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S. Korea big 'potential market' for Hollywood

By 안성미

Published : May 3, 2016 - 21:34

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Hollywood is banking on the Korean film industry since it has big potential with abundant stories derived from the nation's "incredibly rich" history and many talented people, the head of a Hollywood film studio said Tuesday.
  
"The modern Korean filmmaking probably in 1999 saw the first big superhits happening in Korea. And it's still growing every year, which is phenomenal," Tomas Jegeus, president of Fox International Productions, said during a press conference to promote "Goksung," the latest film by director Na Hong-jin.

Fox co-produced the film with the Korean production company Side Mirror. The event came closely after the world's first press screening of the film that was invited to an out-of-competition section of this year's Cannes Film Festival set to open next week.

It marked his first trip to South Korea as the L.A.-based studio's president.
  
"I think one thing we talked about is that the history of Korea is incredibly rich and the filmmakers here change all the time ...

The local market in Korea is not stagnant and it doesn't stand still. It develops creatively and commercially as well."
  
Jegeus said his company will keep watching the market and make more Korean films with creative local directors.
  
"In Korea, we probably make not even one film a year. From next year, we hope to grow from probably two films a year to maybe even up to three to four films a year."
  
"Goksung" is Na's third feature film after "The Chaser" (2008) and "The Yellow Sea" (2010), both highly acclaimed by both critics and audiences.
  
The mystery-thriller features a rural village plagued with mysterious murders after the arrival of a stranger. Actors Kwak Do-won and Hwang Jung-min play a police officer and a shaman, respectively, while actress Chun Woo-hee appears as a villager who allegedly witnesses the killings.
  
Questioned about Na's remarks in a previous promotional news conference that Fox gave him full creative freedom of filmmaking, Jegeus answered that's "because it's just a phenomenal film."
  
"It has not just phenomenal tension, phenomenal drama and it's scary and everything. But the characters he develops, how he directs them, he's the kind of filmmaker that we want to work with around the world. We're so lucky and so grateful to find him."
  
Jegeus said he recognized the director's talent after watching his feature debut "The Chaser" eight years ago, which served as a chance to make his company participate in Na's second film "The Yellow Sea" as a co-production company.
  
Na said "Goksung" started from the regret that his previous crime-thrillers have always centered on the assailants of criminal cases.
  
"This time, I tried to see a case from the viewpoint of a victim because I always wanted to know what led the victim of a case to their fate. Was it simply because he or she met a crazy person on the street? This kind of idea was of no help in explaining things happening."
  
The film, according to him, reflects his self-found philosophy:

Sometimes, misfortune comes not because of what the victim has done but for no reason.
  
The title "Goksung" is the name of a rural town in South Korea's North Jeolla Province. It also was where most of the film was shot.
  
"I have many good memories about Goksung. I visited there often in my early years. It was so beautiful when I visited after a long time. So I thought I'd like to make it a filming location of a story that I was cooking up."
  
For Kwak, who previously worked with the filmmaker on "The Yellow Sea," "Goksung" is his lead actor debut.
  
"The last six months (of filming) was physically tough, but I was really happy because we worked hard for the same goal -- to be united as one and show the audience the best we can do," he said.
  
"To Na, there is no room for a compromise," actress Chun, the star of the internationally acclaimed Korean film "Han Gong-ju," said in a show of her respect for the filmmaker.
  
"He gave me a chance to go as far as I can in acting and I really enjoyed this."
  
Hwang, known to bring guaranteed box office success, took on the role of a shaman for the first time in his acting career.
  
He became one of the country's top actors through films such as "Ode to My Father," "Veteran" and "The Himalayas."
  
His character Il-gwang in the new film is brought to the town by the police officer Jong-gu (Kwak Do-yon) to lead the ancient shamanic ritual of "gut" as Jong-gu's daughter Hyo-jin becomes severely ill, showing symptoms similar to those of the victims.
  
Hwang said he was not confident if he could look like a real shaman even after meeting many in the profession and watching their "gut" rituals.
  
"I wanted to make the audience, if there's anyone who doesn't know me, believe I'm a real shaman. That was the biggest challenge for me," he said.
  
"Goksung" is set to open in local theaters on May 12. (Yonhap)