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Dictator’s assassination, volcanic eruptions at Paektusan coming to big screens soon

While South Korea’s box office is dominated by Disney’s “Frozen 2” at the moment, the competition is expected to get fierce later this month and early next month, when a number of local tent-pole films hit the theater.

The producers of “The Man Standing Next” confirmed Tuesday that the film -- inspired by the true story of the assassination of a former Korean president -- will open next month.

Starring Lee Byung-hun, Lee Sung-min and Kwak Do-won, the film is based on real-life events that took place in the 40 days leading up to the assassination of former President Park Chung-hee. 

“The Man Standing Next” (Showbox)
“The Man Standing Next” (Showbox)

“The Man Standing Next” (Showbox)
“The Man Standing Next” (Showbox)

Showbox, the film’s distributor, released photos of both Lees as their respective characters in their office, another photo of a man standing in front of a tank, and one of Kwak speaking in what appears to be a courtroom -- possibly at the trial of the character inspired by Kim Jae-gyu, Park’s confidant-turned-assassin.

Lee Byung-hun plays this controversial figure, who remains the subject of conflicting theories, and Lee Sung-min plays the man who reigned over the country for 18 years. The film is directed by Woo Min-ho, the mind behind the acclaimed criminal drama “Inside Men.”

Another Lee Byung-hun film will be screened in theaters later this month. “Ashfall,” starring Lee and Ha Jung-woo, will hit the theaters Dec. 19, according to CJ ENM.

The film, also starring Ma Dong-suk (Don Lee), Jeon Hye-jin and Bae Su-zy -- better known as K-pop star Suzy -- is about what happens when multiple volcanic eruptions occur at Paektusan and a group of people from North and South Korea must join forces to stop the annihilation of the Korean Peninsula.

Lee plays an operative from the North, Ha plays an explosive ordinance disposal operative from the South, and Ma plays a geologist. All three characters play a critical role in a plan to stop the final explosion that will wipe out everyone on both sides.

It is directed by Lee Hae-jun, the veteran screenwriter and director at the helm of the 2009 film “Castaway on the Moon.”

Another major player, Lotte Entertainment, is expected to announce a release date soon for “Forbidden Dreams,” starring Choi Min-sik and Han Suk-kyu. The film is set to hit the theaters in December, and the specific date is widely expected to fall in the last week of the month.

The film is set in the Joseon era and tells the story of King Sejong (Han) and scientist and engineer Jang Yeong-sil (Choi). It focuses on the relationship between the two men of science and on what may have happened after Jang’s name vanished from the records, following his downfall due to a famous blunder that caused injury to the king.

By Yoon Min-sik