Korean singer PSY became a global phenomenon with his song ‘Gangnam Style’. Director Kim Ki Duk wins the prestigious Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival with his film ‘Pieta’. The 2 instances have proven that the lyrics from ‘Gangnam Style’ that says ‘just go where ever it might be’ are really true.
The K-POP craze first blew up in Japan, and subsequently engulfing the entire world. Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, TVXQ, JYJ, Big Bang, and other idol groups have simultaneously branched out of South Korea and into the global market. The Hallyu wave has even spread till the other side of the world, Central and South America. Most of the locals there are surprisingly up to date with their K-POP news, and a trend of learning the Korean language has also surfaced.
But compared to the K-POP craze, Korean films are somewhat subdued, although they are not to be dismissed so easily. Actor Lee Byung Hun has through his hard work, allowed Hollywood to see the potential among Korean actors. Moviegoers have shown such a great reception towards Lee Byung Hun’s Storm Shadow character in the 2009 G.I. Joe film, that they have revived him for the film’s sequel, and even added more scenes for him. In addition, he will have a role in Bruce Willis’ ‘RED 2’ film which is currently being filmed in Montreal, Canada.
Actress Bae Doo Na will be making her Hollywood debut as Sonmi~451 in the upcoming film ‘Cloud Atlas’ which is directed by the Wachowskis and also stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry among others. Bae Doona has won praise from the locals for her acting, and shifting attention from Korean actors to actresses.
Although Korean films are being shown at major cinemas globally, Hollywood has already filmed remakes of Korean films starting 10 years ago, and many television stations are also competing with one another to air Korean dramas. But before this year’s Venice Film Festival, Korean films have never won the big prize at any of the 3 major film festivals before. But Kim Ki Duk’s win at Venice has made everyone involved with the Korean film industry feel proud of the achievement. The Venice Film Festival is the longest running festival among the 3 major festivals, and remains the only true platform for artistic flair and creativity, as Cannes is gradually moving towards commercialization. Thus winning the Golden Lion for ‘Pieta’ is extra meaningful for the Korean film industry.
With Hallyu culture standing right in the middle of global culture, PSY is now preparing for his entry into the American market; Kim Ki Duk has broken the duck of Korean film never winning the big prize at major film festivals; Lee Byung Hun and Bae Doo Na have opened the doors for their juniors to enter Hollywood in the near future.
For Hallyu culture, the only thing left is for pure Korean financed films to enter Hollywood, and compete with Hollywood movies. Despite being financial backing from America, Korean directed films like ‘D-War’ and ‘The Last Godfather‘, bombed at the box office in Hollywood, and showed that Korean films didn’t belonged to the mainstream. Successful Korean films which sold millions in South Korea like ‘Taegukgi’, ‘Silmido’, ‘The Host’, ‘The King and the Clown’ all failed to chart at the American box office.
Production costs of 100 billion Korean won isn’t a small figure in the Korean film industry. But the minimum budget for a Hollywood production usually goes between 1000 to 2000 Korean billion won. Hollywood is the centre of the global film industry, and pure Korean films have been aired in American cinemas although none of them have managed to come in first or second at the box office. If Korean films want to have a foothold in the global film industry, then it has to first invest substantially towards the film’s production budget.
All in all, producing pure Korean films that can rival Hollywood productions with giant budgets is probably what the Korean film industry needs to look at for the moment.