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As 2019 draws to a close, a preview of Korea’s 2020 film scene

As 2019 slips away, it’s clear that comedy and Hollywood blockbusters have dominated South Korea’s box office this year.

Four films -- two domestic and two Hollywood blockbusters -- have broken the 10 million ticket sales mark this year. “Extreme Job” became the second most successful film in Korean box office history with 16.2 million and the top-selling comedy, while “Avengers: Endgame” became the most successful foreign film of all time. They were followed by “Aladdin” with 12.5 million and Palme d’Or winner “Parasite,” which raked in big bucks with 10 million.

Comedy “Exit” became a surprise hit with 9.4 million, while “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Captain Marvel” continued Marvel’s success streak in the country, with 8 million and 5 million, respectively.

CJ ENM, the distributor for “Extreme Job,” “Parasite” and “Exit,” hopes to continue its hot streak next year with “Seobok,” which stars Park Bo-gum and Gong Yoo and deals with the issue of the first human clone. It is directed by Lee Yong-ju, the man behind the 2012 sleeper hit “Architecture 101.”

Concept image for “Peninsula” (NEW)
Concept image for “Peninsula” (NEW)

Speaking of Gong, Next Entertainment World is finally releasing the sequel to the actor’s greatest hit, “Train to Busan,” in 2020, although no one from the original cast will be making an appearance. The director of “Busan” returns to the helm for the sequel, “Peninsula,” starring Gang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyun, showing us a Korea that has been almost completely overrun by a zombie apocalypse.

“Hero,” one of the most successful musicals in Korea, which tells the story of independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun, is getting a film adaptation that will be released next year. Directed by Yoon Je-kyoon -- best known for disaster film “Tidal Wave” -- it stars one of the original cast members, Jung Sung-hwa, in the title role.

Another film inspired by a hero’s story is director Ryoo Seung-wan’s film set in Modagishu and distributed by Lotte Culture Works. It is based on the true story of the Korean government officials who escaped in the middle of the Somali Civil War in the 1990s. The last film Ryoo made based on a true story, “Battleship Island,” got mixed reviews from critics and the public alike.

Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won, who appeared in “Steel Rain” about South and North Korea, will appear in “Summit,” although they will be switching sides this time: Jung will play a South Korean while Kwak will play a North Korean. It follows a series of events that happens after the leaders of both Koreas and the US president are abducted and taken to a North Korean submarine following a coup in the North. The film is directed by Yang Woo-suk of “Steel Rain.”

Choi Min-sik (right) and Han Suk-kyu laugh on the set of “Forbidden Dream.” (Lotte Entertainment)
Choi Min-sik (right) and Han Suk-kyu laugh on the set of “Forbidden Dream.” (Lotte Entertainment)

Choi Min-sik’s performance as the legendary Adm. Yi Sun-shin in the 2014 “The Admiral: Roaring Currents,” set an all-time box office record, and he hopes to replicate that success with another historical piece, “Forbidden Dream,” starring him and Han Suk-kyu, and directed by Hur Jin-ho. It is about another respected Joseon-era figure, King Sejong, and the brilliant inventor and engineer Jang Yeong-sil.

A crime action film starring big names Hwang Jung-min and Lee Jung-jae, along with rising star Park Jung-min, is also slated for release next year under the direction of Hong Won-chan, and Ha Jung-woo and Kim Nam-gil will star in horror-thriller “Closet.”

Hwang will also star in the thriller “Hostage,” about a hostage’s fight for life after being abducted by a crime ring.

Ha will also appear in “1947, Boston,” the story about the Korean runners who ran in the Boston Marathon just after World War II, which deals with the country’s independence from Japan’s colonial rule. Singer and actor Im Si-wan co-stars in the film.

Character actor Jin Sun-kyu, who has played a number of memorable roles in the past few years, will star in a comedy about a high school boxing team titled “Count.”

Megabox Plus M has had an atrocious year and hopes to turn it around with the film “Negotiations,” starring Hwang Jung-min and Hyun Bin, and directed by Yim Soon-rye. It is a story about a National Intelligence Service agent and a diplomat negotiating the release of some Koreans who were kidnapped in the Middle East. Hyun appeared in another film about a terrorist negotiation called “The Negotiation” in 2018.

Korean heartthrob Song Joong-ki will appear in “Bogota,” about young men who sought a new life in Colombia in the 1990s.

Sol Kyung-gu will appear in a historical piece for the first time in his career in a film about Jeong Yak-jeon, a Joseon-era scholar better known as scholar Jeong Yak-yong’s brother. The black-and-white film is directed by Lee Joon-ik.

By Yoon Min-sik (