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History of Korean Movies print

The Korean Movie Industry has recently undergone a new renaissance of sorts. Scores of movies spill into theatres every month, of which moviegoers avidly support and spend their money on. Blockbuster movies such as 'Shiri,' 'JSA,' and 'Chingu' have heightened the interest in Korean cinema, and movie proceeds are mostly recycled into the movie industry, which in turn leads to the further development of the industry. The result has been an increasingly diverse arrangement of themes and genres. A lot of the credit really goes to the fans of Korean movies who have contributed greatly with their support of the non-Hollywood movies.

For the Korean movie industry to be where it is now, there is a long history that follows. The first time a movie was screened on the Korean peninsula was sometime during the early 1900s, and began with the showing of short film. Movie houses that sprang up showed these types of movies. Later, in the '50s and '60s, young film stars such as Shin Sungil and Um Aengran made a hit out of the movie 'Barefooted Youth' ('Maenbalui Cheongchun'). In the 1970s, with the advent of television, the Korean movie industry suffered a decline as in other parts of the world. Despite the hard times, movies portraying the love of young couples such as 'The Parade of Fools,' 'The Home of Stars,' and 'Winter Woman' still enjoyed explosive popularity. The 1980s brought about the revival of the industry, and the Korean cinema began to make a name for itself in international movie festival circuits. Director Im Gwontaek's film 'Ssibadi' won the best female actress award at the 44th Venezia Film Festival, while director Bae Yonggyoon won the best film award at the 42nd Locarno International Film Festival for his film 'The Reason why the Dalma Went East.' In the '90s, director Im Gwontaek made Korean cinematic history once again by winning the best director and best actress awards for his film 'Seopyeonje'at the 1st Shanghai International Film Festival.

With such rapid development of the film community, the area of Chungmuro also gained a certain amount of fame. Many film companies had their office in Chungmuro, and even now the name brings up visions of films and movie stars. Another place to note is the Jongno area, which is where most of the movie theatres were constructed during the '80s and '90s. Even now, theatres stretch all the way from Jongno 1-ga to Jongno 3-ga, including the Danseongsa (almost a sacred place for film lovers), Daehan Theater, Seoul Theater, Hollywood Theater, and more. Recently, many of the historical theaters such as Danseongs and Daehan Theater have been renovated into modern multiplex theaters.

After the '90s, Korean films improved drastically in terms of quality, and began to produce a string of box office hits. Beginning with 1996's,'The Ginkgo Bed,' successive blockbusters have included 'Shiri'(1999), 'JSA'(2000), 'My Sassy Girl'(2001), 'My Wife is a Ganster'(2001), 'Chingu'(2002),'The Way Home'(2002), and 'Memory of Murder'(2003). The theme of movies, which was once limited to sweet love stories, has diversified to include movies about organized crime, North and South Korea's political problems, and the life of a master artist. The latest trend in the industry has been to produce romantic comedies for the consumption of the young, but the production of Hollywood style sci-fi and blockbuster films continues as well.

Something else the Korean film community can be proud of is the successful hosting of major film festivals. The 'Busan International Film Festival' seeks to act as a bridge between the audience and film makers, the 'Jeonju International Film Festival' centers on the development of digital films, and the 'PiFan, Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival' deals with fantastic films as its subject. Each has made a name for itself as a unique, colorful opportunity for experiencing cinema in a different light.

* The pictures above are provided by the Jeju Sinyoung Movie Museum

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