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2 Koreas resume cooperation in films

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A scene from 2005 animated film
A scene from 2005 animated film "Empress Chung" / Courtesy of KOAA Films

NK actors may come to South for film fest

By Park Jin-hai

In October, a local film festival may feature North Korean actors and directors.

Following the historic inter Korean Summit last month, where the amicable atmosphere between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un surprised many and spawned hope for improved cross-border relations, the government is pushing ahead with more cultural exchanges with Pyongyang.

The film industry is one of the fields where the two Koreas are poised to work together.

"We are planning to invite North Korean people in the film industry to Busan International Film Festival," a culture ministry official said. "It will be pursued as a package deal, where people from the South Korean film industry participate in the upcoming Pyongyang International Film Festival in September and those from the North come to Busan in return the following month."

Riding on the inter-Korean thaw, the local film industry is making headways in inter-Korean cultural and sports exchanges in the wake of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.


A local film production company is also planning to produce a film with North Korean actors. Jupiter Film, a Seoul-based film production company that produced hit films "The Face Reader" and "The Princess and the Matchmaker," is preparing for a joint South-North Korean film project titled "Homework."

The feature film is a drama telling the story of a South Korean child who happens to find the homework of a North Korean child and completes it for the North Korean friend.

"This scenario has already been out since three years ago, but then the relations between the two Koreas didn't permit its production," an official of the company said. It aims to shoot the film on locations in North Korea and even hire North Korean actors.

"Before the inter-Korean relations became strained in the mid-2000s, there was some content shot in North Korea. So we think our film production with North Korean actors shot in the North Korean territory can get the green light, only if it is well-coordinated," the official said. It aims to start shooting the film in the latter half of this year.
After the historic 2000 inter-Korean summit between the late leaders Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, South-North trade increased. In 1998, Mount Geumgang of North Korea was opened to South Korean tourists, and in 2003, the Gaeseong Industrial Complex was established to allow South Korean businesses to operate factories in the North and take advantage of cheap North Korean labor.

Under this amicable mood, the comedy film "A Bold Family" was permitted to shoot in locations in North Korea in 2005. The Nelson Shin-directed animated film "Empress Chung," based on a famous Korean folk tale about a girl sacrificing herself to restore her blind father's eyesight, was also produced in North and South Korea, becoming the first film to have been released simultaneously in both North and South Korea the same year.

However, the two Koreas' relationship went sour in 2006 after the North resumed missile and nuclear test.

Among the joint venture between the two Koreas, the most successful one is the animated TV series "Pororo the Little Penguin." Created by Iconix Entertainment, SK Broadband, Ocon and Channel One with the North Korean company Samcholli in Gaeseong, its production began in 2002 and the program began airing in South Korea in 2003. Although the animated series wasn't aired on North Korean TV, its characters have been spotted on Korean Central Television being used in the North's childcare facilities.


Park Jin-hai jinhai@koreatimes.co.kr


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