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[Herald Interview] Director shares hopes, dreams with 'Food Chronicle'

Star documentary director urges fellow creators to adapt to changing viewer attitudes and broadcast environment

Lee Wook-jung (Tving)
Lee Wook-jung (Tving)

As a documentary director in South Korea, a country where many people believe documentary series are not popular content, Lee Wook-jung had many questions to ask himself.

Recognizing the changes in the way the public enjoys and accepts creative content, Lee tried to blend his experience as a veteran director and fresh attempt in presenting his latest project "Food Chronicle," which targets young viewers.

"Ninety percent of local content are either drama series or unscripted shows. You can say that the era of documentary is coming to an end in Korea. Slots for documentaries are starting to disappear from broadcasters, too. And you cannot blame the viewers for this change," the renowned documentary director, who led the heyday of Korean documentaries with KBS' "Noodle Road" (2008), said during an interview with a group of reporters at his production company in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday.

The director believed that the creators are to blame for the downfall of the documentary genre.

Lee Wook-jung (Tving)
Lee Wook-jung (Tving)

"In an attempt to present a fast-paced series, we show the stories from six to eight different countries when featuring a specific food in each episode,” Lee said.

Local streaming service Tving's first documentary series "Food Chronicle" features eight different types of food -- dumplings, wrapped foods, tacos, pizza, pancakes, sandwiches, sushi and cake -- that have unique shapes. The first three episodes caught attention not only with the presentation of the foods, but also with the surprising stories behind them.

“If you want to be the best sushi restaurant in Japan, you have to know the owner of the best seafood market. The chef needs to build an intimate relationship with the market. I recognized that this kind of bond requires at least 20 to 30 years in the making,” Lee said, explaining that even a small dish reflects many sides of a country.

Asked why the director stars in his series as a narrator, Lee said that he wished to be the storyteller for the viewers.

“I recognized that most of the documentary series from the UK and US, countries which are considered to be leaders in the documentary genre, have a presenter. But many Korean projects have a narrator or a host, who is either an actor or an artist, who knows little about the series,” the director told The Korea Herald.

Lee felt that the best way to deliver his message and experience was for him to stand in front of the camera.

Still images from
Still images from "Food Chronicle" (Tving)

“I am not going to star in any future series. But I want to try many ways to make viewers easily understand and enjoy documentaries,” Lee added.

Hoping to present the food culture of Korea and make a documentary series that are enjoyed by both Korean and foreign viewers, Lee shared his future plans.

“I wanted to return with the theme of rice. Kimbap, the seaweed-wrapped rice roll, fried rice, bibimbap, hot stone pot rice and rice porridge are something that I am interested in,” Lee said with excitement.

An episode of the eight-part food documentary is released at 4 p.m. Thursdays on Tving.



By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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