Cinema of Korea

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Cinema of Korea
Korean.culture-Sinchon-Movie.theatre.jpg
Movie theater in Sinchon
Number of screens 1,974 (2011)[1]
 • Per capita 4.3 per 100,000 (2011)[1]
Main distributors Cj E&M Corporation 34.3%
Lotte Entertainment 15.9%
Showbox/Mediaplex 9.5%[2]
Produced feature films (2005-2009)[3]
Total 118 (average)
Number of admissions (2012)[4]
Total 194,892,244
 • Per capita 3.83
National films 114,612,900 (58.8%)
Gross Box Office (2013)[5][6]
Total 1.55 trillion
National films US$860 million (59.7%)

Korean cinema encompasses the motion picture industries of North and South Korea. As with all aspects of Korean life during the past century, the film industry has often been at the mercy of political events, from the late Joseon dynasty to the Korean War to domestic governmental interference. While both countries have relatively robust film industries today, only South Korean films have achieved wide international acclaim. North Korean films tend to portray their communist or revolutionary themes.

South Korean films enjoyed a "Golden age" during the late 1950s, and 1960s, but by the 1970s had become generally considered to be of low quality. Nonetheless, by 2005 South Korea had become one of few nations to watch more domestic than imported films in theatres[7] due largely to laws placing limits on the number of foreign films able to be shown per theatre per year.[8] In the theaters, Korean films must be played for 73 days per year since 2006. On cable TV 25% domestic film quota will be reduced to 20% after KOR-US FTA.[9]

Early period (until 1926)[edit]

Still from Chunhyang-Jeon (Hangul: 춘향전) (1923)

According to the October 19, 1897 issue of The Times, "Motion pictures have finally been introduced into Joseon, a country located in the Far East. At the beginning of October 1897, motion pictures were screened for the public in Jingogae, Bukchon, in a shabby barrack that was borrowed from its Chinese owner for three days. The works screened included short films and actuality films produced by France's Pathe Pictures".[10] There are reports of another showing of a film to the public in 1898 near Namdaemun in Seoul.

American traveler and lecturer Burton Holmes was the first to film in Korea as part of his travelogue programs.[11] In addition to displaying his films abroad, he showed them to the Korean royal family in 1899.[12] An announcement in the contemporary newspaper, Hwangseong sinmun (The Imperial), names another early public screening on June 23, 1903. Advertised by the Dongdaemun Electric Company, the price for admission to the viewing of scenic photography was 10 jeon (coin).[10]

Korea's first movie theater, Dongdaemun Motion Picture Studio, was opened in 1903.[13] The Dansung-sa Theater opened in Seoul in November 1907. Before the creation of a domestic film industry, films imported from Europe and the United States were shown in Korean theaters. Some of the imported films of the era most popular with Korean audiences were D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920), Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922), and Fritz Lang's Nibelungen films, Siegfried and Kriemhilds Rache (both 1924).

Not merely a theater-operator, as the first film producer in Korea, Dansung-sa's owner, Pak Sung-pil, took an active part in supporting early Korean cinema. He financed the first Korean domestic film, Loyal Revenge (Korean: 의리적 구투; Uirijeok Gutu), as well as the first Korean documentary film, Scenes of Kyongsong City and showed both at his theater on October 27, 1919. Uirijeok Guto was used as a kino drama, a live theatrical production against the backdrop of film projected on stage.

For the next few years, film production in Korea consisted of the kino dramas and documentaries. As with the first showing of a film in Korea, the first feature film produced in Korea also appears to be unclear. Some name a filming of Chunhyang-Jeon (Hangul: 춘향전) in 1921 (released in 1922) as the first Korean feature film. The traditional story, Chunhyang, was to become Korea's most-filmed story later. It was possibly the first Korean feature film, and was certainly the first Korean sound film, color film and widescreen film. Im Kwon-taek's 2000 pansori version of Chunhyang brought the number of films based on Chunyang to 14.[14] Other sources, however, name Yun Baek-nam's Ulha ui Mengse ("Plighted Love Under the Moon"), released in April, 1923, as the first Korean feature film.[15][16]

The Golden Era of Silent Films (1926-1930)[edit]

Korean film studios at this time were Japanese-operated. A hat-merchant known as Yodo Orajo established a film company called Choson Kinema Productions. After appearing in the Choson Kinema's 1926 production Nongjungjo (Hangul: 농중조), the young actor Na Woon-gyu got the chance to write, direct and star in his own film. The release of Na's film, Arirang (Hangul: 아리랑) (1926) is generally considered[by whom?] the start of the era of silent film in Korea.

Like the folksong "Arirang", on which its title was based, Na Woon-gyu's Arirang did not have an overtly political theme. However hidden or subtle messages could be magnified through the common use of a live narrator at the theater. A newspaper article of 1908 shows that this tradition of "byeonsa" (Hangul: "변사", or "benshi" in Japanese) appeared in Korea almost from the beginning of the showing of film in the country. As in Japan, this became an integral part to the showing of silent films, especially for imported films, where the byeonsa provided an economical and entertaining alternative to translating intertitles. In an interesting aspect of the byeonsa tradition in Korea, when Japanese authorities were not present the narrators could inject satire and criticism of the occupation into the film narrative, giving the film a political subtext invisible to Japanese government censors.[17] Some of the more popular byeonsa were better-paid than the film actors.[18]

The success of Arirang inspired a burst of activity in the Korean film industry in the late 1920s, causing this period to become known as "The Golden Era of Silent Films". More than seventy films were produced at this time, and the quality of film improved as well as the quantity.[19]

Na Un-gyu followed Arirang with popular and critically respected films like Punguna (풍운아, Person of destiny) (1926) and Deuljwi (들쥐, Vole) (1927). He formed Na Un-gyu Productions with Park Sung-pil for the purpose of producing films by Koreans for Koreans. Though this company was short-lived, it produced important films like Jalitgeola (잘 있거라, Good bye) (1927), Beongeoli Sam-ryong (벙어리 삼룡, Mute Samryong) (1929), and Salangeul chajaseo (사랑을 찾아서, Finding Love) (1929).

Another important director of this period, Shim Hun, directed only one film, Mondongi Tultte (먼동이 틀 때) (At Daybreak). Though the reviews for this film were as strong as those for Arirang, Shim died at the age of 35 while directing his second film, based on his own novel, Sangroksu (상록수) (The Evergreens). The novel was later filmed by director Shin Sang-ok in 1961 and by Im Kwon-taek in 1978.[20]

The later silent era (1930-1935)[edit]

The first half of the 1930s saw a decline in the domestic film industry in Korea. Censorship and oppression on the part of the occupying authorities played a part in reducing the number of films produced at this time to only two or three per year, and some filmmakers fled Korea for the more robust film-industry in Shanghai at this time.

Perhaps the most important film of this era, Imjaeobtneun naleutbae (Ferryboat with no Ferryman) (1932), directed by Lee Gyu-hwan (1904–1981), starred Na Woon-gyu. Increasing governmental censorship meant that commentators have called this the last pre-liberation film to present a significant nationalistic message.[21][22]

Early sound era (1935-1945)[edit]

Korea's first sound film was Lee Myeong-woo's 1935 Chunhyang-jeon.[23] The sound technique was reportedly poor, but Korean audiences appreciated hearing their own language in the cinema.

The number of films produced increased during the latter part of the decade. Na Woon-gyu began making a larger number of films again with significant works like Kanggeonneo maeul (1935), and Oh Mong-nyeo (1937), before his premature death in 1937.

Korea was one of Japan's first and most important centers of colonial film production. Japanese-sponsored shorts, newsreels, and feature films heavily promoted cultural assimilation to colonized Korean audiences. To this end the Korean Colonial Cinema Unit (朝鮮総督府キネマ) was established to produce and distribute films a mixture of films that promoted Japanese culture and customs as well as the benefits of modernization under the Japanese.[24]

Coming as they did during the mid- to late-1930s, sound films in Korea faced much harsher censorship from the Japanese government-General than did the silent films before them. Also, the loss of the byeonsa narrators with the coming of sound film meant that anti-authority messages could no longer be sneaked around the censors in this way. On such example occurred with the importation of the American silent film Ben Hur (1927) into Korea. While Japanese colonial censors failed to find anything possibly inflammatory about the film, the byeonsa immediately recognized and alerted audiences to the obvious parallels between the conditions of the Jews onscreen with those of the Koreans under Japanese colonial rule resulting in the film setting off a near riot.[25]

Japanese film censors replaced American and European films with Japanese films as part of the larger colonial project to culturally colonize Korea. Japanese films set in Korea appealed to audiences in Japan as a form of exotica. Suicide Troops of the Watchtower (望楼の決死隊, 1943), for instance, was one of several propaganda features that promoted the Japanese occupation notion of naisen ittai or "Japan and Korea as one body."[26] Although Japanese film production in Korea began in the early 1930s, total mobilzation and consolidation of the Korean film industry under the Japanese would not begin until after Japan's full-scale invasion of China in 1937. Film was an important way by which the Japanese maintained colonial control in Korea through the promotion of assimiliationist policies. For example, in 1941 Japan's Shochiku Studios together with the Japanese-sponsored Korean Military Information Division co-produced the film You and I (君と僕). The film was directed by a Korean Hae Yeong who had worked extensively in the Japanese film industry using the name "Hinatsu Eitaro". You and I promoted the "volunteer" enlistment of Koreans into the imperial Japanese Army and carried as a subplot the interracial marriage between a Japanese woman and a Korean man. After the film was completed, Hae went to Java in Indonesia where he continued to make documentaries for the Japanese. After the war, he changed his name to Dr. Huyung, married an Indonesian woman with whom he had two sons, and produced three important Indonesian films. Before his death in 1952, he told a close friend, "If I returned to Japan now there wouldn't be any jobs for me and if I returned to Korea, I'd most likely be branded a Japanese collaborator." [27] Although the Japanese Colonial Administration officially banned the Korean language, the Japanese film studios operating in Korea continued to make films with characters who spoke it until the end of the war.

Divided Korea ― South Korea[edit]

Theatrical poster to Viva Freedom! (1946)

Liberty (1945-1950) and War (1950-1953) eras[edit]

With the surrender of Japan in 1945, Korean cinema enjoyed a burst of liberty—and liberty itself, understandably, became the major theme of films at this time. Choi In-gyu's Viva Freedom! (Hangul: 자유 만세; Jayu manse!), about Korean freedom-fighters during the waning days of the colonial period, is considered the major film of this era.

During the Korean War, film production slowed; only five or six films were produced each year from 1950 to 1953.

Golden Age (1953-1973)[edit]

With the armistice of 1953, South Korean president Syngman Rhee made an effort to help rejuvenate the local film industry by making it exempt from taxation. The rebirth that almost occurred after 1945 can be said to have begun with director Lee Kyu-hwan's successful remake of Chunhyang-jeon in 1955. Within two months 10% of Seoul's population—over 200,000 people—had seen the movie, giving the re-establishment of the film industry further impetus.[28][29]

1955 also saw the release of Yang san Province (Hangul: 양산도; Yangsan-do) by the renowned director, Kim Ki-young, marking the beginning of a career that would remain productive until his death in 1998.

The quality and quantity of film-making in South Korea had increased by the end of the 1950s. In contrast to the beginning of the 1950s, when only 5 movies were made per year, 111 films were produced in South Korea in 1959.,[30][31]

Korean cinema enjoyed a brief period of freedom during the 1960-1961 year interval between the administrations of Rhee and Park Chung Hee. This year saw the production of Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid (Hangul: 하녀; Hanyeo), and Yu Hyun-mok's Aimless Bullet (Hangul: 오발탄; Obaltan), both of which have been listed among the best Korean films ever made.[32]

With the ascension of Park Chung Hee to the presidency in 1962, government control over the film industry increased substantially. Under the Motion Picture Law of 1963, a series of increasingly restrictive measures were placed on the film industry. The number of films produced and imported were limited under a strict quota system. The new regulations dropped the number of domestic film-production companies from 71 to 16 within a year. Government censorship at this time also became very strict, focusing mainly on any hint of pro-communist messages or obscenity.

Despite these governmental policies, however, a consistently large and devoted theater-going audience, and many films continued to give South Korea cinematic culture throughout the 1960s.[33] Also, the Grand Bell Awards were established in 1962.

"Revitalizing Government" era (1973-1979)[edit]

Governmental control over the film industry reached its height in the mid- and late-1970s, nearly destroying the vibrant film culture that had been established in the preceding decade and a half. This time period can also be called as "the winter of the sixty years in Korean film". This was due to the fact that South Korean had a very authoritarian political system that was led by Park Chung-hee. His program of Yusin Restoration (Revitalizing Reforms) caused Korea Cinema to come into a depression period with oppression through censorship. Because the government feared that cinema would disrupt the good taste or customs, harm the pride and dignity of South Korea, praise or support North Korea and Communism, or criticize the political and government politics, filmmakers were wary of this censorship and they were not allowed to produce films that they wanted.[34] Writing in 1981, the International Film Guide said of South Korean cinema, "No country has a stricter code of film censorship than South Korea-- with the possible exception of the North Koreans and some other Communist bloc countries."[35]

The "Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation" (영화진흥위원회) was created in April 1973. It took the place of the Union of Korean Film Promotion. The authoritarian government of Korea said that the MPPC was created to support the domestic films and promote Korean film industry. However, this organization was primarily created to control the film industry and promote the "politically correct" films in order to support censorship and the government ideals.[36]

These propaganda-laden movies (or "policy films") proved unpopular with audiences who had become accustomed to seeing real-life social issues in the quality films of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to dealing with government interference in the making of their films, Korean filmmakers began losing their audience to television ownership, which grew suddenly beginning in the late 1960s. Movie-theater attendance dropped by about a third, from 173,043,272 in 1969 to 65,518,581 in 1979.[37] Nevertheless, talented filmmakers like Im Kwon-taek and Kim Ki-young were able to survive this era and occasionally even produce works of value.

Recovery (1980-1996)[edit]

After a turbulent year from 1979–1980, which included the assassination of president Park Chung Hee, the Coup d'état of December Twelfth, and the Gwangju massacre, South Korea had experienced political confusion. Though theater attendance remained low throughout the 1980s, the government's relaxation of censorship and control over the film industry enabled the production of more adventurous and interesting movies. During this decade, however, South Korean film began reaching an international audience for the first time, in large part through the recognition of director Im Kwon-taek's work. After his 1981 film, Mandala won the Grand Prix at the Hawaii Film Festival, Im became the first Korean director in years to have his films shown at European film festivals.[38]

In 1988, president Roh Tae-woo began the gradual elimination of the government censorship of political expression in films. Directors were quick to begin re-exploring social and political themes in their films. During this period, producer Lee Tae-won made domestic films just to get an import quote. This import quota system controlled the films and restricted the directors to produce films that would supplement the government. Because the import quota system was controlled by the MPPC and because the government mainly controlled the MPPC, the government basically had all the control to display whichever film they want and cut out all the films that would go against their views. Filmmakers were instructed to reveal the bright side and good of social reality and they focused mainly on cultural traditions to school and public based on traditional virtues.[39]

However, the audience for domestic films reached a low point, due partly to the opening of the market to films from overseas, especially the United States and Hong Kong. By 1993, only 16% of the films seen by South Korean audiences were made domestically. The local film industry persevered through this lean period.[29][40]

Current (1997 through present)[edit]

From the late 1990s, South Korean cinema managed to attain domestic box office success exceeding that of Hollywood blockbuster movies due largely to laws placing limits on the number of foreign films able to be shown per theatre per year.[8] This government-enforced screen quota system has stood since 1967, and limits the number of days per year non-domestic movies can be shown on any one movie screen in South Korea. This practice has come under fire from non-Korean film distributors as unfair. As a prerequisite to open negotiations with the United States for the Free Trade Agreement, the Korean government cut the screen quota for domestic films in half, thus allowing more foreign films to enter the market.[41] In February 2006, South Korean movie workers staged mass rallies to protest a quota cut resulting from a deal with the United States.[42] Today, according to Kim Hyun, "South Korea’s movie industry, like that of most countries, is grossly overshadowed by Hollywood. The nation exported US$2 million-worth of movies to the United States last year and imported $35.9 million-worth".[43] However, such a law has been abolished, and no longer the Korean films have the privilege of being shown in the theaters with the government protection. From 1997 to present is considered golden age for Korean films, and now Korea is being considered an Asian film powerhouse, producing movies from various genres, not just for Korean market but also widely for the rest of the Asia.

The 1999 film Shiri about a North Korean spy preparing a coup in Seoul was the first in Korean history to sell more than 2 million tickets in Seoul alone. The movie's popularity, coupled with the screen quota, helped Shiri to surpass Hollywood box office hits such as Titanic, The Matrix and Star Wars in South Korean theaters. The success of Shiri motivated other Korean films with large budgets for Korean circumstances.

In 2000 the film JSA (Joint Security Area) was a huge success and even surpassed the benchmark set by Shiri. One year later, the film Friend managed the same. The romantic comedy My Sassy Girl outsold The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which ran at the same time in South Korea. As of 2004, new films continue to outperform older releases, and some Korean productions are more popular than Hollywood films in South Korea. Films such as Silmido and Taegukgi were watched by over 10 million people per film, which is a quarter of the South Korean population. Silmido is a film based on a true story about a secret task force in 1970s. The other blockbuster movie, Taegukgi, was described about two brothers in the Korean War.

Films such as Shiri have been distributed in the USA. In 2001, Miramax even bought the rights to an Americanized remake of the successful Korean action comedy movie, My Wife is a Gangster. Recently, popular Korean movies such as Il Mare (remade as The Lake House), Oldboy, My Sassy Girl, and Joint Security Area have also been bought by Hollywood firms for remake as well.

The 2003 psychological horror A Tale of Two Sisters was successful as well, leading DreamWorks to pay $2 million (US) for the rights to a remake, topping the $1 million (US) paid for the Japanese movie The Ring.[citation needed]

Festival success[edit]

Korean film first garnered serious international recognition in 2002 at the Venice Film Festival, where the film Oasis won the second prize award. In the story an isolated young woman with cerebral palsy falls in love with a simple minded man who has recently completed a term in prison for the hit and run accident that killed her father.

Oldboy was another Korean film to achieve international recognition when it came in second place in the Cannes Film Festival, second to Fahrenheit 9/11. The story traces the life of a man who is put into solitary confinement by someone he does not know. He lives there for 15 years until he is released and given 5 days to discover the bizarre reason for his cruel entrapment. Dark and gloomy, Oldboy experiments with the themes of psychological madness and sexual distortions.

In February 2004, Kim Ki-duk won the award for best director at the 54th annual Berlin Film Festival, for a film about a teenage prostitute, Samaritan Girl. In addition, he won the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival for his 2004 movie, 3-Iron.

In 2010, Poetry won the Best Screenplay Award and was selected for the main competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. In November 2011, the leading actress, Jeong-hee Yoon won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress for her performance.[44]

In 2012, Kim Ki-duk won the Golden Lion award for his film Pietà. Pietà became the first Korean film in history to win the top prize at one of the world's three most prestigious film festival, the Venice Film Festival.

New wave films[edit]

There are three important dates in new wave Korean films: first in 1992, Marriage Story was financed by Samsung, marking the first non-government funded film. In 1999, Shiri was released and led to Korean films taking over 50% of the local market. Ultimately, My Sassy Girl became the most popular and exportable Korean film in history.

Notable South Korean directors[edit]

Divided Korea ― North Korea[edit]

Because of the isolated nature of the country, information—particularly unbiased information—on North Korean cinema is difficult to find. Outsider appraisal of North Korean cinema is often condescending, while statements from official North Korean sources include claims like, "In recent years our film art has created an unprecedented sensation in the world's filmdom... The revolutionary people of the world are unstinting in their praise of this feature film and other monumental works, calling them 'the first-class films by international standards', 'the most wonderful movies ever produced' and 'immortal revolutionary and popular films'."[45]

The number of films produced in North Korea is difficult to determine. In 1992, Asiaweek reported that the country produced about 80 films annually,[46] and a BBC report in 2001 indicated that North Korea was then producing about 60 films a year.[47] In spite of these claims, Johannes Schönherr, an attendee of the 2000 Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries, found little evidence for actual films or titles. He notes that the country offered only one domestic feature and one documentary at their most high-profile film festival, and suggests that the high number of reported films includes short films, cartoons, and short installments of long-running series. He also cites a 1998 North Korean pamphlet containing a list of films which had been made in the country up to 1998. This gives a total of 259 titles, and indicates that the 1980s were the most prolific decade with about 15 to 20 films made yearly.[48]

North Korea's principal producer of feature films is the Korean Film Studio, a state-run studio of about 10 million square feet (930,000 m²) founded in 1947 and located outside of Pyongyang. Other North Korean film studios include the Korean Documentary Film Studio (founded in 1946), the April 25 Film Studio of the Korean People's Army (founded in 1959 and previously known as the February 8 Cinema Studio) and the Korean Science and Educational Film Studio (founded in 1953 and also known as the April 26 Children's Film Production House, and Science Educational Korea, or SEK.)[49] These studios produce feature films, documentaries, animated films, children's films and science films. According to a report from 1992, the Korean Feature Film Studio produced about forty films per year, while the other studios together accounted for another forty.[46]

In addition to animation for the North Korean domestic market, SEK has become a resource for international animation, including some well-known American animated films. Production costs in North Korea are very low, and the quality of animators is well perceived.[50] SEK has done work on such productions as Mondo TV's animated series The Lion King and Pocahontas ,[51] the science fiction epic Light Years, and Empress Chung.[52]

North Korean leader Kim Il-sung believed [49] in Lenin's maxim: "Cinema is the most important of all arts." [53] Accordingly, since the country's division, North Korean films have often been used as vehicles for instilling government ideology into the people. A common theme is martyrdom for the nation. The film Fate of a Self-defence Corps Member, based on a novel written by Kim Il-sung during the fight against the Japanese occupation reflects this theme, as does the highly regarded film, Sea of Blood (Korean: 피바다; Pibada) (1969).[54] The latter film comes from a novel telling the story of a woman farmer who becomes a national heroine by fighting the Japanese.

Another favorite theme is the happiness of the current society. This theme can be seen reflected in titles of feature films like A Family of Workers, A Flowering Village, Rolling Mill Workers, When Apples Are Picked and Girls at a Port. All of these films were awarded the People's Prize before 1974.

1940s and 1950s[edit]

Because of the secretive nature of the country as well as the lack of film exports, the exact number of feature films produced in North Korea is almost impossible to determine. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists only 79 films produced in North Korea; some of which include foreign co-productions.[55] Two of these were released in the years between the liberation from Japan and the outbreak of the Korean War, Our Construction (Uri Geonseol) (1946) and My Homeland (Korean: 내 고향; Nae gohyang) (1949). Five were released during the war, including Righteous War (1950), Boy Partisans (1951) and Again to the Front (1952). These titles suggest that film was used for ideological purposes from the beginning of North Korea's existence as a separate entity.

Judging from the IMDB's entries, the 1950s were a relatively productive time for North Korean cinema. Ten of the 79 films listed for the country were produced during this decade. Post Korean War titles seem to reflect a toning down in the militaristic themes, and a turning to more optimistic stories. Titles like The Road of Happiness (1956) and Love the Future (1959) indicate that films were being used to rally the country into rebuilding after the devastation of the war.

1960s and 1970s[edit]

IMDB lists only two films for North Korea for the entire decade of the 1960s: A Spinner (1964) and Boidchi annun dchonson (1965). One of the most highly regarded films in North Korea, Sea of Blood, was produced in 1969. The entrance hall to the Korean Feature Film Studio contains a mural of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il supervising the production of this film. This is a two-part, black and white film. The first part is 125 minutes in duration, and the second is 126 minutes.

Kim Il-sung made a famous call for juche art in 1966, saying, "Our art should develop in a revolutionary way, reflecting the Socialist content with the national form".[56] In a 1973 treatise on film entitled Theory of Cinematic Art, Kim Jong-il further developed this idea of juche art into the cinema, claiming that it is cinema's duty to help develop the people into "true communists", and as a means "to completely eradicate capitalist elements".[57] The ideology-heavy nature of North Korean cinema during the 1970s can be seen in titles such as The People Sing of the Fatherly Leader and The Rays of Juche Spread All Over the World.

Part of this ideological usage of the arts was a treating of the same subjects repeatedly through various art forms. Consequently, the most prominent films of the era took their stories and titles from pre-existing novels, ballets or operas. The film Sea of Blood was also an opera and a symphony, as well as the name of an opera company. Future Minister of Culture, Choe Ik-kyu's The Flower Girl (Korean: 꽃 파는 처녀; Kkotpaneun Cheonyeo) (1972, 130 min.)[58] later was remade as a dance. This film won a special prize and special medal at the 18th International Film Festival, and is one of the more well-known North Korean films of the 1970s.

Unsung Heroes, a 20-part spy film about the Korean War, was released between 1978 and 1981; it achieved notice outside of North Korea two decades later mainly because United States Forces Korea defector Charles Robert Jenkins played a role as a villain and the husband of one of the main characters.[59]

1980 - Present[edit]

With 14 listings, the 1980s is the best-represented decade for North Korea at IMDB. A possible turning to less didactic subjects is indicated with a 1986 production of the popular stories like Chunhyang-jon (1980 - 155 min.) and Hong kil dong (Hangul: 홍길동) (1986 - 115 min.).[60] Probably the most well-known North Korean film internationally is the science-fiction giant-monster epic, Pulgasari (Hangul: 불가사리) (1985), directed by kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok. Multi-part films promoting the Juche ideology, including Star of Korea and The Sun of the Nation were also produced in the 1980s. North Korean animation produced for domestic consumption is reportedly less politically dogmatic during this period, resulting in a large adult audience.[61] At least one international co-production has been filmed in North Korea, Ten Zan - Ultimate Mission, directed by Italian director Ferdinando Baldi and starring American Frank Zagarino.

IMDB lists only four North Korean films made in the 1990s. The Nation and Destiny (Korean: 민족과 운명; Minjokgwa ummyeong) is a 56-part series of movies produced from 1992–1999, on Korean subjects and people like General Choi Duk Shin (parts 1-4) and composer Yun I-sang (parts 5, 14-16).[62]

The 2000s appear to be reasonably productive for North Korean cinema, having five listings so far. In a sign of thawing relations, the animated film, Empress Chung (2005), is a co-production of South and North Korea. This film is said to be the first released simultaneously in both countries. Another recent North/South co-production is the 3-D animated television series Lazy Cat Dinga.

Box office[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Table 6: Share of Top 3 distributors (Excel)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "KOFIC Releases Annual Report on Korean Film Industry Results for 2012". KOBIZ - Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Patrick Frater (January 6, 2014). "Korean Box Office Continues Local Power Surge". variety.com. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Future Korean Filmmakers Visit UCLA". Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  8. ^ a b Jameson, Sam (1989-06-19). "U.S. Films Troubled by New Sabotage in South Korea Theater". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ 한미FTA 체결, 영화산업 타격은?, MBC (Korean)
  10. ^ a b Kim, So-young. "Korean Film History and 'Chihwaseon'" (PDF). Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  11. ^ James, David E.; Kyung Hyun Kim (editors) (2002). Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema. Wayne State University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0-8143-2869-5. 
  12. ^ Berry, Chris (December 18, 1998). "Recovering the past: rare films screened in Korea". LA Trobe University. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  13. ^ James, David E.; Kyung-hyun Kim (editors) (2002). Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema. Wayne State University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0-8143-2869-5. 
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Pre-Divided Korea & South Korea[edit]

North Korea[edit]

External links[edit]