South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun fears sounding preachy even as he explains how their film industry addresses other issues besides the political differences between North and South Korea.
Shedding light on the fact that South Korean projects are more in number and that they now boast of high production values, original storylines and attractive actors, Dong-gun says, “It’s actually North Korea that doesn't have much of a film industry. Our cinema is internationally acclaimed. Many South Korean productions are more popular than Hollywood films.”
The 38-year-old recently starred in a Hollywood film
The Warrior’s Way
, which released in the USA on December 3. In it, Dong-gun has portrayed the role of Yang, the world’s greatest swordsman who belongs to a clan called Sad Flute. The film is about Yang’s journey and his discovery of others’ crises.
Regardless of whether the film does well commercially, Dong-gun doesn’t want to quit Korean cinema and join Hollywood. “Not at all! I love my country and won’t leave it for any success,” he says.
Dong-gun believes that South Korea is one of the few countries where Hollywood productions don’t enjoy a dominant share of the domestic market. He attributes this partly to a government norm, which requires Korean films to be screened at least 73 days a year.
“A 1999 film called Shiri surpassed box-office hits such as
The Phantom Menace
that released in the same year.Another romantic comedy did better than
. Things are looking up, and American production houses are now buying rights of Korean films!” he says.
In fact, Dong-gun states that Korean cinema is now as original as French and American cinema. “There’s a new tribe of filmmakers driving the industry in a new direction. World cinema is not out of reach of any director or actor,” he says.
While they do face budget constraints, the good part is that the Korean audience doesn’t draw a divide between parallel and mainstream cinema.
“Budget might be a factor for us to employ that edge over Hollywood films but we are doing well enough. There isn’t a boundary, and the audience is more open towards experimental cinema,” he adds.
(See how the film fared among International critics in our Hollywood Review section)