The beginning of 2009 was another unsettling beginning for the Korean film industry, an unfortunate trend that troubled the industry since 2006. But the year proved to conquer this trend that seemed unrelenting. New filmmakers and independent films rose above the mainstream films and revealed their attractiveness; great amount of attention from overseas was brought upon by internationally acknowledged films such as Thirst and Mother; summer blockbuster film “Haeundae” attracted 10 million audience—a record not seen since 2006. Perhaps the list of big news is not enough to sum up in mere 10.
1. 1. “Haeundae”, a summer blockbuster that was praised for its enhanced CG features attracts 10 million audiences, which is a record that has not been seen since The Host in 2006.
2. 2. “Old Partner” and “Breathless” were two independent productions that attracted a huge crowd. Word of mouth gradually caught the attention of 3 million audience for “Old Partner”. “Breathless” had only about a third of what “Old Partner” gained for domestic audience numbers, but it received numerous awards and recognition from film festivals overseas. Like this, it was a very significant and hopeful year for the indie film community.
3. 3. “Thirst” wins jury prize at Cannes. This was his second award since his last in 2004 for “Old Boy”. Bong Joon-Ho’s “Mother” was also a selected film at Cannes. Like this, internationally acclaimed Korean directors continued to show their talents and ability to spread the capabilities of Korean cinema.
4. 4. Movie ticket prices was raised to 9000won, which was an increase that had happened after 8 years of no change. The raise obviously brought some complaints from the movie-goers, but it definitely helped the film industry.
5. 5. Renowned actress Jang Jin-Young passes away. She had been fighting stomach cancer until she passed away last September at age 37.
6. 6. Illegal downloading of “Haeundae” was caught in late August. This led to a serious awareness of illegal movie download online. This was not the first time that such act was brought to attention, but finally actors and filmmakers campaigned to reduce this illegal downloading and turn it into a legitimate “good conscience” of downloading.
7. 7. One of the biggest news this year was the marriage of Sul Kyung-Goo and Song Yoon-Ah, two big name actors in Korea. They worked on films together back in 2002 and 2006, and started dating in 2007, until they announced their marriage in May of 2009. Other celebrity romance stories followed: Jang Dong Gun and Go So-Young was another hot issue towards the end of the year. Fans are waiting for the day they announce their own marriage.
8. 8. Korean Film Stars breaking out in Hollywood – Lee Byung Hyun’s “GI Joe” was a fairly successful film not only in Hollywood but also overaseas. Rain’s Hollywood debut film, “Ninja Assassin” opened in theaters in November and successfully became top 5 film of box office. Jun Ji-Hyun, also goes by her westernized name “Jianna Jun”, starred in the film “Blood”, which was not as successful as the previously mentioned films, but reviews of her were superb.
9. 9. Korean Film Council director, Kang Han-Sup, resigns from position, after receiving the lowest reviews from the Public Institution of Management in June. After a two month long vacant office status, the executive director position was replaced in September by Jo Hee-Mun, a professor from In-Ha university.
10. 10. It was an exceptional year for comedy films in Korea, featuring films like “Scandal Makers” (8 million audiences), “My Girlfriend is an Agent (4 million audiences), and “Turtle Run” (3 million). Even major blockbusters such as “Haeundae” and “National Champions” had elements of comedy in their plot. In contrast, horror and thriller films experienced major box office flop, including “Yoga Class” and “Girls’ Highschool 5”.