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‘Korean movies need universal storylines for U.S. success’

Hollywood executives discuss potential for Korean collaboration with U.S. film industry

This year alone, the Korean film industry has made leaps and bounds in its attempts to capture a more global audience with Korean-directed, English-speaking international films such as “Stoker,” “The Last Stand” and “Snowpiercer.”

Last week, the 2013 Dicon International Content Conference ― hosted by the Korea Creative Contents Agency ― conducted the “Korean Americans in Hollywood Mentor Seminar,” in which a number of Hollywood executives and U.S. entertainment industry leaders gathered to share their knowledge and advice on how to increase the presence of Korean films in the world’s most famous motion picture market ― Hollywood.

“I think the overarching reason why we are all here is, ‘How do we become closer?’” said Helen Lee-Kim of Good Universe, a Hollywood entertainment company. “How do the East and the West become closer so that we can work together, better and more frequently?” 

Kymber Lim (left), CEO of 8282 Entertainment and Helen Lee-Kim of Good Universe speak at the 2013 Dicon International Content Conference on Nov. 21 at Coex in Seoul. (KOCCA)
Kymber Lim (left), CEO of 8282 Entertainment and Helen Lee-Kim of Good Universe speak at the 2013 Dicon International Content Conference on Nov. 21 at Coex in Seoul. (KOCCA)
Members of the Korean film industry, from talent agency representatives to independent film makers, attended the seminar on Thursday in hopes of gaining new insight on the state of Korean content in the U.S. film industry as well as how their Korean content could penetrate the Hollywood market.

“I’m definitely a fan of Korean content,” said Kymber Lim, CEO of 8282 Entertainment. “There is definitely a lot more exposure to these (Korean) actors, performers, filmmakers now and they are becoming a much bigger presence in the States. I’ve become more aware of that living in Los Angeles than I ever have before in the past.”

As two Korean-Americans working in the highly competitive L.A. entertainment market, Lim and Lee-Kim are both confident that Korean content and films have what it takes to break into the international movie market, making their presence felt in the U.S. beyond the typical Asian martial arts flicks.

Using the films “Stoker,” “The Last Stand” and “Snowpiercer” as their primary examples, the two executives claimed that Korean directors were now slowly becoming a force in the international film world.

Renowned local directors Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and Kim Ji-woon all made their English directorial debuts this year. Park’s “Stoker” is a psychological thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska. Kim made his American directorial debut with his action film starring Hollywood stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker and Johnny Knoxville.

Director Bong was named as this year’s Best Director at the annual Blue Dragon Film Awards for his sci-fi thriller “Snowpiercer,” starring Song Kang-ho alongside an international cast of Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris. The film was the most expensive film in Korean movie history and was sold to 167 countries even before its world premiere in August, a first for a film by a Korean director. “Snowpiercer” is also soon expected to make its Hollywood debut sometime next year.

“I think ... years of building up their profile and the success of their movies in Korea led them to making an English speaking film,” said Lee-Kim. “But I think that there are a lot more of them to come; so it all did happen kind of ‘boom, boom, boom’ with the three, but I think that was just the beginning.”

Lee-Kim went on to add that she feels that global audiences are very interested in international talent, “I just don’t think those borders are so relevant anymore.”

Both Lee-Kim and Lim noted that one of the key elements necessary to export more traditional and cultural Korean films to Hollywood is not to alter the content in order to tailor it to a more Western audience, but rather to present a storyline that an audience can relate to universally. This was the case for the Hollywood box office hit Chinese co-production films “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hero.”

“I think when you’re exporting any culture outside of its original country, you have to give the audience something that they can relate to,” said Lee-Kim. “So the question is, if you are going to export some very traditional Korean drama, what is it that a non-Korean can look at and say, ‘Okay, I understand’ ... or can at least appreciate what the story is.”

By Julie Jackson (