By Kim Tae-jong
Lee Bong-ou, president of Japanese theater chain Cine Qua Non, poses at the chain's first Korean branch in Myongdong, downtown Seoul. The theater opens on Nov. 11.
Japanese theater chain Cine Qua Non (CQN) will open its first Korean branch in Myongdong, downtown Seoul, this month. The theater will devote one of its five screens to showing Japanese movies year-round.
The president of CQN has shown Korean films to Japanese moviegoers through his chain theaters for the past 10 years and believes that it is time to introduce a diverse array of Japanese films.
"Korean films have now secured a stable distribution system in Japan and are enjoyed by a large number of Japanese moviegoers", Lee Bong-ou, president of CQN, told The Korea Times. "So I wondered how I could introduce the diversity of Japanese culture to Koreans at Japanese films".
The ethnic Korean living in Japan set up a theater chain in 1989 and has imported and shown various films from all over the world. Since Im Kwon-taek
's film "Seopyeonje
" in 1994. Lee has also shown many Korean films including "Shiri"
and "Running Boy" - "Marathon"
"I think, for the past 10 years, the Korean film industry has been very successful at home and abroad, diversifying and growing massively. But the element that attracts people remains the same _ the affection toward people well demonstrated in such films as `Seopyeonje
' and `Running Boy' - "Marathon"
, " Lee said.
The 45-year-old businessman studied journalism in Paris in the 1980s to become a newspaper reporter, but embarked on a career shift after realizing the power and potential of films.
"For example, seeing the popularity of Korean dramas, actors and movies in Japan, I think that active cultural exchanges can help people from both countries better understand each other, which politics has never achieved", Lee said.
He thinks people from both countries share many similarities. In particular, love for family and romantic love are two values portrayed in Korean films, which make them popular in Japan.
"Koreans can also find out that they share a lot of similarities with Japanese through many good Japanese films as well as learn many interesting diversities and unique characteristics exiting in Japanese culture", Lee said.
In the theater in Seoul, Lee plans to screen Japanese films from classic films and animation to the latest movies, and also invite Japanese directors and actors so that moviegoers and people from the local movie industry can actively share and exchange their thoughts and ideas.
He said that many Koreans misunderstand that the Japanese movie industry is having a tough time but, in fact, it is now growing steadily, producing well-made movies, many of which he wants to show here.
Lee explained that the Japanese market is big enough and Japanese movie companies make more than 40 percent of profits in the video and DVD sales so that they don't have any urgent need to make inroads into other markets.
"But these days, because of the influence of Korean films and dramas, Japanese started to consider advancing the overseas markets and introducing their culture", Lee said.
As Lee has also worked for film production in Japan, as well as in distribution and in the theater business, he plans to participate in Korean film production with his CQN fund for Korean films, which is estimated to be around 40 billion won.
"I will run the theater here facilitating my experiences in the theater business, and I hope this theater serves as a place where cultural exchange. And if the theater is successful, I will open more chains", Lee said.
CQN Korea officially opens on Nov. 11, but due to promotional problems, the screening of Japanese films will start in the early December.