A scene from the upcoming period drama “Battle of Myeongryang.” (Lotte Entertainment)
The Korean film industry attained a meaningful achievement this year by selling more than 200 million tickets for the first time in history.
Following this year’s success, the country’s major film producers recently announced their lineups for 2014. And it seems like local moviegoers will be bombarded with period blockbusters next year.
Some of the most anticipated films of 2014 are period dramas, including Cannes-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon’s upcoming martial arts flick “Hyeopnyeo” and “Battle of Myeongryang,” a film about legendary Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598).
In the past few years, period dramas have been enjoying increasing popularity in Korea. In 2011, director Kim Han-min’s period drama “War of the Arrows” became the highest grossing Korean film of the year, attracting a total of 7,470,633 viewers.
In the following year, another period drama “Masquerade,” a fictionalized account of King Gwanghae, the 15th ruler of Joseon, became a massive hit ― becoming the second highest grossing film of that year.
“I think the genre is popular because it lets (the moviemakers) combine what is fiction and what is non-fiction,” said Jeong Seong-yeop from Lotte Entertainment. “It gives you a lot of room for imagination, while also giving an opportunity to offer glimpses into Korean history.”
Among the period dramas to be released next year, “Hyeopnyeo” stars top actor Lee Byung-hun, whose performance as the hapless king in “Masquerade” received much praise, alongside Jeon. Emerging actress Kim Go-eun, who swept Best New Actress prizes in 2012 for her role as a beautiful, reckless teenager in director Jung Ji-woo’s sensual drama “Eungyo,” will appear as Jeon’s daughter.
Jeon, who stars as swordswoman and a mother during Korea’s Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) in the upcoming movie, worked with Lee Byung-hun in 1999 for director Lee Young-jae’s “The Harmonium in My Memory.” It is the first time that the two are co-starring in the same film since then.
Following his success with “War of the Arrows,” director Kim Han-min is to return next year with “Battle of Myeongryang.” The film stars “Oldboy” and “I Saw the Devil” actor Choi Min-sik as the iconic Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin. It mainly follows the famous 1597 Battle of Myeongryang during the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598), where Yi managed to destroy a total of 133 Japanese warships with only 13 ships remaining in his command. The battle, which took place in the Myeongryang Strait off the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula, is considered one of the greatest victories of Yi.
A scene from the upcoming film “The Pirates.” (Lotte Entertainment)
Meanwhile, popular actress Son Ye-jin (“My Wife Got Married,” “White Night”) is returning as a pirate in upcoming period blockbuster “Pirates.” The 10 billion-won project, directed by Lee Seok-hoon (“Dancing Queen”), features adventure with two groups ― one made of pirates and the other of bandits ― who desperately try to hunt down a whale that swallowed the royal seal of Joseon.
Local fans of popular actor Hyun Bin (“Come Rain, Come Shine,” “Late Autumn”) will be delighted to hear that he is returning next year as King Jeongjo, the 22nd ruler of Joseon, in a period drama titled “Yeogrin” (The King’s Wrath). The fictionalized film, directed by former TV producer-director Lee Jae-gyoo (“The Legendary Police Woman,” “Beethoven Virus”), deals with the death of the king, who is regarded as one of the most successful rulers of the Joseon Dynasty.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)