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Korean films that brought home Cannes awards

Bong Joon ho's film
Bong Joon ho's film "Parasite" (CJ Entertainment)
South Korean cinema brought home two trophies from this year’s Cannes Film Festival -- best director for Park Chan-wook of “Decision to Leave” and best actor for Song Kang-ho of “Broker.”

While the two wins follow the Palme d’Or win by Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” in 2019, this year’s festival is all the more significant in that it is the first time there have been two Korean films winning at the same time at one of the three most acclaimed European film competitions -- Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

The first Korean movie was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984.

Auteur Lee Doo-young’s black-and-white “Spinning Wheel” was screened in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. The historical drama centers on women who lived in the patriarchal Joseon era.

In 2002, legendary director Im Kwon-taek, dubbed “the father of Korean cinema” by movie critics, brought home the country’s first-ever trophy from Cannes, with “Chihwaseon,” known also as “Painted Fire.” The film is based on the true story of Jang Seung-eop, a 19th-century Korean painter who stood at the forefront of changes in the Korean arts scene. 

Park Chan-wook’s film
Park Chan-wook’s film "Oldboy" (CJ Entertainment)
In 2004, Park’s “Oldboy” won the Grand Prix, the second-highest honor at Cannes.

In 2007, Jeon Do-yeon won the best actress award for her performance in “Secret Sunshine,” directed by Lee Chang-dong, who would later pick up a best screenplay award for “Poetry.” With Song having played alongside Jeon in “Secret Sunshine,” the film sets an exemplary mark in having involved three eventual Cannes prize recipients.

In 2009, Park’s horror movie “Thirst” received the Jury Prize, followed the next year by director Lee Chang-dong taking home the best screenplay award for “Poetry,” starring Yoon Jeong-hee, who plays a woman in her 60s gradually developing an interest in poetry.

In addition to the Cannes Film Festival, Korean films, directors and actors have been winning awards at the Venice International Film Festival since 1987 and at the Berlin International Film Festival since 2004.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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