. 그래서 스턴트 감독은 그 장면을 하나로 이어서 연출할 수 있는 비디오 콘티를 보여줬고 촬영감독과 나는 그 장면은 구현하기 위해 노력했다. 바닥에 물이 깔려 있어 뛸 때 마다 액션적 효과가 극대화 되었지만 그만큼 카메라 렌즈에 물이 튀어 촬영하기 힘든 부분도 있었다. 그리고 액션의 합이 엄청나게 많은 장면이어서 그 합들을 한번에 카메라 동선에 맞춰 찍는 것도 힘든 일이었다. 스탭들과 배우들이 합심하여 그 장면을 큰 사고 없이 촬영할 수 있었다.

What I wanted from the hide-and-seek scene is to convey Goo Chul-min's position in the arena to the audience, so I wanted to shoot the scene in a single cut. The stunt director created a video storyboard to tie the scenes into one and the cinematographer and I tried to implement the plan. Because there is a lot of water on the ground, every time you run on the floor, the action effects are maximized, but it was very challenging to shoot because water splashed on the camera lens. And because there were so many action scenes, it was very difficult to capture the sum of all those scenes through the camera movement. The staff and actors worked together to shoot the scene without any major accidents.

3) Big budgets come with certain liberties but also with certain limitations. How would you describe this balance in "Peninsula"?

아무래도 반도는 극장에서 상영되는 영화이다. 한국 영화 기준으로는 꽤 많은 제작비가 투입이 되는 영화다 보니 영화 매니아들 외에도 가끔 극장을 찾는 관객들도 모두 만족 시킬 수 있는 보편성을 획득 하는 것이 중요한 포인트 였다. 그런 부분에 대해 신경을 쓰며 기획했다.

"Peninsula" is a movie that should be shown in theaters. By Korean standards, the movie required high production costs. So it was important to create a universal appeal that would be enjoyed not only by the movie enthusiast, but the occasional movie-goer as well. I went into planning while keeping that in mind.

4) "Train to Busan" included some political metaphors, for example the separation of the two elderly sisters seemed like a direct comment on the splitting of the two Koreas. Are there any such elements in "Peninsula" or was your approach more action/entertainment oriented this time?

반도의 경우 사회적 이데올로기에서 최대한 벗어나려고 노력했다. 물론 그 안에서 어떤 의미를 찾는 것은 관객의 자유이지만 반도는 좀더 본질적인 인간과의 관계나 희망과 같은 것에 집중하려고 했다. 물론 그 표현 방식이 액션, 엔테테인먼트에 기반한다는 생각도 있었다.

With "Peninsula", I tried very hard to separate it from traditional social ideology. Of course the audience has the freedom to identify the theme behind it on their own, but with "Peninsula", I tried to focus more on essential human relationships and hope. Of course I also considered the way to express that was through action and entertainment.

5) You came to be a blockbuster director from South Korea's independent animated film scene. That's quite an unusual start. Can you tell us how that came about, and if it's given you any unusual influences?

나는 아주 운이 좋은 케이스라고 말하고 싶다.
당시 돼지의 왕이나 사이비 같은 작품이 작품적인 측면은 인정 받았지만 대중들이 잘 알만한 작품들은 아니었다.
그러다가 부산행을 제작한 제작자와 투자 배급을 맡은 NEW의 영화 사업부 대표가 나에게 큰 규모의 영화를 맡겨도 될 것 같다는 생각을 하게 되면서 부산행이 시작이 되었다.

I consider myself to be a lucky case. "King of Pigs" and "The Fake" were both recognized works, but they were not works that were well known to the public.

Then the producer of "Train to Busan" and the head of NEW's film division, who was in charge of the investment and distribution, thought it would be a good idea to entrust a feature-length film to me, and thus "Train to Busan" began.

6) Some commentators, most notably famed director Bong Joon-ho, have argued that the South Korean film market as it exists today is not conducive to original work, that studios have discouraged creative freedom among the current generation of upcoming directors. Is this also your personal experience?

봉준호 감독이 데뷔작을 만들던 한국 영화산업의 모습과 지금의 한국 영화산업의 모습은 확실히 다르다.
개인적으로는 그 이전의 산업에서 일을 해본 적이 없어서 지금의 산업의 형태가 얼마나 다른지 명확하게 알지 못한다.
과거의 산업에서는 영화를 기획하는 제작사나 감독의 중요성이 투자 배급사보다 더 중요하게 여겨졌다는 이야기를 들은 적은 있다.
하지만 그 전통은 분명 지금까지도 남아있다고 느낀다.

The Korean film industry during the time when Director Bong Joon-ho debuted his first film and the Korean film industry today are very different.

Personally, I never worked in the industry during that time, so I can't speak to how different the industry is today.

Previously in the industry, I have heard that the production company and the director who plans the film were more important than the investment distribution company.

I feel that tradition still remains today.


"Peninsula" is directed by Yeon Sang-ho, and features Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Kyo-hwan. Release date in Korea: 2020/07/15. Release date in the USA: 2020/08/21.

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