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Ko - production in Busan
  • Resurrecting the Imaginative World of Text and Images on Screen
  • by KIM Su-bin /  Jun 13, 2017
  • Korean Novel and Webtoon-based Blockbusters to Storm Theaters in the Second-half of This Year

    The desire to see the strong narrative of an outstanding novel be brought to life on film with images and sound is natural. Accordingly, two films based on a novel, and another one on a webtoon, are scheduled for release during the second-half of this year, and are attracting attention from a number of readers and film fans. The expectations are high due to the fact that these original stories are not only well loved, but also have heavyweight filmmakers and cast attached for their adaptations. Let’s take a look at Night of 7 Years which opened new horizons in the mystery thriller genre, the costume drama Namhansanseong, favored for its unrelentingly straightforward style of writing, and webtoon Along with the Gods, a sophisticated take on a well-known Korean myth. 

    JUNG Yoo-jung X CHOO Chang-min, Night of 7 Years

    Author JUNG Yoo-jung’s Night of 7 Years displays quite a number of cinematic qualities. Its mystery and thriller genre-oriented tone, meticulous background description based on thorough investigation, and its mesmerizing characters and gripping narrative structure are all quite compatible with film. Since its publication in 2011, the novel was much talked about among film producers with rumors that around 15 film production companies jumped into the bidding race to acquire film rights for the novel. 

    The main stage of the story is a rural village located around a deep lake called ‘Seryeong Ho’. The leading character is a young boy, Seo-won whose father is a murderer. Seo-won’s father Hyun-soo is the person who killed a young girl and her father, and caused the ‘Disaster of Seryeong Ho’ by sinking the entire village underwater. Abandoned even by his relatives, Seo-won joins novelist Seung-hwan and his father’s junior staff to lead a nomadic life. Seven years after the tragedy, Seung-hwan and Seo-won happen to rescue some young men on a night of scuba diving. This heroic deed places Seo-won in the spotlight, and he receives a parcel from an unknown source. Inside the box is a book containing the truth to what happened 7 years ago. 

    Actor RYU Seung-ryong plays Hyun-soo who was inadvertently pulled into the murder case by accident, and risks his entire life to protect his son. JANG Dong-gun plays Young-je, the dentist who waits for the perfect moment to avenge his daughter killed by Hyunsoo, and GO Kyoung-pyo and SONG Sae-byeok are each cast as Seo-won and his guardian, Seung-hwan respectively. CHOO Chang-min of the 12 million ticket-selling blockbuster Masquerade is the director of this film which wrapped up production last May and is now awaiting theatrical release for the latter part of this year. Recognized as the ‘Korean Higashino Keigo (famed Japanese mystery novelist)’, another of author JUNG Yoo-jung’s novel, Shoot Me in the Heart was adapted into a film of the same title, directed by MUN Che-yong.

    KIM Hoon X HWANG Dong-hyuk, Namhansanseong

    LEE Byung-hun, KIM Yun-seok, PARK Hae-il, KO Soo and PARK Hee-soon. What brought this group of leading Korean actors was none other than the novel, Namhansanseong (Namhansan Mountain Fortress). Author KIM Hoon’s noted work, Namhansanseong has been on the brink of being reintroduced through film ever since it was first published a decade ago. The ‘dialogue’ in the film will be the main point of attraction for Namhansanseong : spoken words demanding to open the way in order to live, to die in order to live, and the overwhelming dilemma of these words that keep other words from being spoken. It will be quite interesting to experience the synergy created as the unrelentingly straightforward phrases of novel, Namhansanseong are transformed into film dialogue and come to life through the seasoned performance of the cast. 

    The storyline of Namhansanseong can be traced back to the winter of 1636 along the isolated Namhansan Mountain Fortress. King Injo and his court are placed in a predicament whereby they cannot not leave their Namhan Mountain Fortress refuge nor fight back against the Qing Empire army camped outside. The only thing left for them is to decide whether to ‘die valiantly or live in shame’. Hence, the hawks insisting for resistance to the very end, and the doves pushing for survival even if it means to be called traitors, are fiercely pitted against each other. There is only pain left for the people living outside the fortress to endure as their lives, just like their country, are as vulnerable as a candle flickering in the wind. Namhansanseong captures those 47 days of chaos. 

    Actor KIM Yun-seok plays KIM Sang-heon who supports the position to fight against the Qing Dynasty army, while actor LEE Byung-hun plays CHOI Myung-gil who insists on making peace with the enemy for the sake of the people. Actor PARK Hae-il is cast as King Injo who is suffering between the clashing positions, and actor KO Soo is blacksmith SEO Nal-sweh who patiently plods away at his duties in spite of the cold and hunger. Finally actor PARK Hee-soon is LEE Shi-baek, the general in charge of protecting the fortress. The film is directed by HWANG Dong-hyuk whose past work boasts a wide spectrum from the critical social drama, Silenced to the delightful family drama, Miss Granny. The film wrapped up production this April and is scheduled for theatrical release during the second half of the year. 

    JOO Ho-min X KIM Yong-hwa, Along with the Gods

    The public’s expectations of the film adaptation of a popular webtoon surpass that of a bestselling novel. Author JU Ho-min’s Along with the Gods is one that attracted ardent support from readers and put webtoon contents on the pop culture map. Released as a series in three parts over the course of three years from January 2010 to January 2012, Along with the Gods swept various cartoon awards including the 2011 Korean Contents Award and the 2011 president’s award in the comics category. This webtoon was praised for the outstanding manner in which it combined the familiar theme of ‘good triumphing over evil’ with Korean mythology.

    The webtoon consists of the three parts including ‘The Otherworld’, ‘This World’, and ‘The Myth’.  ‘Otherworld’ tells the story of KIM Ja-hong, a salary man who dies from overworking. He takes the subway to the otherworld, and is accompanied by otherworld public defender, JIN Ki-han during a 49-day trial. It is quite interesting to see how the 7 different gruesome images of hell are depicted. Next, ‘This World’ introduces the story of Dong-hyun who lives with his grandfather in a redevelopment district. The adventures of house gods who take human forms to help Dong-hyun and his grandfather unravel. And Finally ‘Myth’ is structured as a prequel of the characters in the previous parts. Six Korean myths that have no correlation are connected by one unifying worldview. 

    Actors HA Jung-woo, JU Ji-hoon and KIM Hyang-gi are each cast as the grim reaper trio, Kang-rim, Seaman Mac and Duk-choon. Actor CHA Tae-hyun appears as the thirty-something salary man, Ja-hong who dies from overworking and has to go through a 49-day trial, Don LEE plays the God of House, Seong-ju, while LEE Jung-jae appears as ‘King’ who is the second highest ranking figure in the otherworld and in charge of judging those who committed sins with their words. KIM Yong-hwa, filmmaker of 200 Pounds Beauty and Take Off, and the head of VFX company Dexter Studios, directed the film. Shooting both part 1 & 2 at the same time, both films are scheduled for theatrical release in December 2017 and the summer of 2018. 

    Other films include, author KIM Young-ha’s A Murderer’s Guide to Memorization which will be adapted to film by the director of A Bloody Aria and 7 Days, WON Shin-yun, filmmaker YANG Woo-suk is directing the webtoon story of Steel Rain (W/T) which he created himself. These films are aiming for latter-year releases, so it seems that the public will have the opportunity to enjoy a number of films based on well-loved webtoons and novels.
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