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Focus on South Korea

DRIVING WITH MY WIFE'S LOVER / ANE EUI AEIN EUL MANNADA 
A DIRT CARNIVAL / BI YEOL HAN GEO RI 
BEYOND THE YEARS / CHUN NYUN HACK 
WOMAN OF THE BEACH / HAEBYONUI YOIN
M / EN
NO REGRET / HUHWAEHAJI ANAH 
THE DESERT DREAM / HYAZGAR 
SECRET SUNSHINE / MIRYANG 
NEVER FOREVER 
BETWEEN / SAI E SEO 
KING AND THE CLOWN / WANG UI NAM JA 
I'M CYBORG, BUT THAT'S OK / SAIBOGUJIMAN KWENCHANA

Along with Japan and China’s, Korea’s film industry is one of the oldest - the first films reached cinemas in the early 20th century and film production began immediately thereafter. As with any other country with longstanding film traditions, there have naturally been good times and bad, periods of creative ebb and flow. Of course, ever since the 1940s, when we say Korean films, we mean South Korean productions. Even though North Korea does make films, sadly they do not make it across the border and thus almost no one knows what is happening on the other side of the iron curtain.

After the “golden age” of the 1950-60s, Southern Korean film-making disappeared from the international scene, only to make a stunning return at the end of the 1990s, when domestic commercial successes began to be churned out. These included the first local box office hits: “The Ginkgo Bed” (1996), “Shiri” (1999), “My Sassy Girl” (2001) and “The Way Home” (2002). Hollywood took a back seat: domestic blockbusters proved the most popular, with more than 10 million tickets sold.

The proverb that money makes money applied well in this case, too: new cinemas were built and the developing Korean film industry received state support. The results weren’t long in coming. Korea enjoyed international film success and acclaim at major festivals: director Lee Chang-dong’s “Oasis” won a top award in Venice in 2002; “Old Boy” (directed by Park Chan-wook) received one of the highest honours at the 2003 Cannes Festival and in 2004, Kim Ki-duk won a Silver Bear in Berlin for “Samaria” as well as four awards for “3-Iron” in Venice. These four films marked the birth of the avant-garde.

In 2007, another turning point was reached. Small, low-budget, extremely distinctive auteur efforts such as “Secret Sunshine”, “Driving with My Wife’s Lover”, “Woman on the Beach” eked out their place under the sun – and took festivals by storm.
By now Korea is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most interesting film powerhouses in the world, producing auteur cinema, animations and documentaries alongside pure genre films and box office smashes. Korea’s new wave, as it is known abroad, is above all the product of a prioritized, focused financing policy, new types of screenplays and close competition between directors, which forces them to keep on learning and pursue education abroad. The role of the Pusan and Jeonju film festivals in all this is not insignificant. Established during the nadir years, these events have brought to Korea films in the vanguard of world cinema, thus laying a critical foundation.

Tiina Lokk
Programme coordinator













prg. mart kalmo