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Auteurs and Korean New Wave


Recently rediscovered as the eccentric master of Korean cinema during the 1960s and 1970s', Kim Ki-young came to the fore during the second Pusan International Film Festival in 1997. He is now widely recognized as one of the leading postwar directors. His films show a wide spectrum of experimentation, from genre films to highly unconventional ones. His most notable films are psychological dramas that deal primarily with female characters. A good example is his film entitled The Housemaid (Hanyo, 1960), whose main character is a femme fatale. The Housemaid is often praised as one of Kim's most exemplary works. Kim directed 31 films until his death in 1998.

Im Kwon-taek has been making a name for himself both in the national and international scene. It has been frequently pointed out that Im Kwon-taek came of age with the completion of his master piece, Mandala (1980). Having made films since 1962, he was known primarily as one of those directors who churned out genre quickies, often at the rate of eight per year. From the watershed year of 1980, however, his works have enjoyed a privileged status of art-house cinema, combined with top box office hits. His renewed status also overlaps with a period known as "New Korean Cinema" or "New Wave," terms that have started to gain currency recently. Along with New Wave directors Park Kwang-su and Chang Son-woo, Im has achieved international recognition. Although his work still shares many of the cinematic features with 1960s Korean cinema, his work has a strong following even among contemporary film enthusiasts.


One of the most controversial film-maker and producer, Shin Sang-ok has produced a prolific and wide-ranging body of work since the 1950s. Films such as the Yi Dynasty's Cruel History of Women (Yicho yoinui chanhoksa) and The Houseguest and My Mother both take a critical look at Confuci-anism. Shin Sang-ok remains as a major contributor to Korean cinema for his mastery of the cinematic genre. His films contain brilliant mobilization of the mise-en-scene, superb acting and innovative editing techniques.

The contribution of Yu Hyon-mok to Korean film history is also crucial. He is often cited as the leading figure who has inherited the legacy of the social commentary-type film so popular during the colonial period. The Stray Bullet (1961) is one of his most exemplary films.

themes, and a turning to more optimistic stories. Titles like The Road of Happiness (1956) and Love the Future (1959) indicate that films were being used to rally the country into rebuilding after the devastation of the war.

1960s and 1970s

IMDB lists only two films for North Korea for the entire decade of the 1960s: A Spinner (1964) and Boidchi annun dchonson (1965). One of the most highly-regarded films in North Korea, Sea of Blood, was produced in 1969. The entrance hall to the Korean Feature Film Studio contains a mural of current "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il supervising the production of this film. This is a two-part, black and white film. The first part is 125 minutes in duration, and the second is 126 minutes.

Kim Il-sung made a famous call for juche art in 1966, saying, "Our art should develop in a revolutionary way, reflecting the Socialist content with the national form". In a 1973 treatise on film entitled Theory of Cinematic Art, Kim Jong-il further developed this idea of juche art into the cinema, claiming that it is cinema's duty to help develop the people into "true communists", and as a means "to completely eradicate capitalist elements". The ideology-heavy nature of North Korean cinema during the 1970s can be seen in titles such as The People Sing of the Fatherly Leader and The Rays of Juche Spread All Over the World.

Part of this ideological usage of the arts was a treating of the same subjects repeatedly through various art forms. Consequently, the most prominent films of the era took their stories and titles from pre-existing novels, ballets or operas. The film Sea of Blood was also an opera and a symphony, as well as the name of an opera company. Future Minister of Culture, Choe Ik-kyu's The Flower Girl (Korean: 꽃 파는 처녀; Kkotpaneun Cheonyeo) (1972, 130 min.) later was remade as a dance. This film won a special prize and special medal at the 18th International Film Festival, and is one of the more well-known North Korean films of the 1970s.

Unsung Heroes, a 20-part spy film about the Korean War, was released between 1978 and 1981; it achieved notice outside of North Korea two decades later mainly because United States Forces Korea defector Charles Robert Jenkins played a role as a villain and the husband of one of the main characters.

1980 - Present

With 14 listings, the 1980s is the best-represented decade for North Korea at IMDB. A possible turning to less didactic subjects is indicated with a 1986 production of the popular stories like Chunhyang-jon (1980 - 155 min.) and Hong kil dong (Hangul: 홍길동) (1986 - 115 min.).[45] Probably the most well-known North Korean film internationally is the science-fiction giant-monster epic, Pulgasari (Hangul: 불가사리) (1985), directed by kidnapped South-Korean director Shin Sang-ok. Multi-part films promoting the Juche ideology, including Star of Korea and The Sun of the Nation were also produced in the 1980s. North Korean animation produced for domestic consumption is reportedly less politically dogmatic during this period, resulting in a large adult audience.At least one international co-production has been filmed in North Korea, Ten Zan - Ultimate Mission, directed by Italian director Ferdinando Baldi and starring American Frank Zagarino.

IMDB lists only four North Korean films made in the 1990s. The Nation and Destiny (Korean: 민족과 운명; Minjokgwa ummyeong) is a 56-part series of movies produced from 19921999, on Korean subjects and people like General Choi Duk Shin (parts 1-4) and composer Yun I-sang (parts 5, 14-16).

The 2000s appear to be reasonably productive for North Korean cinema, having five listings so far. In a sign of thawing relations, the animated film, Empress Chung (2005), is a co-production of South and North Korea. This film is said to be the first released simultaneously in both countries. Another recent North/South co-production is the 3-D animated television series Lazy Cat Dinga.

Taegukgi(Hangul: 태극기 휘날리며) (2004)

All-time box office records

The numbers indicate amount of tickets sold, not financial gross (as of January 23, 2011). Data from Korean Film Council.

Rank↓ English title↓ Korean title↓ Director↓ Admissions↓ Year↓
1 The Host 괴물 Bong Joon-ho 13,019,740 2006
2 The King and the Clown 왕의 남자 Lee Jun-ik 12,302,831 2005
3 Taegukgi 태극기 휘날리며 Kang Je-gyu 11,746,135 2004
4 Tidal Wave 해운대 Yoon Je-kyoon 11,397,749 2009
5 Silmido 실미도 Kang Woo-suk 11,081,000 2003
6 D-War 디 워 Shim Hyung-rae 8,426,973 2007
7 Speedy Scandal 과속 스캔들 Kang Hyung-Cheol 8,280,308 2008
8 Friend 친구 Kwak Kyung-taek 8,134,500 2001
9 Take Off 국가 대표 Kim Yong-hwa 8,092,676 2009
10 Welcome to Dongmakgol 웰컴 투 동막골 Park Kwang-hyun 8,008,622 2005
11 May 18 화려한 휴가 Kim Ji-hoon 7,307,993 2007
12 Tazza: The High Rollers 타짜 Choi Dong-hun 6,847,777 2006
13 The Good, the Bad, the Weird 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 Kim Ji-woon 6,719,000 2008
14 200 Pounds Beauty 미녀는 괴로워 Kim Yong-hwa 6,619,498 2006
15 The Man from Nowhere 아저씨 Lee Jeong-beom 6,226,886 2010
16 Shiri 쉬리 Kang Je-gyu 6,210,000 1999
17 My Boss, My Teacher 투사부일체 Kim Dong-won 6,105,431 2006
18 Jeon Woo Chi 전우치 Choi Dong-hoon 6,100,490 2009
19 Joint Security Area 공동경비구역 JSA Park Chan-wook 5,830,000 2000
20 Marrying the Mafia II 가문의 위기 Jeong Yong-ki 5,635,266 2005
21 Secret Reunion 의형제 Jang Hun 5,460,035 2010
22 Memories of Murder 살인의 추억 Bong Joon-ho 5,255,376 2003
23 My Wife is a Gangster 조폭 마누라 Jeong Heung-soon 5,180,900 2001
24 Marathon 말아톤 Jeong Yoon-chul 5,148,022 2005
25 The Chaser 추격자 Na Hong-jin 5,071,619 2008
26 Marrying the Mafia 가문의 영광 Jeong Heung-soon 5,021,001 2002
27 My Tutor Friend 동갑내기 과외하기 Kim Kyeong-hyeong 4,937,573 2003
28 My Sassy Girl 엽기적인 그녀 Kwak Jae-yong 4,852,845 2001
29 Kick the Moon 신라의 달밤 Kim Sang-jin 4,353,800 2001
30 Public Enemy Returns 강철중: 공공의 적 1-1 Kang Woo-suk 4,337,983 2008
31 Typhoon 태풍 Kwak Kyung-taek 4,094,395 2005
32 The Way Home 집으로 Lee Jeong-hyang 4,091,000 2002
33 Sex Is Zero 색즉시공 Yoon Je-kyoon 4,082,797 2002
34 My Girlfriend is an Agent 7급 공무원 Sin Tae-ra 4,078,293 2009
35 Forever the Moment 우리 생애 최고의 순간 Yim Soon-rye 4,044,582 2008
36 Another Public Enemy 공공의 적 2 Kang Woo-suk 3,911,356 2005
37 Hanbando 한반도 Kang Woo-suk 3,880,308 2006
38 A Frozen Flower 쌍화점 Yoo Ha 3,772,976 2008
39 Hi, Dharma 달마야 놀자 Park Cheol-kwan 3,746,000 2001
40 The Divine Weapon 신기전 Kim Yoo-jin 3,751,588 2008
41 Sympathy for Lady Vengeance 친절한 금자씨 Park Chan-wook 3,650,000 2005
42 Untold Scandal 스캔들 - 조선남녀상열지사 Lee Je-yong 3,522,747 2003
43 Marrying the Mafia III 가문의 부활 Jeong Yong-ki 3,464,516 2006
44 Moss 이끼 Kang Woo-seok 3,375,213 2010
45 71: Into the Fire 포화 속으로 Lee Jae-han 3,359,012 2010
46 My Boss, My Hero 두사부일체 Yoon Je-kyoon 3,302,000 2001
47 Oldboy 올드보이 Park Chan-wook 3,269,000 2003
48 My Little Bride 어린 신부 Kim Ho-joon 3,149,500 2004
49 Oh! Brothers 오! 브라더스 Kim Yong-hwa 3,148,748 2003
50 A Tale of Two Sisters 장화, 홍련 Kim Ji-woon 3,146,217 2003
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