U ships war saga to Japan

'Tae guk gi' to make South Korean preem in 2004

It’s tough to pre-sell Korean films to Japan, but Universal Pictures has collared Nippon rights to Korean war drama “Tae guk gi.”

Two elements that made this pic highly marketable in that territory are director Kang JeGyu (whose previous effort “Shiri” grossed a healthy $16 million in Japan) and co-star Won Bin, who has a big following there.

Due to wrap in September, the film is due to preem in South Korea in early 2004. Title refers to the Korean national flag.

No price for the Japanese deal was disclosed but Bill Hwang, manager overseas marketing and distribution at KangJeGyu Films, tells Variety the minimum guarantee “is reflective” of the $12 million budget.

Hwang says Universal is making a substantial P&A commitment and he expects the film will be released next summer via UIP on at least 300 screens.

“It’s a new approach to sell Korean films (to Japan) at this early stage,” he says.

He says Universal has expressed interest in acquiring rights to other territories including some in Asian and Latin America. He’s showing the pic to Focus Features thisweek.

As a testimony to Won Bin’s popularity, some 600 members of his Japanese fan club are visiting the set of “Tae guk gi” this week.

Story centers on a guy who is forced to go on suicidal missions in order to earn the Medal of Honor so he can engineer the freedom of his brother, a reluctant conscript.

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