Tag Archive | "film"

The Secrets to Success for Marvel Movies in South Korea

By Yeonsu Kim

When Avengers: Infinity War was released in South Korea on April 25, 980,676 people watched it just on the first day, a record high among Marvel movies. The movie marks the 10th anniversary since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) released Iron Man, the first in the Marvel superhero series, and clearly shows how famous the MCU movies have become among Korean audiences. MCU so far includes 18 movies, and 13 of them appear on the list of all-time highest-grossing films at the Korean box office list; Avengers: Infinity War at 14, Age of Ultron at 17, Iron Man 3 at 23 and Captain America: Civil War at 24.

The reason why most MCU movies were able to succeed in the Korean movie market is that people obviously love the characters and the stunning visuals. But, to explain more about some factors which made Marvel movies so famous in South Korea, I want to address two main reasons: marketing strategies and lessons from the movies.

The MCU actively tries to promote and maintain a favorable public opinion in South Korea. First of all, it is easy to see the slogan “First Release in Korea” or “Faster Premiere in Korea” on the movie posters. All the Marvel movies except Captain America: The First Avenger and Ant-Man were released in Korea before the United States. Avengers: Infinity War, for example, was released a week earlier. Over time, the number of people watching Marvel movies on their first day has increased as well.

According to Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, the core reason for the early premieres in Korea is that South Korea has been an indicator of success. An aide who worked on Marvel movies told Chosun Ilbo that success in Korea can bring word of mouth that turns movies into hits in other Asian countries. Moreover, many actors of Marvel movies have visited South Korea personally to promote their movies, including Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Holland. In February 2018, South Korea was selected to be the first host country for the International Press Tour of the first Marvel movie of 2018, Black Panther. Likewise, some recent movies including Spiderman Homecoming (July 5, 2017), Black Panther (Feb. 14, 2018), and Avengers: Infinity War (April 25, 2018) held their Asia Promotion Event in South Korea. Furthermore, the MCU has shown their appreciation for Korean audiences by filming parts of their movies in South Korea, including scenes shot in Busan and on the Han River in Black Panther and Avengers: Age of Ultron, respectively. The Korea Tourism Organization made an agreement to improve the relationship between Korea and Marvel in 2014 after the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. These types of special events and extra attention have helped boost the popularity of Marvel movies among an already eager Korean audience.

Second, Marvel movies present various life lessons for audiences to contemplate under the main theme of defeating villains who don’t care about the value of individual life. For example, the first Marvel movie, Iron Man, showed Tony Stark’s change from an arrogant and rich guy to a new man who seeks peace in the world. Through his change, the movie addressed the importance of altruism and courage rather than egotism. Likewise, every other movie contains lessons for audiences. Captain America: Civil War laid out a philosophical debate in the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, asking which virtue should be more valued between free will and responsibility. Captain America focused more on free will as he tried to protect his friend, Bucky, who had been brainwashed to assassinate innocent people. In contrast, Iron Man thought that Bucky has to take responsibility for his behavior regardless of whether it is his own will. Both virtues are important, and the movie provides a good opportunity to spend time debating and creating our own thought and logic.

To take another example, let’s look at Black Panther. The reason why the movie Black Panther is meaningful is that Black Panther is the first black hero in the MCU. Black Panther depicts the unknown country “Wakanda” which is fictional Sub-Saharan African nation. People in the movie recognize Wakanda as impoverished country, but actually it has tons of vibranium which is the strongest element in the universe according to the MCU stories. The reason why the king of Wakanda hides this fact and their high technological capability to the world is to protect their citizens from the outside world. However, in the movie, T’Challa decides to reveal their true strength and share the resources which they have to the other countries in need. This movie clearly shows MCU’s respect toward the value of ethnic and cultural diversity, and at the same time depicts some interesting lessons of diplomacy and international relations. With this point of view, Marvel announced a plan to make more diverse heroes, possibly including an Asian hero. C.B. Cebulski, editor for Marvel Comics, even mentioned his idea to produce some Korean heroes for upcoming movies.

The MCU has succeeded in Korea, with movies earning a combined $600 million there. This amount makes up 6.8% of the MCU’s total foreign revenue. Korean ticket sales for Civil War, for example, totaled 8% of the movie’s total foreign revenue of more than $700 million. It already has been 10 years and MCU has released 19 movies to make a whole series of heroes that have captured the attention of Korean audiences. With more stories yet to come, including a possible Korean hero to add to the MCU, Marvel’s popularity in Korea may continue to grow.

Yeonsu Kim is a student of Sogang University in South Korea, majoring in Economics. She was an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America as part of the Asan Academy Fellowship Program. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.

Photo by yooina37 on Naver Blog (CCL).

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Netflix’s Korean Premiere Met with Controversy

By James Do

With the success of Korean popular culture reaching many countries around the world, especially Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, video streaming service Netflix is trying to capitalize on the success of Korean entertainment. By riding on the popularity of its original content (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black) and incorporating Korean media into their library, Netflix is now in a prime position gain a market share in the entertainment industry in Korea.

Since Netflix expanded its service globally, the company began to offer more Korean movies and television shows onto its streaming library. Many of its programs tend to be more recent releases such as the movie Tunnel or Train to Busan, which both premiered in Korean cinemas in 2016. The company has also picked up several Korean television shows including The Sound of your Heart and My Only Love Song. In addition, many older famous Korean movies and television shows such as Assassination, Old Boy, and Descendants of the Sun are currently available to watch. In fact, Netflix now offers more Korean movies or television shows than Japanese or Chinese content.

We can see this trend continuing with Netflix’s investment into its upcoming film, Okja. Directed by the renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snow-piercer), Okja serves as Netflix’s official entry into the Korean entertainment market. Okja is a movie about a young country girl, Mija, (Ahn Seo-hyun) who stops at nothing to defend her newfound friend, Okja, a pig-like animal genetically created to be used for human consumption. During her adventure to save her beloved friend, she takes on an evil corporation led by a powerful CEO (Tilda Swinton) who seeks nothing but to profit from Okja and her species. Mija befriends animal rights activists (Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Lily Collins) who assist her in her quest to save Okja.

While the plot of the movie evokes a sense of adventure, the film itself is without controversy. Netflix recently announced that the film would be released both in theaters and online in Korea, a first for the company, which has never pushed to have their own content released through cinema or television broadcasting. After the announcement, major Korean theater chains opposed Netflix’s plan to release the movie simultaneously, as movies there are typically screened in theaters and made available online after a few weeks. CGV, Korea’s largest cinema chain, refused to screen the film, while Megabox and Lotte Cinema are still debating.

Bong Joon-ho, Okja’s director, explained that while trying to cater to its subscription base, Netflix went against the existing norms and systems of the existing Korean film industry. However, although the film remained controversial to big theater outlets, many independent theaters agreed to premier Okja.

In addition to Netflix’s controversial role in the Korean film industry, the film also garnered attention at the Cannes Film Festival. While the film was invited to be premiered at the festival, it was omitted from award consideration, since the movie was not planned for theatrical released in France – a rule that was introduced after the lineup for this year’s festival was settled. Bong stated “[The festival] invited us and then caused a stir, making us embarrassed. They should have put the rules in place and then invited us. How can I as a filmmaker study local French laws while making films?”

With all the controversies over Okja, what will the future of Netflix and the Korean film industry be? The popularity of Korean entertainment globally has influenced Netflix to ride the Korean wave by entering a market that continues to grow immensely not just in Korea but abroad. As Netflix hopes to increase its user base, it’s possible the company will seek to invest in other films and television programs in countries where online streaming remains popular.

 With streaming becoming ubiquitous among younger generations, film industries must change their business model to incorporate more recent trends. The way we watch and engage in film and televisions has already immensely changed from the previous decade. To meet the needs of contemporary times, companies and organizations need to develop an environment where filmmakers are motivated but also given more recent standards of support. With its innovative model of simultaneous physical and online premieres, Netflix is at the forefront of these changing times. Now it is up to the film industry and its community to change their policies to reflect current digital trends.

James Do is a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy focusing on International Security Studies and Pacific Asia and an intern at the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from TFurban’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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5 Interesting Documentaries about South Korea

By Jenna Gibson

Historically, local documentaries have not been that popular in South Korea – the first commercially successful documentary in the country was 2008’s “Old Partner,” which shattered domestic records just by attracting 100,000 viewers in the first few weeks after its release. Since then, more independent films have begun to crop up, telling real-life stories about different aspects of Korea. The five films below represent some of those stories.

1. Twinsters (2015)

Imagine waking up one day after living 25 years as an only child and finding out that you have an identical twin. This scenario is not just for dramatic soap operas – it really happened to two Korean adoptees. Twinsters follows Samantha Futerman, who grew up in the United States, and Anais Bordier, who grew up in France, as they get to know the twin they never knew they had. While this film is about the two women and their growing relationship, it also touches on broader themes related to international adoption and what culture and heritage means for these adoptees as they get older.

Available for streaming on Netflix.

 2. Reach for the Sky (2015)

The hyper-competitive Korean education system is not a new subject, but Reach for the Sky approaches it from a somewhat new angle – Repeaters. These students choose to spend a full year after their high school graduation focused only on improving their college entrance exam score with the hopes of getting into a better university. The film follows a group of these students throughout their repeating year, telling through them the story of a society where the name of your university can determine the course of your life.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) here: http://reachfortheskydoc.com/#

3. My Love, Don’t Cross that River (2014)

 This touching film about an elderly couple and their 76-year marriage was a smash success, becoming the most commercially successful independent film in Korea’s history. Slow-moving but never dull, the film lets the couple’s love speak for itself – like when 98-year-old Jo Byeong-man throws leaves on his wife while raking their yard, her exasperated response indicating that this has happened many times before. In this way, the film successfully portrays themes of love, family, and endurance without any need for narration or explanation.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) through Amazon Video.

4. The Battle of Chosin (2016)

This PBS special retells the pivotal Korean War battle of the Chosin Reservoir through the eyes of troops who fought there in 1950. Often known as the “Forgotten War,” the experiences during the Korean War nevertheless played a key role in shaping how Americans approached the world for the next 50 years. This film helps put the Chosin battle, and the experiences of the soldiers who fought there, into this wider perspective.

Available on the PBS website.

5. Even the Rivers (2015)

A brief but helpful introduction into some of the challenges faced by multicultural children in South Korea. Based on interviews with students, parents and teachers, this film touches on the ways Korea has become more multicultural, and what that means for the children who are growing up and going to school in a country that was, until very recently, entirely homogeneous.

Available to watch free on Vimeo – information on the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eventherivers/

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image from Epping Forest DC’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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5 Questions with Daniel Dae Kim

At Korean American Day on January 13, the Korea Economic Institute had the opportunity of catching up with legendary actor Daniel Dae Kim for a conversation about his career, interests, and life as a Korean-American.

The conversation was originally recorded as a podcast (which you can download from our Korean Kontext podcast page) , but we now provide five of the best questions for our blog readers:

1.What was it that made you change your career path from law to acting during your university days?

DDK: For me, when I was going through college, there was a lot of tension between what I felt I should do and what I really wanted to do. It was unfortunate that the thing I wanted to do didn’t fall in line with what was expected of me. As much as I do love politics and government, the thing that I felt that my heart led me to was acting, and so that’s why I changed course.

2. Ronald Reagan once said, “How can a president not be an actor?” What do you think of Obama in terms of acting?

DDK: I think there is a great value to being an orator, a really good orator. I think President Obama is exceptionally good at speechmaking. I think he has a way of connecting to his audience without sounding like he is feeding you B.S., and that is a very important part of the job. When you have someone who is not as strong in that department, I’ve got to admit, I trust that person less or I feel less sure of his capabilities. That is definitely part of it. I think Ronald Reagan was onto something with that statement.

3. As a Korean-American, have you ever had any difficulty balancing your identity between Korea and America?

DDK: I think it is fluid. Throughout my life, there were stages at which I felt, or wished, I was more “American,” even though as Korean-American I am fully American. There were other times when I fully embraced my Korean heritage. It is a question to which the answer is ever evolving for me, but I am happy to say that I feel like I’ve found a nice balance. The older I get and the more sure of who I am I get,  the easier it gets.

But there have been moments where I have felt like I am a person without a country – I am not 100% accepted in America, I am not 100% accepted in Korea – those are the down days. However, usually I really feel lucky to have two cultures in my daily experience. To be able to say that I understand something specific about America that maybe a typical “American” wouldn’t is, I think, a real blessing. I have a perspective on Korea now, as an American, which I think is unique.  So, more of the time, I feel like I am privy to two societies as opposed to master of none.

4. What are some examples of the work that you do in areas outside of acting that perhaps your average American might not be familiar with, and of that, what are you most proud of?

DDK: That’s a really good question.  I’m involved with various charitable organizations, in Hawaii and nationally, and I’m proud of the work I do with them. More recently I’m proud of, gosh, if I can even say proud…I really think, more, the appropriate way of putting it is I am honored to be a spokesperson for organizations like KEI or KACF. I think they are really a large part of what I can offer back to the community – not just the Korean community, but the American community in general. I’m hopeful that I am able to do more of that.

5. Do you think it is important for celebrities to be involved in politics? With your education and experience as an actor, is it important and useful to express your opinion to fans?

DDK: I think that’s a great question because it is one that I am asking myself a lot these days. It’s a fine line, isn’t it? You’re in a position, as an actor, to be able to speak to thousands of people, so why shouldn’t you voice your opinion as a citizen? At the same time, the pitfalls and traps are that you become “just another  dilettante  actor” who has an opinion about something but is out of touch with the world – that’s the cliché, isn’t it? So, you know, I walk that tightrope, and I do have very strong political convictions but I very rarely voice them on Twitter because I feel like that’s not necessarily why people follow me. If they wanted to get political advice, they would follow the pundits who are out there, and they are a dime a dozen. At the same time, if I do feel strongly about something, it’s part of who I am, as a human being, as a citizen of America. So, I think that it does have a place for everyone. If the average person had a Twitter account, they could talk about it, so why should I be limited by what I do?

— To listen to the full podcast and find out about other episodes, make sure you visit the Korean Kontext Podbean page. —

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.