2019 has marked the centenary of the history of Korean films, and the year that Bong Jun-ho's ‘Parasite’ won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. In addition to winning awards at various film festivals around the world, Parasite won four awards at the Academy early this year, attracting global attention again. People all around the world are interested in not only the film itself but also Korean food that appeared in the film like ram-don (jjapaguri), pork barbecue, and etc. It is unprecedented that Korean film has received so much attention, but
, in fact, there were countless good films in Korean films during the century. For readers who want to know more about K-movie, The UOS Times would like to introduce world-recognized Korean Films and the history of K-Movies.
The History of Korean Films
The very first Korean film was released in 1919, which was produced by Park Seung-pil, the owner of Dansung-sa, which is the theater firstly established in Korea. “Loyal Revenge (Uirijeok Gutu)”, is a kino drama (special play technique, containing videos as part of the play) and was significant in that it was produced mainly with Korean capital and human resources.
Korean films have been heavily influenced by modern Korea history such as the Japanese Colonial period, the Korean War, government censorship, and so on. Until 1950, Korean films reached the peak of silent movies and progressed onto sound films in spite of Japanese rule. However, the movie industry was in a slump as the Korean War tore down the economy and divided Korea into two countries. Fortunately, in the latter half of the 1950s, Korean film industry revived with few films like “Madame Freedom (1956)” and “The Housemaid (1960)”. In the 1960’s, a so called the golden age for Korean Cinema, 100 to 200 films were produced and people watched film five to six times on average annually. However, there was another slump in the 1970s with spread of television and diversification of people's entertainment through economic growth. In the 1980s, foreign currency revenues, including Hong Kong movies and Hollywood movies, have made people become more indifferent to Korean films. Since the late 1990s, capital of large companies has entered the movie industry and its value started to gain recognition. Korean films have grown significantly followed by the genre diversification and the quantitative expansion of films and film production.
Korean films in the world's three major film festivals
- Berlin International Film Festival
It was started in 1951 to pray for German reunification, which had been divided at that time. It is held annually for about 10 days in mid-February and is run by the German national Berlin Film Company. Since the first Dong-A Film Company's "Bride Day" was submitted at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1958, Korean films have been submitting dramatic and cultural films almost every year. In 1961, director Kang Dae-jin won the Silver Bear, making it the first Korea film to win a prize.
- Venice International Film Festival
This is the world's oldest international film festival that started in 1932. It is held from the end of August to the beginning of September every year. In 2012, director Kim Ki-deok's "Pieta" won the Golden Lion, which is the first Korean feature film to win the three major film festivals. Furthermore, in 1987, director Lim Kwon-taek’s “The Coachman” won the Best Actress award, and in 2002, director Lee Chang-dong of “Oasis” won the Best Director award.
- Cannes Film Festival
It has been recognized as the most prestigious international film festival that started in 1946. It is held annually for two weeks in May. There were notable achievements in the 2000s: Park Chan-wook of "Old Boy" won the Grand Prize of the Jury in 2004, Jeon Do-yeon of "Milyang" won the Best Actress in 2007, and Park Chan-wook of "Bat" won the Jury Prize in 2009. Finally, Bong Jun-ho of “Parasite” won the highest honor - Golden Palm.
- (Additional) Korean Film Festival
Compared to three major film festivals, Korea’s first international film festival - Busan International Film Festival - started in 1996. It is held annually for around ten days in fall. It is the major film festival in Korea and became one of the largest and most prestigious film events in Asia.
Reporter’s recommendation of Korean Movies
The award-winning films and other films directed by Bong Jun-ho are both great and worth seeing. In addition to these pieces, I would like to introduce some films that I personally enjoyed.
“Extreme job” is an action comedy film directed by Lee Byeong-heon, released in 2019. The highlight of this film is the elimination of all the conventional clichés and the unexpected comedy. It was also successful in the box office which is the second most viewed film in the South Korean film history.
“Assassination” is an espionage action film co-written and directed by Choi Dong-hoon, released in 2015. It depicts the activities of independence activists during the Japanese Colonial era and has both historical significance and entertainment.
“Train to Busan” is a horror zombie film, directed by Yeon Sang-ho, released in 2016. It’s like Kingdom, which is very popular on Netflix. The film was also invited to the Cannes and is recognized as a "well-made work.”
For the past century, Korean films have been greatly developed, leaving behind outstanding achievements. This year marks the 101st anniversary of Korean film history along with “Parasite” craze. Although the film industry still has some parts to make up for and is sluggish due to the Covid-19 these days, the potential of the Korean film has been verified. The UOS Times is looking forward to seeing how Korean movies will further grow in the future.
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