“Hollywood's Action Can't Rival Koreas”
JUNG Proves Industry's Excellence in Action Genre
Action coordinator JUNG Doo-hong
is the master of action and stunts in Korean action films. Nearly 100 films and TV series were finished through JUNG’s action design. We talked with JUNG who choregraphed excellent action sequences in The Berlin File
- The Berlin File is currently setting a new box office record in the history of Korean action movies. How do you feel about that?
It makes me happy, but on the other hand, many genres in Korean cinema need developing. Up to now, gangster actions have been the mainstream. But The Berlin File shows fights among agents from different nations. I think that audiences will consider the action scenes of the spy film more special and sophisticated since those who fight in the film are not ordinary people.
- You must have busy preparing for the action scene coordination of The Berlin File from its pre-production stage?
North Korean special agents appear in the film so I paid a lot of attention to their weapons and military arts. I thought that their fighting power must be great after reading in some materials that they practice and study martial arts at a research center. So I thought about how to apply this knowledge to the film. I judged that North Korean agent PYO Jong-seong (HA Jung-woo
) is a character who excelled at martial arts. During my military days, I watched visual materials about special agents of North Korea. I still remember much of what I watched in those days. Needless to say, I searched the internet for North Korean martial arts, too.
- Did you have any difficulties in the overseas locations?
Yes. I faced a lot of difficulties as foreign systems were different from the Korean system. In Berlin and Latvia, the labor laws ban workers from working for more than 12 hours. Had we not worked efficiently and quickly, we would have faced trouble in managing our budget and schedule. Meeting the strict production schedule was quite a tough job.
North Korean agents HA and RYOO are both familiar with North Korean martial arts. Only their characters are different. Accordingly, their action scenes such as their hand-to-hand fight with holding the barrel of a gun are coherent. But HAN is a South Korean agent. So, besides some shooting scenes, HAN does not engage in a fight. I focused on gunplay for South Korean agents when I shot their action sequences.
- You must have made a lot of efforts for every scene in the film. Would you pick one specific scene as your favorite in the thriller?
I love all action scenes in the film. So it is not easy for me to pick one favorite scene. Well, among others, I think the action scene where North Korean agents infiltrate PYO’s house and fight with him and escape through the window was a complicated one. There were many risks with the scene. The actors and stuntmen had a hard time to make the scene more powerful and brisk as requested by director RYOO Seung-wan
. So did director RYOO and I!
- You are the dominant master of action choreography in Korean films. What do you think are the strengths of action scenes in Korean films?
A main strength of Korean action is that it imparts a sense of reality. Even though such action is basically acting, actors and stuntmen put their utmost efforts into making them more realistic. So they look more realistic and characters seem to really suffer from violent contact. This is why foreign spectators think that Korean action is unique.
The film that I love and value most is Musa-The Warrior
. In particular, the valley scene of the movie is my favorite. We filmed the scene of a fight to save the princess for about two weeks. During filming, my hand was injured by a sword. It was so painful that I could not hold my sword again. So, I put a dressing on my hand, held the sword and went back to work. It was so hard that I still cannot forget. I am also proud of the action scenes in Beat
which I worked on.
- What do you think about the international competitiveness of Korean action coordinators?
Korean action coordinators can play active parts in film production in overseas countries only if they can speak English well, I think. Since the film production system of Hollywood is excellent, they can do more than in Korea. They are very competitive as well.
- You worked for Hollywood action films such as G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Red 2. Can you tell us what Hollywood think about Korean actionsand martial arts?
They were surprised to see the kind of action I directed. I creatively played the stunt double of LEE Byung-hun
in well organized action scenes, which received good responses such as “Powerful!” and “Tough and Dynamic.” The moves of actors and stuntmen in Korean action films are a stark contrast to those of western actors and stuntmen in Hollywood films. The stereotyped line of action in Hollywood films cannot catch up with that of Korean films. I think Hollywood guys paid much attention to this point. I enjoyed really positive responses from them.