Korea’s Film Industry Sees First Steps Toward Recovery after COVID-19 Standstill.
May 19, 2020
- Writerby KIM Su-bin
Return to normal as ALIEN Enters Production and INTRUDER Hits Theaters
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has had a serious impact on the production schedule of upcoming films as it turned into a global pandemic. Many projects that involved plans for location shooting in foreign countries were postponed and refocused on domestic photography, while new films awaiting release saw these plans suspended as theater attendance plunged to an all-time low. But now, nearly 100 days after the first confirmed case in the country, as the situation improved to the point where the number of daily new infection cases dropped to single-digit level, Korea’s film industry is naturally awakening from its slumber. Here are the latest updates for the Korean films featuring international filming locations whose production schedules were disrupted by the novel coronavirus.
Projects that had already started shooting abroad during the early stages of the pandemic were interrupted, the film crew being brought back to Korea. Bogota, which had started filming in Colombia on January 20, had to interrupt its location shooting and the crew returned to Korea in late March. The Colombian government announced its decision to impose an entry bad on all foreign visitors and a travel ban on its residents, among other similar decisions, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Bogota, with its story of Korean youths leaving their country to try their chance in 1990’s Colombia, will star SONG Joong-ki and LEE Hee-jun, and is helmed by KIM Sung-je, the director of The Unfair (2015).
THE OUTLAWS 2 and Negotiation shootings begin at home
In some cases, the studios delayed their plans for location shooting in foreign countries and instead started with shooting in Korea. The film THE OUTLAWS 2, which had a shoot in Vietnam planned for early March, saw its schedule shuffled with Korean shooting moved forward after the Vietnamese government suspended visa-free entry for Korean nationals. THE OUTLAWS 2 is the sequel to THE OUTLAWS from director KANG Yun-sung that brought in 6.9 million spectators upon its release in 2017. Don LEE (aka MA Dong-seok) is reprising his role and will be joined by SON Suk-ku, CHOI Gwi-hwa and UM Mun-suk. In the director’s chair this time is LEE Sang-yong, who served as an assistant director on the first movie. Shooting for YIM Soon-rye’s Negotiation (translated title) was due to start in Jordan in late March, but as the Jordanian government decreed an entry ban on Korean nationals as an answer to the spread of COVID19, the film started filming instead in Korea, in April. Negotiation, which follows diplomats and official workers struggling to rescue Koreans kidnapped in the Middle East, will be headlined by HWANG Jung-min and HYUN Bin.
Production start delayed for kidnap and Declaration of Emergency
There are also films for which there was no other option but to delay the beginning of production altogether. Kidnap (translated title), from director KIM Seong-hun of A Hard Day (2014), Tunnel (2016) and Kingdom (2019) fame, was planned to start shooting in Morocco in early March, but as it became more difficult to travel owing to the CoVid-19 pandemic, the beginning has been pushed back to next year. A representative of distributor Showbox revealed on Korean entertainment website TV Report that there is still no concrete answer yet as to when shooting will start. Kidnap will follow the real-life story of a diplomat kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon in 1986 and the people who turned up to resolve the situation. Director HAN Jae-rim’s Emergency Declaration (translated title) was expected to start shooting in March but had no choice but to delay the start out of fear for the spread of the virus. They explained they have been greatly affected by the pandemic due to the fact Declaration of Emergency is meant to be filmed in an actual airport, what with it being an airplane disaster movie, and also because production requires that a plane set be flown in from abroad. SONG Kang-ho, JEON Do-yeon and LEE Byung-hun are set to appear in Declaration of Emergency, and it will enter production in May.
CHOI Dong-hoon’s Alien starts production
Fortunately, there were also news recently of films starting production. CHOI Dong-hoon’s SF film Alien (translated title) started production this past March. With RYU Jun-yeol, KIM Tae-ri, KIM Woo-bin, CHO Woo-jin, KIM Eui-sung, YUM Jung-ah and SO Ji-sub, the star-studded cast has been drawing a lot of attention. Another SF movie, KIM Tae-yong’s Wonderland (literal title), started production this past April. Set in a virtual world called Wonderland, this film is gathering a lot of attention as it will star GONG Yoo, PARK Bo-gum, BAE Suzy, TANG Wei, CHOI Woo-shik and JUNG Yoo-mi.
Film exhibitors are also slowly stretching their legs to return to business as usual. SOHN Won-pyung’s Intruder and KIM Jin-yu’s Bori, two of the movies whose release was postponed, confirmed a new release date for May 21 (It has now been pushed back again to June 4 – Ed.) and The Wandering Chef, a documentary on Chef IM Ji-ho, is now aiming for a mid-May release. The production company of PARK Sang-hyun’s Innocence and LEE Chung-hyun’s CALL, which were about to be unveiled to the audience in March, announced that it is still observing closely the situation (Innocence has now been slated to release in mid-June – Ed.). There are also titles whose production was completed just before the outbreak and are currently gearing up for theatrical release. The crime film Grave Robbery (translated title), led by LEE Je-hoon, #ALONE, with YOO Ah-in and PARK Shin-hye in the lead and set in an infected city, YEON Sang-ho’s zombie film Peninsula (translated title), the police thriller The Golden Holiday starring KWAK Do-won and KIM Dae-myeong, and the musical Hero from director JK YOUN are now heading for theatrical releases in the latter half of the year.