Expand your search auto-complete function


  1. Box Office
  2. Daily
  3. Weekly/Weekend
  4. Monthly
  5. Yearly
  6. All time
  7. Select Period
  8. Box Office Reports
  • find news
  • find news searchKeyword
    find search button
See Your Schedule
please enter your email address
find search button
Ko - production in Busan
  • Korean films, standing on the center of ONE SOURCE-MULTI USE
  • by KIM Yong-eon /  Dec 01, 2010
                                                              Blades of Blood                                                                    Higanjima
     In the history of cinema, taking material from other sources and employing it to make a film is not new. Unlike novel, painting and play, cinema has a relatively short history so that it has relied on other forms of art since the beginning. Nevertheless, the recent trend in the Korean film industry seems to be different from the past. Beyond just remaking classics or adapting a novel and animation, cross-over between films and other art forms is the main feature of the current phenomenon. In a couple of years ago, even a film actor’s appearance on a TV drama was a big news, but now actors crossover all media freely. What happened to the boundary which has existed independently? A musical becomes a film, a film becomes a play or spins off a novel, and a comic book is made into TV dramas similarly but differently in Korea, China and Japan. The universal trend of one source-multi use in USA and Japan has now settled down in Korea.
    Comic books and Novels Coming to Screen
    First, let’s take a look at classical cases of ‘one source-multi use’ (OSMU) films which are based on comic book and novel properties. Taking advantage of the original’s reputation, this practice can be the safest way to make a film. Director LEE Joon-ik’s Blades of Blood (Achim Pictures, Tiger Pictures) was based on PARK Heungyong’s original comic book which deals with the conflict between the power and the people. Set in 1592 at the 25th year of King Seon Jo and just before the Japan’s Invasion of Korea, the Dae-dong faction, dreaming of the equal society, fought against the Japanese military, but the government came to disband the faction in accusing them of a revolt. While facing the Japan’s invasion, even when the King was about to abandon the palace, an inevitable confrontation between a group which wanted to overthrow the society and a group which tried to stop the commencement of revolution. Another case is KIM Tae-kyun’s Higanjima (Kraze Pictures, IMJ Entertainment) based on KOJI Masumoto’s successful comic book. The film was a co-production between Korea and Japan. A high school student, Akira, goes to an island called Higajima, which is not even found on the map, upon hearing that his missing brother was located there. But as the island is under the control of the natives who turns into vampires, Akira and his companies are in danger of frequent attacks from them.
    As one of the most anticipated films this summer season, Moss (Cinema Service) is based on YOON Tae-ho’s webtoon, which opened a new chapter of the Korean webtoon history. Coming to a rural village for his father’s funeral, the protagonist is convinced that his father’s death is related to the wicked villagers. He tenaciously attempts to uncover the truth and comes to face a hidden secret. Based on KANG Full’s comic book, Gudaerul Saranghamnida (original title, Saint Paul Pictures) portrays a series of heartbreaking love stories through small episodes of “the most mature couples of the era” such as an elderly man watching a parking lot, an old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, an old man delivering milk and an old woman collecting papers.
    HAN Jae-rim’s Trace (Barunson) is in pre-production stage and is based on KO Young-hoon’s comic book. This movie features fiery confrontation between the supernatural tribe ‘Trace’, which is assumed as a trace of a monster. This movie is expected to create a “modernized new Korean superhero” possessing extraordinary abilities such as enormous power to crush steel and release ice. JOO Kyung-jung’s Song of Dreams (SangSang Entertainment) is based on KIM Hoon’s reputable novel and portrays the life of a legendary musician Ureuk, who opened the world of music against the sword-controlled world. WHANG Sunmi’s successful children’s story turns into an animation film by the director OH Sung-youn. Leafie, A Hen into the Wild (working title, MK Pictures) follows the adventure of a hen, Ipssak, hoping to see the hatch of chickens. Based on a well-known graphic novel by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, one of Korea’s most famous and acclaimed director BONG Jun-ho is working on Le Transperceneige (MOHO Film) and this SF film deals with struggles for survival inside the last remaining shelter on the earth when it is hit by a severe cold.
    Recurring Remaking Films
     Remaking films is a relatively new strategy in the Korean film industry compared to the foreign film industry. But based on the accumulated cultural foundation and diversity, remaking classics or adapting them with a contemporary touch is currently being tried in various ways. First, IM Sang-soo’s The Housemaid (Mirovision) remade the legendary 1960’s film of the same title by the late director KIM Ki-young. Beyond just remaking the original film, IM took the main motif from the original and reinterpreted it with a contemporary touch. This thriller deals with a tragedy of an innocent woman after coming to work at a rich family as a housemaid and being seduced by the husband of the family. A legendary filmmaker LEE Man-hee’s Late Autumn is remade by KIM Tae-yong. KIM’s version (M&FC, Boram Entertainment, North by NorthWest) will be an intense love story which portrays 3 days spent between a woman who has to return to prison and a man who desperately runs away. They come across each other in Seattle, USA.
    John WOO’s seminal work A Better Tomorrow is remade by director SONG Hae-sung. By adding the reality of the divided nation on the storyline of A Better Tomorrow , this remake will be reborn as an intense action noir. Director PARK Chan-wook is also working on a remake project, known as The Axe (working title, Studio Canal). This film is a remake of Costa GAVRAS’s film of the same title. A man who lost his job suffers from the severe reality, and decides to kill other competitors for a job he wants to get. A Korean horror classic Midnight Cemetery will be reborn as a 3D film (Berdi Media, TGC Entertainment). The original story is about a woman living a dedicated and sacrificial life. Another woman envies her and as her husband is being seduced by yet another woman, eventually all the plots dissolve into a horrific ending. The famous scene of a ghost walking out of an opened tomb under the moonlight became one of the representing clichés of the Korean horror movies since this film’s release.
                                                                                                   Goodbye Mom
    Free Combinations of Stage and Screen
    Films originating from plays and musicals are also abundant. Recent films based on original plays or musicals are A Long Visit (Dong A Export, Island Pictures) and Finding First Love (Soo Films). A Long Visit is another version derived from KO Hye-jung’s essay along with the play version, 2 Nights and 3 Days with Mom . This movie focuses on the heartbreaking relationship between a talkative mother who loves her daughter to death and the daughter who feels mother’s love as a burden. Meanwhile, Finding First Love , a successful Korean original musical, will be made onto the screen by JANG Yu-jung, who directed the original musical. The story is about a love story of a woman, trying to find her first love when she travelled to India a long time ago, and a man who launches a business called “Finding Your First Love”, as he gets involved in her adventure. Finding First Love will be the first movie based on an original musical in the Korean film industry.
    Conversely, some plays and musicals based on films are being made. A hit movie Goodbye Mom , starring CHOI Kanghee and KIM Young-ae, will be presented on stage. Musical Sopyonje originated from director IM Kwon-taek’s film of the same name, which was in turn adapted from LEE Chung-joon’s novel. Ghost House is a musical version of a classic movie Midnight Cemetery which will be equipped with special effects like flying ghosts. Musical May 18 originated from the hit movie May 18 , dealt with Kwang-ju Democratization Movement and aims to become one of Korea’s cultural brands by adding a cheerful love story on the movie’ s original storyline.
    Also, KANG Full’s comic book, Gudaerul Sarang hamnida (original title), was a play prior to becoming a film. Mega hit TV dramas such as Full House and The Palace were based on popular comic books and then made into musical version. The successful novel, Coffee Prince became popular TV drama, play and musical. In addition, “Directors, coming to the series should be mentioned here. A number of filmmakers joined the series to direct an original play such as RYU Jang-ha of Crush on You directed Mom, Shall We Go on a Trip Together? ; HUR Jin-ho of A Good Rain Knows directed Nap ; and ZHANG Hang-jun of Beak Out directed A Man, Watanabe .

     Out of Exclusive Creative Works
    The concept of one source-multi use itself might have originated from the goal of maximizing profit. The current economic crisis which hit the entire world and its impact on the Korean film industry in 2008 wasn’t able to explain this new phenomenon. There must be several reasons. MOON Sung-joo, the manager of Investment/Planning Department of Sidus FNH stated “basically as the audience turns their interests to other cultural activities, the needs for various contents are increasing. But as the people in the industry come to realize the limitation of storytelling, they are now feeling the shortage of fresh new stories in movies, novels and performing arts”. He meant that with the collapse of the ancillary market, the industry turned their eyes to other alternatives and came to find other genres which could be used for multi uses. CHOI Ji-youn, the director of Berdi Media, agreed with the limitation of creative works, but she commented that is not a matter of production cost. She stated, “the important point is whether a story is verified or not. In the world of plays or novels or old classic films, if a story proves its power to reach out wide audience, investors and production companies can easily decide their level of investment.”
    Jaime SHIM, the president of MK Pictures, analyzes the current trend from the view of the audience-consumer, rather than a content creator. She points out that each medium or art form has maintained an exclusive attitude by emphasizing its “own originality” so far. “From the view of consumer who has needs, they already came to not classify the boundary of movie, games, TV drama, comic books, musical and play. Somehow, they came to have an open attitude by not respecting the originality of each medium and not favor a specific genre. I believe that the supplier recently began to accept the mind of consumer… Compared to foreign countries, the Korean film industry still relies on original stories. In USA, Japan and Europe, they are taking contents from other media to make films. Above all, most directors in Korea still tend to write their own original story and direct it themselves like a singer-songwriter. This could be the distinct characteristic of the Korean film industry, but this is a trait that is changing. We can see more vital exchanges and communications among media or art forms”.

    An Open Window to the World
     If the multi-purpose strategy aims to diversify the window and maximize profit by achieving two goals, uniqueness beyond the ages and empathy, the expectation for the international market must be included in the strategy. In fact, SONG Hae-sung’s A Better Tomorrow gets funding from Japanese capital, PARK Chanwook’s The Axe (working title) is known to be funded by French and American capital.
     But we come to face a dilemma at this point. If a story of a film goes beyond Korea and be accepted in other cultural communities, should the story go for something that is widely accepted? Or should it contain an unexpected uniqueness? In other words, what is more Korean is more globally marketable? Or should a film aim for the international market from the beginning? MOON Sung-joo, the manager of investment department, responded “the right answer must be similar but different feeling. We have been thinking of the dilemma, if too different or if too close, there is no point of appealing. Take Boys over Flowers as an example. The Japanese original comic book was made into a drama in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. They all have the same characters and settings. However, the respective characters of the dramas are subtly different”. That means, even though it has the same characters, they should be altered by the cultural code and sensibilities according of each country. She continued, “Take The Housemaid as an example. First of all, the expectation for the director IM was high because he is well-known on the international stage. Second, the maid in foreign countries and the housemaid in Korea are a little bit different. With a grotesque housemaid in the movie, an enigmatic hostess, who doesn’t just get divorce and never loses her temper, seemed to be received uniquely by the foreign audience”.
    CHOI Ji-youn, the director of Berdi Media, stands on the view that what is more Korean is more globally marketable. The reason she chose Midnight Cemetery was because “the background and setting of the original movie in 1967 were quietly different from those of the present day. But the original film got attention when screening at the international film festivals at that time and became the Korean horror classic. I thought that if we can take the main motif from the original movie, a remake film could adapt to the changes of media spontaneously and will be accepted in the international market”. She meant that a Korean film with a basic principle could be altered easily into the characteristic of each genre, such as a 3D-based horror film, or a musical with flying ghosts. A drama version of the successful movie Comrades: Almost a Love Story is being developed by Berdi Media, which was picked up for the same reason. Berdi Media focused on Comrades: Almost a Love Story because the movie represents the melodrama genre and the sensibility the original film could survive the test of time. She continued, “Comrades: Almost a Love Story was a film that people talk about even after 10 years since release”. When this news was released, the Chinese fans responded well, since they are so enthusiastic about Korean dramas. “There is a strong possibility to sell the TV drama to the Japanese market and the Chinese countries”.
    Waiting for the end result of 2010
    There are posters hanging along with the West End Street in London. Among these are well-known musicals based on film properties such as Billy Eliot , Mamma Mia and Legally Blonde and new ones like Dirty Dancing and Pricilla . For the movies with excellent music numbers and visuals, turning them into musicals is a worldwide phenomenon. Of course, not all of the films are blockbusters. The president of Working Title which produced both movie and musical version for Billy Eliot explained, “An excellent story touching the hearts of the audience and lovable characters are necessities. Billy Eliot had them all. A story of a youth who aims high for his beautiful dream, a groundbreaking fantasy, a sincere relationship between a father and his son, and beautiful songs and dance, those things are what moved the audience. That is an immortal story”. His statement could be the right answer. The crossover work of Billy Eliot was able to bring success by taking a universal thing out of the most English story.
     Indeed, the film industry might not have to obsessively worry about leading all the process and developing an “immortal story” for film because of its adaptability; finding a story out there in the market and altering it in a sound way dedicated to each medium. This current phenomenon of crossover, which started in 2009, will be tested in the marketplace during 2010. And the end result will be highlighted as a goal of one source-multi use films that the Korean film industry will be aiming in the future.
  • Any copying, republication or redistribution of KOFIC's content is prohibited without prior consent of KOFIC.
  • Comment