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Features

Korean Sequels Better Than Their Predecessors

Jul 30, 2018
  • Writerby KIM Su-bin
  • View645
No More of the Sophomore Jinx!



It’s hard to be satisfied with just one film when it has intriguing characters and a well-built universe. Driven by the expectations of the audience, the creator(s) or both, this might be the reason why you sometimes end up with a ‘series’. Nevertheless, contrary to such ambitious attempts, it’s a well-known fact that it’s no easy matter for a sequel to beat its predecessor. During the early to mid-2000s, the box office success of films such as My Wife Is a Gangster (2001), My Boss, My Hero (2001) and Marrying the Mafia (2002) eventually initiated the launch of a franchise for these films. Each franchise has had more than three sequels to their credits since then, but the more the follow-ups piled up, the more they were snubbed by critics and the local box office. Fortunately, there has been a recent change with a couple of sequels measuring up to their original film’s reputation: the ‘Detective K’ series, now recognized as a popular brand name, and The Accidental Detective 2: In Action, which is still playing strong in the current local box office

If England had Sherlock and Watson during the 19th Century, then Joseon had detectives KIM Min and SEO Pil during the 18th Century!



The ‘Detective K’ series deals with mysterious crimes that hit commoners’ houses during Joseon era’s King Jeongjo’s reign, mysteries solved by talented detective KIM Min and his dedicated assistant SEO Pil. The first episode, Detective K : Secret of Virtuous Widow, relates the story of an embezzlement scandal set in a Wolfsbane farm while the 2nd episode, Detective K : Secret of the Lost Island, focuses on the team’s duel with a counterfeit silver crime ring. The 3rd episode, Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead, deals with a serial murder case and raised the bar in entertainment as it combined the original comedy genre with fantasy and ‘vampirism’. Better known as the ‘Korean Indiana Jones’, the ‘Detective K’ series owes its popularity to the franchise’s unique fast pace, witty action and hilarious performances given by the comic duo. The transformation from drama to the comedy of actor KIM Myung-min, recognized for his serious acting style, especially served as the key to the film’s success. 


The first episode Detective K : Secret of Virtuous Widow was released in January 2011 and attracted 4.78 million moviegoers. This was more than LEE Joon-ik’s Battlefield Heroes (2011) and KANG Woo-suk’s GLOVE (2011), two directors who already had films that had reached the 10 million milestones. The second episode Detective K : Secret of the Lost Island continued the franchise’s streak of success when it came out in 2015, attracting 3.87 million viewers, and this year’s Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead scored 2.44 million admissions, proving the fans’ ongoing loyalty to the franchise. The first film may have attracted the most viewers, but acclaim grew with each episode. The female characters especially became more independent in the 2nd and 3rd episodes, while the fantastic setup incorporated into the Joseon period added to the appeal of the series.

A Comic Book Shop Owner and a Homicide Detective Taking Matters into Their Own Hands in an Unauthorized Joint Investigation 



THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE follows comic book shop owner KANG Dae-man and homicide veteran detective NOH Tae-su as they join forces to find the true killer of a homicide case. Its sequel The Accidental Detective 2: In Action released this June, starts where the previous film ended as the duo has set up their own private detective agency. The two have partnered with former cyber policeman Yeochi to solve the mystery behind a man’s car accident. Winner of a fierce 600:1 competitive script contest, the scenario for THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE received acclaim for successfully combining mystery with comedy. In addition, the fact that the series expanded its audience age group by casting a down-to-earth and realistic lower-middle-class citizen who cleverly solves the mystery behind serial killings, and an organ trafficking ring were recognized as key elements for the film’s success.


The 1st film THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE attracted 2.62 million viewers in theaters, surpassing its break-even point of 1.80 million, but its sequel is catching up at great speed. Since it hit theaters this June, The Accidental Detective 2: In Action has been running strong for over a month, scoring 3.12 million admissions as of July 14th and setting itself as a rare example of a sequel being more successful than its predecessor. Actor LEE Kwang-soo’s excellent comical performance as ‘Yeochi’, the latest addition to the franchise, contributed to the film’s entertaining qualities while the feature’s ‘non-provocative investigative drama tone’ added even more value to the film. 

Detective Duo Film at Its Best



The above-mentioned two films prove the potential of film franchising and they share a few common qualities. Both are detective stories led by a duo that ends up saving the day. They are also similar in the way that they are based in the comedy genre with Manichean narrative structures that clearly praise virtue and punish evil. Indeed, characters with both common and unique qualities, placed in detective storylines that can easily be adapted into different settings, made it possible for the two films to succeed as a series. The ‘praise virtue, punish evil’ happy ending creates a sense of sublimation, which leaves space for a new story. The difference between these two films though, is that the ‘Detective K’ series maintained its consistency through director KIM Sok-yun at its reins, while the ‘Accidental Detective’ series offered the directorial chair to different directors who stamped their own personalities onto the franchise.

There is enough potential for both franchises to continue making new episodes. KIMJHO Gwang-soo, head of film production company Generation Blue Films that produced the ‘Detective K’ series left the possibility for a sequel wide open and stated that if new episodes were to come out, the scope of subjects would even broaden. Lead actor KWON Sang-woo also expressed his desire for a new sequel of THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE

Apart from these two films, other features are currently waiting to continue the legacy of Korean film franchises. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017), which hit theaters last winter and stepped up to be the second highest grossing Korean film to date will return with a sequel, Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days, and with a new character played by Don LEE. The ‘Along with the Gods’ series is scheduled to be made as a 4-part saga, which will be in production for the next few years. The prequel to professional Go game-themed film The Divine Move (2014), starring JUNG Woo-sung is also currently in production under the name The Divine Move 2: Gwisu (Korean Title). The CHOI Dong-hoon-directed Woochi (2009), that highlights the outstanding abilities of Joseon period superhero JEON Woochi, has seen suggestion plans for a new film with a treatment contest for an upcoming sequel last July. Finally, The Berlin File (2013), directed by RYOO Seung-wan, brought in the writer of Anarchist from Colony (2017), HWANG Seong-gu to work on a script that begins in Vladivostok where the protagonist PYO Jong-seong was last seen in the film.
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