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Ko - production in Busan
  • ‘Busan Films’ on the Rise
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Jan 20, 2014
  • Korea’s Port City Becomes Hub for Korean Film Industry

    If there is a keyword that cannot be omitted as we wrap up the Korean film industry’s story in 2013, it should definitely be ‘Busan.’ Hosting the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) for the past 18 years, Busan has created a brand name all of its own. And with the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) relocating to the region, Busan has confirmed its identity as the ‘city of film.’ However, this achievement was not something that just fell into its lap as Busan’s rise in the Korean film industry has a lot to do with the ‘Busan films’ that have gained public attention.
    2013 marked a year in which a number of films have used Busan as a means of reaching audiences. To name a few, there was Tough as Iron, Friend: The Great Legacy and The Attorney. AHN Gwon-tae, who was the 1st assistant director on filmmaker KWAK Kyung-taek’s Friend (2001) and went on to direct My Brother (2004) and co-direct Eye For An Eye (2008), directed Tough as Iron which places Busan at the forefront. It features a typical Busan macho lead man, Gang-cheol, who scours through the docks of Busan, Songdo Beach and Youngdo.. KWAK Kyung- taek, who proved the commercial viability of Busan as a film location with Friend, returns to Busan 12 years later with Friend: The Great Legacy. Picking up from where the previous episode left off, the fateful communion between Joon-seok, once again played by YOO Oh-seong, and Sung-hoon, played by KIM Woo-bin, the son of his late friend Dong-soo (played by JANG Dong-gun) is set against various Busan locations, including Chungsapo, the Haeundae Yachting Center and Gwanganri.
    Another film to take note of along with those features made by Busan-born directors is the current box office hit The Attorney. Inspired by the early years of the late President ROH Moo-hyun, the film follows the awakening of a highly successful Busan-based tax lawyer who shifts gears to become a human rights attorney after encountering a case of injustice. Starring talented actors such as SONG Kang-ho and OH Dal-su, the film is set in Busan during the 1980s. Other titles include LEE Joon-ik’s Hope as well as SEO Ho-bin’s Mot, which was invited to BIFF’s Korean Cinema Today: Vision section. Documentaries Highways Stars and The Island of Shadows also introduce tales from Busan. 
    According to the Busan Film Commission (BFC) “2013 BFC filming support report”, a total of 24 feature film projects were shot in Busan in 2013. This is similar with the number of projects shot there in 2012, however there has been a substantial increase in shooting days as they rose 35% from 382 to 514. BFC states that the increase is due to the “growing volume of large-scale film productions fully shot in Busan” as the reason. 
    There has also been a noticeable growth in quantity, and if TV dramas, TV commercials, and other video productions are counted, Busan rung up a total of 78 productions last year. This is a 27% increase from the 61 productions in 2012. TV commercial productions in particular doubled over the last year. BFC explains that “a high-tech futuristic tone created by the newly built skyscrapers along with the breathtaking landscapes of Haeundae seem to correspond well with advertisement teams who are seeking sophisticated images,” adding that “we anticipate an ongoing growth in TV commercial productions here in Busan as this location-sensitive field will favor the modern images of Busan locations such as Haeundae.”
    However, the growing number of ‘Busan films’ should definitely be attributed to the filming support programs offered by BFC. The various services such as the Busan Cinema Studio, and BFC’s Digital Production Center’s equipment rental and accommodation support have been attracting film shoots to Busan. In fact, films like Hope, The Attorney, Friend: The Great Legacy and Way Back Home were shot in Busan with the help of pre-production scouting and accommodation support from BFC. 
    This year will also see a continuous stream of films set in Busan. One upcoming film would be Gukje Market (working title) from YOUN Je-kyun, who directed Haeundae in 2009. A story of a man and his family who survive through the currents of Korea’s modern history, Gukje Market has already wrapped production, which took place on the Gijang Pottery Village set where the Gukje Market of the 1950s was recreated. In addition, YOON Jong-bin, who directed Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time in 2011, shot KUNDO: Age of the Rampant with stars such as HA Jung-woo and GANG Dong-won in Busan. KUNDO: Age of the Rampant is the first period film to be shot at the Busan Cinema Studio, which opened in 2001.
    Other films include The Neighbors director KIM Hwi’s next film, Horror Stories II, and Tazza 2 (working title) from Scandal Makers (2008) and Sunny (2011) director KANG Hyoung-chul. Blockbuster martial arts costume film Memories of the Sword, starring JEON Do-yeon and LEE Byung-hun, has also finished its Busan film shoot with the assistance of BFC. Bong Joon Ho produced Haemu (tentative title) is another film that has received support from the BFC Digital Production Center. So it looks like many of the most anticipated feature projects of 2014 have been set in the city of Busan, which is now stepping up as the center of Korea’s film industry.
    By SONG Soon-jin
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