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Is Corean (Korean) Cinema the New HK Cinema?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 05:07:26 PM)

t the peak of its Golden Era between the mid-80s and early-90s Hong Kong cinema was defending nearly half its domestic box office turf against Hollywood imports, thanks to an unusual concentration of mega-talents like John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan and Tsui Hark. No other film industry in the world had been able to claim that for a half century. What's more, some HK kung-fu and gangster flicks outdrew Hollywood thrillers in many international markets.
Won Bin
Corean heartthrob Won Bin

     Hollywood's strategy for coping with the HK threat? Simple and devastatingly effective -- buy up the biggest box-office draws. The result has been an epic shift: the top HK talents have been reduced mostly to coolie-ing on Hollywood formulaics while HK cinema has become a parched gulch with bounding tumbleweeds and half-hinged screen doors banging forlornly with every hot gust.
Kim Yoon-jin
Corean American Shiri star Kim Yoon-jin

     But just as Asian Americans resigned themselves to having screen images hijacked by a remarkably Asian-unfriendly Hollywood, Corean cinema began throwing off heat. Beginning in the early 90s a hardy new generation of Corean filmmakers made themselves fixtures at the award ceremonies of Cannes, Venice and other international film festivals. By the turn of the century Corea's Pusan Film Festival emerged as Asia's premiere celluloid bazaar. But that was small potatoes, not enough to catch the notice of an industry whose real lifeblood is box office.
     Then came Shiri (1999), Kang Jae-gyu's lovingly-wrought, haunting thriller about a deadly North Corean female terrorist who falls in love with exactly the wrong guy. It became the first domestic film in history to break the 2 million ticket mark for the Seoul metropolitan area (which accounts for about 25% of the Corean market), and went on to outgross Hollywood blockbusters like The Mummy, The Matrix, Titanic, Star Wars Episode One and Toy Story. Its $5 million budget is less than a tenth of what Hollywood spends at the drop of a dime but was considered a daring gamble. It paid off. Domestic box office receipts ultimately spiked past $60 million, ensuring an unexpected profit for the film's backer Samsung Entertainment -- and more importantly, whetting the appetites of investors for more "big-budget" projects.
     Director Kang took pains to point out that Shiri's success was founded on a painstakingly crafted screenplay -- something few Corean directors had bothered with before then.
     In 2000 and 2001 alone, two Corean films surpassed Shiri's box office benchmarks: Joint Security Area (DMZ military mystery/drama, 2000) and Friend (male-bonding, 2001). These blockbusters have stimulated a general upsurge of interest in domestic films. Films like Friend and My Sassy Girl (romantic comedy) outgrossed Hollywood megapics like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They helped make Corea the only market in which domestic films captured over 50% of box office receipts, with Hollywood fare attracting 40%.
     As the saga of Hong Kong cinema has shown, nothing yanks Hollywood's chain like being kicked at the box office. Major studios have begun importing Shiri, Musa (co-starring Zhang Zhiyi as a Ming princess rescued by Corean swordsmen) and other Corean films for limited U.S. theatrical release and video distribution. More significantly -- or ominously, depending on your perspective -- they have begun signing Corean talent. One is actress Shin Eun-kyung who starred in the popular comedy My Wife Is a Gangster (2001) which outgrossed Lord of the Rings. Shin will play the female lead opposite Andy Garcia. Miramax even paid $1.1 million for the remake rights to My Wife Is a Gangster.
     Is Corean cinema the new Hong Kong cinema? Or will an Asian version of Hollywood ultimately emerge in Corea?

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Shiri was a wannabe action movie whose timely theme was what saved it. A bunch of other films that have been made or are forthcoming deal with the subject of North Korea, all trying to cash in on Shiri's success.
   Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 19:52:14 (PST)    []
Dude, I've seen Jackie Chan-produced "Gen X Cops", and I think it's utter crap! Watching it was like pulling teeth. I'd rather get punched in the kidneys and piss blood than watch that trash again! Supposedly that movie was the latest in action from HK. The boys look like queer 16 year- old Back Street Boys rejects, and the plot and pace were absolute shite. The only thing that made it bearable was the cameo by Jaymee Ong. She is truly a beauty, though not much of an actress either.

HK cinema isn't the gem that people think it is. Korean cinema focuses more on the human condition in genres like drama. A Korean drama can blow a HK drama out of the water.
HKCinema blows donkeynuts
   Monday, January 27, 2003 at 17:45:15 (PST)    []
Let's face the sad state of Asian cinema at the moment.

For HK cinema, the best of the best have taken flight to go to Hollywood. I grew up watching John Woo. Where is John Woo? In Hollywood. And I'm sorry to say, but I haven't seen anything coming out of HK recently that was as cool as "Bullet in the Head." Or what about Jacky Chan? There is but ONE Jacky. There is no substitute for Jacky Chan, who grew up training for the Chinese opera. How many entertainers in China have the kind of rigorous training Jacky had? In fact not one in all of the world. But Jacky is old and he cannot continue to do his movies. When Jacky stops, there is absolutely noone who can imitate and create jacky-genre movies. Which means that HK is in serious defit of John Woo/Jacky Chan types of movies which it regularly exports. HK also have the wuxia/kung fu genre. But even Jet Li is getting old folks.

Now Korean cinema is an "emergent" cinema. It also produces an incessant amount of junk film. Korean cinema is in this phase where there is a overwhelming surplus of gangster related movies, whether it be gangster comedy, gangster romance, gangster melodrama, gangster action, only thing missing is gangster rap musical. And I'm scared to give Tube Entertainment any new ideas.

Let's face reality folks. Asian cinema even with HK in the vanguard is a pale immitation of Hollywood--and yes, I'm sorry to burst your bubble but Miramax is Hollywood. We should be supporting asian cinema as a whole, considering the fact taht I havent' seen anything ANYTHING out of the entire Asian film industry that could serious challenge Lord of the Rings.

This isn't a time for HK people to pat themselves on the back and say, "we are doing pretty well for ourselves." same is true for Korean film. Asian film can go the way of the Dodo bird unless the industry learns to copy the same popular mass pleasing formula that Hollywood has learned.

Give me more "God of Gambler" and "Shiri" and stop giving me art-house crap.

my two cents.
   Monday, January 27, 2003 at 12:54:28 (PST)    []
What is so good about HK movies? It seems its always the same, same kung fu bulls***. I didn't get why people got all over hyped over "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." Its was the same fantasy kung fu, flying through the air, give me a break! This kind of movies only pertatuate Asian sterotypes. Now you got old Jackie Chan and little Jet Li trying to exploit the youth market by trying to look hip.
As for Hollywood most movies suck, its all about flash with no substance, same old violence just for violence sake. I haven't seen too many Korean or Japanese movies yet to make a judgement.
Enough of bad movies
   Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 19:37:54 (PST)    []
I have only watch one Korean movie so far and that was All about Eve. I really think this one movie has big potential. From all the HK movies I've watched in the past to great Hollywood epics such as Gone w/ the wind to Titanic. I feel this movie made the most impression on me. It hooked me and I was very impressed. From the storyline, to the characters and the actors and actress. They were all great. The movie left you wanting more. I can sit and watch the movie over and over again and it still would captivate me. The story made you laugh, cry and feel all the emotions of the making of an excellent movie. The story not only gave you something entertaining to enjoy, but it made you think about life and the people in this world. It really hit reality. Everyone can relate. Sure JDG's character seem like a character only to be found in fairytales, but it made you love his character even more because the fact that his character is what every woman would want in a man. And Chae Rim was truly talented. She can cry like no other. But these actors, not only do they act good, you just look at their face expressions to the look in their eyes. They don't have to say a single word and you can feel what they want to say or thinking. Their eyes truly tell the story. Now that is excellent. Who can not say a single line and act w/ such graceness? I think if they continue to make movies like this one and cast a crew like this, they will truly out do HK and even Hollywood. HK movies use to be good, but I feel it lost it's greatness. Maybe because all the truly talented actors and actresses have fled and move on. Andy Lau seems to be the only one left worth watching in HK movies. As far as Hollywood, they are too short. Short movies make quick impressions and than it's over. You don't have the chance to relate and get entice w/ the character and the story. You forget about them quickly. HK movies use to be worth watching, but now, kung fu movies are made so flimsy. The action sucks and the characters are way too extreme, far from grasp of reality. Daytime drama series have no real good storyline. Comedies become a joke it self. What ever happen to the good old HK movies and the once talented superstars of the past??? JDG and Chae Rim of Korea has big potential. I rather watch JDG over Tom cruise or Leonardi Di Caprio any day. Julia Roberts can move aside. Actually I never thought Julia was ever so great. She's not even pretty. Chae Rim is young and truly talented. I'm a woman myself and she even captures my heart. So is that not talent or what? Korea has potential. Too bad I only have 2 thumbs, otherwise they would all be for this movie. Go get them Korea...JDG and Chae Rim, keep up the great work. I hope to see more movies w/ you guys in it and to the director and producers of this movie, please have a part II because you have many fans who will want to see an encore.
Speechless in California
   Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 14:38:46 (PST)    []
Korean cinema will never become the new HK cinema. Japanese films have a far greater chance. Both HK and Japanese films have always had a cult following in the U.S. There is even a theater near me (I live in New York) that shows regularly shows HK and Japanese movies. I've yet to see a Korean one shown though.
   Wednesday, January 08, 2003 at 15:58:45 (PST)    []
Korean cinema is not going to overtake hong kong films.Hong Kong film industry is far more matured and prominent than Korea's. Who says there are no good movies from hong kong lately? These days, you seldom find fight-till-you-die kungfu movies coming out from hong kong anymore. These movies are already stale, that's why you get new movies with new concepts like horror, action packed movies, etc out in hong kong cinema. I enjoy jackie chan's action movies once in a while. I think they're rather better to watch than some korean movie which could be boring.And talk abt korean series like Winter Sonata and all that. they are sooo boring.
Just an opinion
   Friday, January 03, 2003 at 23:22:57 (PST)    []
HK movies were famous in korea during 80's but now, they're just boring and pointless. just make me "yawwwnnn" eh.
romantic movies are not romantic, and comedy movies are not funny at all.
what happened to hk movies?? i've loved hk movies when i was young, but i hardly find good hk movies in these days. akkkkk! who will recommend good movies now?:P
blue ribbon
   Friday, January 03, 2003 at 04:20:36 (PST)    []
Its true that HK cinema is going downhill. Pratically all the new movies are crap. I think Shaolin Soccer is the only good recent film for a long time
   Wednesday, November 13, 2002 at 08:01:06 (PST)    []
thats interesting though. There has been a Korean director offered to produce movies for hollywood (i beleive Im Gweon-taek) but he refused, something about losing the authenticity?
   Sunday, November 03, 2002 at 21:12:53 (PST)    []
I don't know the answer to the question but I do know that if Miramax keeps buying all the copy rights to all the Asian films that do so well in Asia, those of us who appreciate those films in their original form are left out in the cold.
   Sunday, October 27, 2002 at 01:38:10 (PDT)    []
"MY sassy Girl" was the best comedy movie i have ever saw...
I dont know about the next big thing but KOrean cinema has definately improved in film making and hopely more of movies like "My Sassy Girl" and JSA will come out..
   Thursday, October 03, 2002 at 05:29:59 (PDT)    []
korean cinema is and will NOT be next hong kong cinema in term of the style of movies...korean movies will bring a fresh variety of movies unlike those honk kong more john woo/chow yun fat stuff..."has been"!!

what exactly are the current "popular" hong kong movie? please enlighten me. and please dont tell its those jet li/jackie chan movies where hollywood has them both posing very ridiculously on the cover. at least jackie chan tries to be funny with a very funny chris tucker.
   Friday, August 30, 2002 at 02:20:01 (PDT)
Hey, if any of you play video games, X-Box (aka X-Sux) has a game out right now based on HK cinema called Dead to Rights. On the box, it even says "Hong Kong style action!"

BTW, Mario Sunshine on the 'Cube rules!
TSJ    Wednesday, August 28, 2002 at 11:48:43 (PDT)
I say that Korean film makers have yet to work harder and harder to catch up with Hong Kong because Hong Kong Cinema is much more popular right now. I hope more Korean films make it big here in the U.S. I will support it and go to the movies when a Korean star plays the lead or a Korean movie plays in the Theaters.

Good luck to all Asians in Film.
   Thursday, August 22, 2002 at 11:15:04 (PDT)
Korean movies are great. I have just watched II Mare and Tell Me Something and they both great. Great story line, great acting, great production values. I especially like II Mare. I like Japanese and HK movies too, but they all have something different to offer.
Asian Movie Fan
   Sunday, August 11, 2002 at 19:12:35 (PDT)
One can only hope Hollywood will take notice, but unfortunately they ultimately won't. Japan was a hot bed like 2 years ago for horror films. Be prepared to see the remakes of The Ring, Pulse, and a few others later this year. I am sure they will all star pre-pubescent white teen actors and dumbed down to the point of nausea. I guess the real issue like someone else noted is for Korea and Japan and China to keep their talent and continue to make good solid films and the world will take note or at least Asia will;)
   Friday, July 26, 2002 at 23:08:01 (PDT)