Getting it together

Korea pacts with Hong Kong, Japan with TV drama

SEOUL — The co-production fad in the Asian film industry has spread to television drama, boosted by the popularity of Korean culture in its neighboring countries.

Korea has signed a number of joint drama deals with Hong Kong and Japan, and many expect this cooperation to expand as the cross-cultural markets get established.

Korean broadcaster SBS has pacted with Jettone Films, helmer Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong-based film and drama distributor, for a 100-part series, splitting production costs evenly.

“She 2002” will feature Asian women’s lives and will be directed by Wong, who has made internationally recognized films including “Chungking Express” and “Happy Together.”

The drama will be produced in Korean and Chinese lingos with a cast from Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan.

A budget for the series has yet to be finalized, but the copyright and profits of the Korean-dubbed program will belong to SBS, while the Chinese version will belong to Jettone Films. If the programs are televised in a third country, the two will share the revenues 50-50.

MBC, another major television producer, will start filming four episodes of a drama called “Friends” next month with Japanese broadcaster TBS. MBC plans to kick in $300,000 against TBS’s more substantial $2.2 million.

MBC is also in discussions with Japan’s Fuji Television Network about jointly making a film, documentary, variety show and drama. If everything goes as planned, these programs will be aired in the first half of 2002.

Again, the two sides will get the profits earned from the works in their own countries, while the revenues from third-party countries will be distributed according to the proportion of the investment.

“The joint production will help our drama industry grow as well as serve as international marketing for existing Korean television dramas,” says Jong-su Lee, director of drama at SBS.

“The overseas joint production will help set up a stable market and diversify financial risks,” says Jae-bok Park, director of the film business department of MBC.

Korean cultural products began attracting international attention in the late 1990s, when TV dramas found foreign markets.

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