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The Noticeable Rise of Korean Films

   
 
  Korean Movies are able to stand tough between competitive foreign movies.  
 
What movies do Koreans think are amazing and would call a hit? Most people would probably choose a foreign movie as they are wowed by better computer graphics, and storylines, and Korean movies are not that much of an interest for movie goers. This kind of thinking has hindered the development of the film industry in Korea. However, nowadays, the tables have been turning. Starting in 2006, when the film "The Host" (Gwemool) was released which was based on an imagination of a monster coming out of the Han River, this interesting idea started to gain the spotlight from Koreans. Other movies that screened afterwards enhanced the attractiveness of Korean movies. Thus, unlike the past, the concerns of movies are shifting from foreign movies to Korean movies.


The early Korean film industry was a mess. Until 2006, almost twice the number of Korean movie screenings was foreign movies. Hit Korean movies such as "Welcome to Dongmakgol", and "Marathon" had over 100 theaters when they first came out whereas "Star Wars", and "Mr. &Mrs. Smith" maintained 100 even after two months of release. One reason why Korean movies were less popular is that they lacked creativity. Most of the movies were made from copying a topic from famous movies of the past or basically imitating foreign movies such as the plots and the acts of the movie. Such movies were unable to make profits in the long run. A good example would be the Korean film series "Glory of the Family" which counted 1,604,219 viewers in the first film and the number constantly dropped as each new series came out. On the other hand, foreign movies had diverse attempts to make a change and create a whole new genre. The movie "Inception" is one such attempt as it is about dreams that are connected to the real world. This innovative idea enhanced the film industry in the United States.


Such lack of ideas has brought a downfall in the film industry in Korea. With the spotlight on foreign films, the development of Korean movies was hindered. Most producers stopped making films as they did not make profits. It has been said that only 20 companies out of 428 producing companies kept on filming and made incomes. Unlike Korea, America was already advanced in filming as they began the film industry with Motion Pictures and made the highest profits compared to other countries since the 1920’s.


Nevertheless, Korea has been developing constantly in the area of filming. The number of theaters screening Korean movies began to rise with the screen quota policy. The screen quota policy is an act to preserve domestic films by making it mandatory to annually keep three films screening in theaters for 65 days. Due to the help of the screen quota, in 2006, the number of Korean movie viewers rose about 5.4% from 2005. The Korean film market share at this time was 63.8% which was the highest since 1996. As you can see from this chart, the number of Korean movie viewers rose whereas the number of foreign movie viewers constantly declined.

 

year    Korean movie viewers              Foreign movie viewer
2004              80,188,543                            54,977,632
2005              85,441,539                            60,082,637
2006              97,913,570                            55,499,940
2008              62,105,103                             40.953,632
2009              75,551,520                             79,355,564
2010              68,290,000                             78,510,000
2011              82,680,959                             76,176,648

 

The development of storylines in movies has done the job of attracting viewers’ attention. Many seniors tend to be attracted to the past, like the hip "Bokgo" style back in the 1970’s and 80’s. By creating movies that had a sense of empathy in the story, many of seniors placed their eyes on such movies. One example of such a movie would be the movie "Sunny" a hit movie in 2011. It well displayed the childhood of the seniors in the movie containing comedy, and emotions that made many people want to watch the movie. As it was a well-created movie, it also brought attention to the younger ages as well as many older aged seniors. One student from a university in Korea claimed that she was not interested in Korean movies, According to her, she tended to watch foreign movies as they had bigger scale and more action in the story and only saw Korean movies that had been promoted well and those that starred star actors of Korea. However, because there have been more interesting stories lately she now watches Korean movies more regularly.


One other reason why Korean movies are becoming popular is because of the change in the story. Improvements have been made to present a more action packed movie for the movie goers. Increased funding, and using better special effects in the movies have all helped to develop the movie industry. With these bold attempts, slowly the movies slowly adapted to the preference of the viewers and the scale of the movies grew, and the graphics have become more realistic. Two blockbuster movies in 2009, "Hae Woon Dae" and "Secret Union" show the development of Korean films. Apart from these movies, "D-war" made by Hyung Rae-Shim also showed the power of Korean films. This film had successful promotions around the globe and thus allowed it to screen in over 1500 theaters, first for a Korean film and attracted 5 million viewers in 11 days. According to Jung Jae Hyung, a professor of the department of film and digital media, well created movies are being made in Korea that can compete with foreign movies. Unlike the past when Korean film companies imitated famous foreign movies, more creativity is being seen today.


Now, with much of the technology developed from the past and more creativity being found, in 2012, Korean movies have been getting the most interest. Around the nation, so far, 24,000,000 people have come out to watch movies, which is the highest recorded the rate of the year. In addition, nearly 20.6% more people came to watch compared to 2011. The main reason for such a high rating is due to the opening of a movie called "The Thieves" starring many famous actors of Korea and Hong Kong.


year        Korean movie profit            Foreign movie profit
2008         $26,912,326                        $42,819,315
2010         $30,066,242                        $39,662,862
2012         $44,178,714                        $35,612,722

 The chart simply shows just how much people have become interested in Korean movies and how well it has sustained its ground even with competitive foreign movies. The profit gap between year 2008 and 2010 has been closing in from -43.5% to -11% which shows the success of Korean movies.


Seen from the charts, people can realize that Korean movies have gone through much development. Although Korean movies still are being pushed off the theater from competitive foreign movies, they have secured better standing than in the past. Even though foreign blockbuster movies are great and more packed with action, why not enjoy a Korean movie that has a lot of empathy and comedy as well?

 

Lee Dong-jun  jacks222@hanmail.net

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