HONG KONG — The South Korean box office is already certain of a record year and will this week pass the symbolic landmark of having sold 200 million tickets.

That is an average of 4.08 tickets for each of its 49 million inhabitants.

Data from the Korean Film Council (Kofic) showed that 199.6 million tickets had been sold by Monday (Dec 16), meaning that the 200 million mark is likely to be passed today or tomorrow.

The previous high point in the modern era came last year when attendance hit 195 million for the full 12 month period.

The Korean cinema industry has grown substantially in the past ten years in attendance and cash box office terms. In 2004 it sold 69 million tickets for a box office total of KRW441 trillion (worth $417 million at today’s exchange rates).

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” opened as the top film this weekend, despite a local revenue sharing dispute which deprived it of some theaters in Seoul. But, generally, local films have been stronger performers, and on Monday Korean human drama “Going Home” knocked “Smaug” from the top spot.

The Jan. 1 – Dec. 16 figures this year show a market share for Korean-produced films of 59% when measured by ticket sales and 58% when measured by box office.

In cash terms this year’s 50-week cumulative box office, at KRW1.452 trillion ($1.37 billion) still fractionally falls fractionally short of the full 2012 total of KRW1.455 trillion ($1.38 billion). But that figure is also certain to be surpassed in the next days.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, South Korea was last year the world’s eighth biggest theatrical market, ranking behind Germany and ahead of Russia.