This was a very good year for Korean cinema. Perhaps actress Moon So-ri
said it best at a screening of one of her films in Paris: "French cinema has a history of over 100 years, but not Korea. If France is an adult, Korea is a child. But it is a very strong child".
Now is an exciting and important time in the development of the "very strong child", and 2003 will be remembered as a highlight, regardless of the direction Korean cinema takes in the years to come.
This year began with the film industry losing a great director but gaining great influence when Lee Chang-dong
was named Minister of Culture and Tourism in the newly inaugurated administration of President Roh Moo-hyun.
In the absence of established masters, young directors stepped into the spotlight, especially on the international film festival front. Last year, Im Kwon-taek
and Lee won the best director awards in Cannes and Venice, respectively. This year, the best director honors went to Jang Joon-hwan
("Save the Green Planet
") in Moscow and Bong Joon-ho
("Memories of Murder"
) in San Sebastian.
While there may be a drop in prestige from Cannes to San Sebastian, it is worth considering that Bong is just 34 and Jang is 33. If 2002 was a year of recognition for past achievements, 2003 was a year of hope for future triumphs.
Meanwhile, the market share of Korean films will be the highest ever in 2003, hovering around 50 percent. Korean films refused to back down in the summer months when they have traditionally performed poorly against Hollywood blockbusters.
The most popular films in June, July and August were "A Tale of Two Sisters
and "Wishing Stairs"
, respectively, all of which were Korean films. July numbers tell it best. The market share of Korean films in July this year was 45.9 percent. Last year, it was 27.7 percent.
Closely connected to the issue of market share was the controversy over the screen quota system, which threatened to erupt several times this year. Under pressure from the United States to modify the practice as a precondition for a bilateral investment treaty, passionate arguments were made on both sides of the issue.
Caught between his economic and cultural deputies, Roh seemed to sway on the issue several times before stating his intention not to pursue a change for the time being. Nevertheless, the controversy is likely to boil over again next year.
This year also saw the rise of a unique genre in Korean cinema: the so-called "fusion historical drama", reflecting the nation's interest in history and its fondness for labeling everything "fusion".
Essentially, a "fusion historical drama" involves infusing modern trends, such as regional dialects ("Hwangsanbul
") or a French novel ("Untold Scandal"
), into a traditional setting of Korean history to shed light on both the past and the present and to entertain.
Another unique genre in Korean cinema, turning an Internet novel into a feature film, quietly continued this year. Following in the footsteps of "My Sassy Girl"
, "My Tutor Friend"
preyed on the romantic imagination of teenage girls to become a huge hit and spawn similar productions for next year.
"The Guy was Cool
" and "Temptation of Wolves
" by best-selling cyber author Guiyeoni
are currently in the works while "Love Story of a Third-Year Senior" and "100 Days with Mr. Arrogant
" by other keyboard fantasists are also waiting in the wings for 2004.
By Kim Jin