Bong Joon-ho, helmer
In Korea, Bong Joon-ho is recognized as a filmmaker of the highest order, despite having released only two features. He is particularly noted for adopting genre films and pushing them in new thematic and aesthetic directions.
“Memories of Murder” (2003), based on a real-life serial murder probe from the 1980s, earned some of the highest viewer ratings of the decade, and went on to earn $26.6 million at the Korean box office.
Internationally, it took home three prizes from the San Sebastian Film Festival and performed respectably in commercial releases in France and Spain.
His third film, “The Host,” is likely to propel him to even wider international attention.
Pic is a self-described “creature movie” about a truck-sized monster that crawls out of Seoul’s Han River and starts to unleash carnage.
Featuring digital effects by San Francisco-based the Orphanage, the film displays a sharp political edge and a narrative filled with humor and spectacle.
A local release is scheduled for July 7, with the film’s marketing campaign largely centering on the director himself.
Goh Yoon-hee, scripter
The most widely noticed screenwriting debut of recent years has to be “Rules of Dating” by Goh Yoon-hee.
A controversial look at the line between dating and sexual harassment, this Sidus FNH film was praised for sharp dialogue and Goh’s willingness to explore moral gray areas.
The film was named the best of 2005 by the Busan Film Critics Assn., and also picked up a best screenplay award from the Blue Dragon Awards.
Having majored in psychology, the 32-year-old Goh worked for four years as a scribe on a film-themed TV program before entering a screenwriting school.
In 2003, she won first prize in a Korean Film Council-sponsored screen-play contest for the script that would eventually become “Rules of Dating.”
Goh has been contracted to write her first TV drama for MBC, while “Eokkae Neomeo-ui yeonin” — a Sidus FNH/Fuji TV co-production by director Lee Eon-hee that she revised in 2005 — is in production.
Lee Byung-hun, thesp
The 36-year-old Lee Byung-hun has been a hit in South Korea since his TV debut in 1991, and he is now one of the country’s most marketable stars.
Best known internationally for his role in Park Chan-wook’s “JSA” (2000) and Kim Jee-woon’s “A Bittersweet Life,” Lee has continued to divide his time between film and TV, even before it became trendy to do so.
He is the only Korean in the top 10 of a recent poll by broadcaster NHK of Japanese Web users’ favorite world stars. Even more surprising, three of Lee’s films — “JSA,” “A Bittersweet Life” and Kim Dae-seung’s “Bungee Jumping of Their Own” — placed among respondents’ 10 favorite films of all time. For the coming year, Lee will appear in romance “A Tale of Summer.”
Chung Tae-won, producer and CEO,Taewon Entertainment
To label Chung Tae-won as “up and coming” may seem a misnomer. The man who bought “The Lord of the Rings” for Korea and produced local hits “Marrying the Mafia” and “Marrying the Mafia 2” is a central player in the industry.
As the Korean biz becomes more internationalized, Chung’s extensive contacts in Hollywood mean he could greatly expand his power and influence. In 2005, he became the first Korean producer to ink a major co-financing deal with a Hollywood studio when New Line Cinema contributed coin to the $6 million martial arts fantasy “Shadowless Sword.”
Chung was also active on the business front, buying leading DVD producer Spectrum and merging it with his own company, which also encompasses a talent management division.
In April, his company’s “Now and Forever,” starring popular actress Choi Ji-woo, opened on 275 screens in Japan, a new record for a Korean film. Although the pic was a B.O. disappointment in Korea, a $3.5 million pre-sale to Japan exceeded its $3.3 million budget.
Chung has reportedly also boarded a major Asian co-production based on the classic Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”
Lee Seung-jae, financier/producer, Prime Entertainment
The biggest wild card in the Korean film industry is Prime Entertainment, a new division of the massive Prime conglom, which has a strong presence in the construction, IT and finance sectors.
One of the most influential voices at the deep-pocketed company is likely to be Lee Seung-jae, whose shingle LJ Film was bought and merged into Prime earlier this year.
The news followed an acrimonious breakup in late 2005 between LJ Film and leading distrib CJ Entertainment, which had been partnering on projects aimed at the international market. Although the breakup initially seemed to push Lee’s career into free fall, the deal with Prime will give him clout in the industry.
Lee will make the big decisions on investment while Shin Sang-han — formerly of CJ — oversees distribution and international sales.
In April, Lee scored a coup by pacting with Focus Features to co-produce the $20 million-plus “Julia Project.” The pic is skedded for a 2007 release.