Chinese films make big splash in South Korea, but industry insiders want more. reports in Seoul.
Seoul recently hosted a film festival, where nearly a dozen Chinese features from the past few years were screened including Monster Hunt, the highest-grossing Chinese film, MonkeyKing: Hero Is Back, an animation hit from the past summer and Black Coal, Thin Ice, an award-winning thriller.
The Chinese Film Festival, an event held every two years since 2006, is jointly organized by China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the Korean Film Council.
“We want to not only show ancient Chinese culture but also reveal modern Chinese people’s attitude toward life so that Korean audiences can understand them better,” says Mao Yu, deputy director of the film bureau under the state administration.
According to Han Sang-hee, the director for industry promotion at the Korean Film Council, 72 Chinese films were screened in South Korea last year, comprising 6.6 percent of the total 1,095 films shown in Korean cinemas then. While their box-office ticket sales comprised less than 1 percent, Han believes Chinese films have the scope to do well in South Korea.
“Many Korean moviegoers’ impression ofChinese cinema is still about the ‘golden times’ of Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige,” he says, adding that local audiences have yet to fully grasp developments in contemporary Chinese cinema.
“Such film festivals will promote the latest success and can be a solution, but closer industry cooperation is the long-term cure.”
In 2014, the two countries signed a film coproduction agreement to promote closer cultural ties.
“It’s better to usher more coproduction than to directly introduce Korean films into China, and vice versa,” says Park Keun-tae, the president ofCJGroupChina. “Differences in culture, history and moviegoers’ habits may be obstacles, but coproduction can look for a balance.”
The group is among South Korean conglomerates that are also in the business of films.
South Korea’s all-time highestgrossing The Admiral: Roaring Currents, an epic produced by CJ Entertainment& Media, an affiliate of CJ Group, recording theKoreans’ fight against Japanese invasion in 1597, met with little commercial success in China last year.
Miss Granny, a coproduced fantasy derived from the Korean film of the same name, earned more than 350 million yuan ($55.56 million) from the Chinese box office, making it the most successful SinoKorean film so far.
Thriller Peaceful Island, another CJ project with Korean director Chang Yoon-hyun and a Chinese cast, is scheduled for release in China in December.
The group also opened an industry park on the outskirts of Beijing earlier this year to help Chinese filmmakers.
“A typical case of cooperation ... is Korean technical support in Chinese films,” saysHan, adding that it isn’t enough.
“We will probably have more two-way technical exchanges in the future,” he says.
In 2012, the Korean Film Council opened its business center in Beijing to offer small-scale film companies from South Korea an opportunity to attract Chinese investors. Four to five projects have been simultaneously in operation each quarter since then.
China and SouthKorea launched Share Your Dream, an annual short film festival, in Beijing last year to facilitate exchanges among young filmmakers.
During last week’s Chinese Film Festival, officials from both countries also held their first meeting on jointly promoting animation films.
“The common Asian culture will help our animation productions to march to overseas markets together,” Han says.
With box-office revenues in China expected to rise 50 percent this year, leading cinema operators in South Korea are planning a stronger presence in the world’s secondlargest film market.
CGV, for instance, South Korea’s largest multiplex chain affiliated to the CJ Group, will use its new technology ScreenX in China soon after its debut in the country.
The multi-projection system uses
The Chinese Film Festival in Seoul draws A-listers like Kwon Sang-woo (left) and Zhou Dongyu.