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Ko - production in Busan
  • Korean Blockbusters Seek New Thrills Overseas
  • by Pierce Conran /  Dec 16, 2019
  • Foreign Location Shooting on the Rise

    As the Korean film industry continues to grow, so too does the geographical scope of its productions. While Korean filmmakers have long sought out overseas locations for their films, of late a number of large-scale productions have been looking to foreign lands for new vistas and sensations to entice film viewers in 2020. Some of the industry’s biggest names are either preparing for or currently shooting in locations as far flung as Colombia, Latvia, Morocco and Jordan. 

    As they try to appeal to sophisticated Korean audiences, who have quickly grown accustomed to the large-scale productions of the last few years, filmmakers seem to be hedging their bets on Korean tales set in never-before-seen locations, in addition to star power and high concepts, to draw in crowds in the near future. Below is a brief rundown of just some of the major Korean titles eyeing or currently conducting foreign shoots.

    Mogadishu (working title)

    RYOO Seung-wan
    Cast ZO In-sung, KIM Yun-seok, HUH Joon-ho, KOO Kyo-hwan
    Status Filming
    Distributor Lotte Entertainment

    Hitmaker RYOO Seung-wan, known for The Berlin File (2013), Veteran (2015) and The Battleship Island (2017), is back on set with his latest high-octane action film, the hostage thriller Mogadishu (working title). Joining him for the very first time will be stars ZO In-sung (The King, 2017) and KIM Yun-seok (The Priests, 2015). Also featuring in the film will be HUH Joon-ho, recently seen in ILLANG : THE WOLF BRIGADE (2018) and Default (2018), and KOO Kyo-hwan, known for indie films such as Jane (2017) and Maggie.

    Based on real events that took place in the 1990s, Mogadishu, which was previously known by the title Escape, take place against the backdrop of the Somalian Civil War and will chronicle a daring escape attempt made by North and South Korean embassy workers who are stranded during the conflict.

    RYOO’s company Filmmaker R & K, which was also responsible for this year’s summer hit EXIT, has partnered with Dexter Studios, known for Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017) and its sequel, to co-produce the project. Mogadishu is expected to complete production in February of next year.

    Bogota (literal title)

    KIM Sung-je
    Cast SONG Joong-ki
    Status Pre-production
    Distributor Megabox Plus M

    KIM Sung-je, director of the acclaimed legal drama The Unfair (2015), is heading back to the director’s chair for the 1990s-set tale Bogota (literal title), which will feature young star SONG Joong-ki in the lead. The crime drama will depict the lives of youths who left Korea for Latin America, and will take place in the basin of the Colombian Andes.

    SONG, known for A Werewolf Boy (2012) and The Battleship Island (2017), recently completed filming Victory (translated title) for director JO Sung-hee, Korea’s first ever space drama. Co-starring alongside SONG will be CHO Hyun-chul, known for films such as KIM Dae-hwan’s award-winning indie The First Lap (2017), and LEE Hee-jun, the character actor seen in 1987: When the Day Comes (2017) and Miss Baek (2018). The production team for Bogota is currently conducting location scouting in Colombia and the production is expected to return to the country for shooting early next year.

    Hero (translated title)

    Director JK YOUN
    Cast CHUNG Sung-hwa, KIM Go-eun, NA Moon-hee
    Status Filming
    Distributor CJ Entertainment

    JK YOUN, the man behind the 10 million viewer hits Haeundae (2009) and Ode to My Father (2014), is currently in Latvia filming the adaptation of the hit Korean stage musical Hero (translated title). Production began on September 10 and is spread across both Latvia and Korea.

    CHUNG Sung-hwa, reprising his role from the stage, leads a cast that also features KIM Go-eun (Tune in for Love) and NA Moon-hee (I Can Speak, 2017). The film follows the true story of independence fighter AHN Jung-geun (played by CHUNG), who assassinated Prince ITO Hirobumi of the Japanese Empire in 1909.

    Hero is being produced by YOUN’s company JK Film, which is known for several other hits, such as Confidential Assignment (2017) and The Himalayas (2015).

    Bargaining (translated title)

    YIM Soon-rye
    Cast HYUN Bin, HWANG Jung-min
    Status Pre-production
    Distributor Megabox Plus M

    Forever the Moment (2008) and Little Forest (2018) director YIM Soon-rye is making history as the first female director of a Korean blockbuster with the upcoming hostage negotiation action-thriller Bargaining (translated title). The film will bring together superstars HYUN Bin (Confidential Assignment) and HWANG Jung-min (Veteran, 2015), who worked with YIM on her classic Waikiki Brothers (2001), for the first time.

    HYUN will play an expert negotiator who teams up with HWANG’s diplomat to save Korean nationals being held hostage in the Middle East. The film is planning to shoot in Jordan. Once the actors have completed their current shooting commitments, production on Bargaining will begin in the Middle East around the start of 2020.

    Kidnap (translated title)

    Director KIM Seong-hun
    Cast HA Jung-woo
    Status Pre-production

    KIM Seong-hun and HA Jung-woo, the director and star combo of the hit disaster drama Tunnel (2016), are teaming up once more for the upcoming action-thriller Kidnap (translated title). Their new collaboration is based on an incident that occurred in 1986, involving a Korean diplomat who was kidnapped in Lebanon.

    Director KIM is also known for his Cannes-screened thriller A Hard Day (2014) and as the director of the first season of Kingdom, the first Netflix Original Series produced for Korea. Star HA recently completed a run of blockbusters, which included both Along with the Gods films, 1987: When the Day Comes (2017) and Take Point (2018). He is back on screens this month with the disaster action-drama Ashfall and will first complete the period sports drama Boston 1947 (literal title) before joining the production of Kidnap, which is exited to kick off at some point in 2020. Though the location of the production has yet to be revealed, it is expected to be somewhere in the Middle East.
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