They gave us Directors, they gave us Actors, now the Korean Cultural Centre in London will be bringing the UK public some key characters of the Korean film industry, those working in the background to make our favourite Korean films the masterpieces that we know and love. This is the third and last year of the very popular and successful Korean Film Nights project in London and this year’s programme will be focusing on Screenplay, Music, Cinematography and Production Design; the four critical elements of film-making. This will be a brilliant year where UK Korean film fans can delve deep into the industry and really gets to know the workings of Korean cinema. Each quarter will see 4-6 film screenings, accumulating to a Q&A that will be attended by one of Korea’s top industry professional, the often forgotten heroes behind the screen.
Kick starting this year’s programme was the Screenwriter turned Director, Park Hoon-jung. You may have witnessed Park Hoon-jung’s work as a screenwriter in The Unjust and I Saw the Devil (one of our favourite films). In 2011 Park directed his first big screen film, The Showdown, followed by his latest film New World (신세게) starring Lee Jung Jae, Choi Min Sik and Hwang Jung Min. If you are a lover of thrillers and violent films, Park is definitely one to watch out for!
Park is known for his keen knowledge of thrillers as displayed in his selection of films which cover all the main concepts of the genre: revenge, period piece, police vs gangsters underworld and the shady prosecutors officer; Park knows how to create a good thriller! With his début screenplay I Saw the Devil, which became popular domestically and internationally, many see him as the man who brought back “Asian Extreme” before everything got a bit too romcom. But it’s not just all mindless blood and guts, many of Park’s film are written with great heart and questions today’s society, its morals and the ethical ambiguities we face.
Every human being is political I believe. There aren’t too many films still that continue to explore power issues, and I remain interested in the topic and continue to choose films that examine this. If we have to give a genre category to the contemporary world, I would consider it as epic noir. Essentially I want to tell stories about gangsters doing politics while wearing ties.
~ Park Hoon-jung, Interviewed by Kim Gyu-han 2013
We went along to the special round table interview with fellow bloggers and film fanatics and we were curious to hear how Park Hoon-jung manage to have such a small but seriously impressive Filmography! During the interview Park may have been a little on the nervous side at first with fidgety hands. After a few questions however, he began to open up and get more comfortable, cracking jokes every now and then showing his sense of humour. When asked should we be worried if we meet him on a lonely dark winters night? Park laughed it off and answered with a “I am a very normal person, you shouldn’t get worried or scared whether you meet me in at night or during the day“.
As the interview goes on we learn just how talented a man Park is, I Saw the Devil was one of his very first screenplays and with no film training, it’s quite an impressive début! And how did he do it? “Everything I know about directing I learnt from watching many, many movies“. What’s more, when asked how his initial discussions with directors Kim Jee-woon and Ryoo Seung-wan went, he answered “My screenplays were hardly changed in either case, so what you see in the films is basically what I wrote”. His screenplays are so well written that directors don’t feel the need to change anything. The only amendments that were made were during production, for example when Choi Min-sik was cast instead of a younger man, Park slightly changed the script to cater to Choi Min-sik so the dialogue became more natural to his persona. The effort and attention Park puts into his screenplays are great and it is written into his contracts that he is to be involved in castings so he can ensure the idea and story behind his screenplays are executed correctly.
There is a Korean saying that states if you don’t know much you are very bold and brave. I think that saying relates to me greatly – Park Hoon-jung
Park has a genuine love for film and screen writing and although he has gained much more attention since directing, he is still very humble about his work and knows that there is still a lot to learn. As he gets more director chair opportunities, he uses these experience to help him when writing scripts: “now it takes a far longer amount of time for me to write because I’m visualising what will be difficult or easy to portray“. Park is also not a diva, he is a man who thinks greatly about things such as budgets and puts a positive spin on what others would see as a constraint: “In terms of budget limits, I feel the constraints are a positive thing and force me to think of ways to portray scenes with a lower budget and I honestly think that’s a good thing.” One of the reasons as to why he chose The Showdown as his directorial début was because historical films have become films of lavish sets and costumes, but Park wanted the audience to focus on the mystery and the characters hence he directed it himself with a much lower budget. Park also said he had actually written the screenplay for The Showdown before his other film screenplays and he always had the intention of directing it himself. You can read the full round-table interview with Park Hoon-jung over at Hangul Celluloid.
The UK Korean Cultural Centre has worked extra hard for the last three years to get the UK public excited about Korean cinema and we’re very excited about this year’s programme. Each year we’ve been given the chance to talk to many people in the film industry from Actors, Actresses to directors and now folks behind the scene which otherwise will be completely unattainable for us. So if you’re a film fan, make sure you check out the Korean Cultural Centre for FREE film screenings and the very rare opportunity to talk to Korean film professionals. Park Hoon-jung was the first guest but don’t worry if you missed out, there are 3 more special guests this year along with many more Korean film nights at the good ol’ KCCUK.
2014 Year of the Film Professionals
FEB – MAR : Park Hoon-jung, Screenwriting
APR – JUN : Chung Chung-hoon, Cinematography
JUL – SEP : Cho Yeong-wook, Film Music
OCT – DEC : Ryu Sung hee, Production Design
This season brings us Chung Chung-hoon who has been called one of – not just Korea’s but the worlds most inventive cinematographers. Now that’s quite an introduction!!! Films in his rather impressive repertoire include Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), Antarctic Journal (2005), I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK(2006), Stoker (2013), Blades of Blood (2010) and Thirst (2003), all of which will be screened at the Korean Cultural Centre before a very special Q&A session with Chung Chung-hoon where you can ask him any question you want, so don’t miss out!
For all information on Film Screenings, check out the UK Korean Cultural Centre website here: www.kccuk.org.uk