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2013 a record-breaking year for Korean cinema

Dec 30,2013
This year has been a record-shattering year at the Korean box office. According to the Korean Film Council, as of yesterday, Koreans had gone to the movies more than 210 million times in 2013, well ahead of last year’s 195 million.

That works out to 4.1 trips per person, one of the highest rates in the world - just behind the United States’ 4.3 but ahead of Britain’s 2.7 and Australia’s 3.8.

The significance of this growth was reflected by the number of Hollywood actors who made promo stops here, often making Seoul the only Asian spot on their tour.

Vin Diesel said during his visit for “Fast & Furious 6,” that Korea is a “very important film market in the world,” while Matt Damon said, “Everybody in America knows that it’s a huge market, and a growing market.”

Earning 634 billion won ($601.2 million), Hollywood had its second-best year ever in Korea (just behind the “Avatar”-powered 649 billion won in 2010).

But that paled before the successes local movies had this year. Korean films accounted for 59.5 percent of the box office in 2013, their second-best showing in the modern era, earning a record-smashing 894.5 billion won.

Out of the top 10 films of the year, eight were local films. Only “Iron Man 3” and “World War Z” made the top 10.

Here’s a look at the most successful films of 2013 in Korea:



Miracle in Cell No. 7 - 12.8 million admissions

The plot revolves around dim-witted father Lee Yong-gu (Ryu Seung-ryong) who is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Yong-gu’s five cellmates team up to help smuggle in his 6-year-old daughter Ye-sung (Kal So-won) in a heartwarming comedy that opened in January.



Snowpiercer - 9.3 million

Bong Joon-ho’s much-anticipated film “Snowpiercer” was a largely English-language film, starring the likes of Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans. But it was made squarely within the Korean film system and also featured Korea’s own Song Kang-ho and Go A-ra. It also did well in France, earning $5.3 million there. But a dispute with its distributor, Harvey Weinstein’s The Weinstein Company, over editing has delayed the movie’s North American rollout.



Face Reader - 9.1 million

Not long after “Snowpiercer,” Song Kang-ho also starred in “Face Reader,” a period drama that featured Lee Jung-jae, Baek Yoon-shik, Kim Hye-su and newbie Lee Jong-suk. It examined the notion of destiny and human existence in the royal court during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).



Iron Man 3 - 9.0 million

When Robert Downey Jr. visited Seoul, he said there may be a link between Koreans’ love of high-tech gadgets and the demand for Iron Man. Indeed, Korea seems to fall more in love with Iron Man each year - “Iron Man” pulled in 4.3 million admissions, “Iron Man 2” had 4.5 million and “The Avengers” received a whopping 7.1 million admissions.



The Berlin Files - 7.2 million

One of the first of several movies about spies this year, this Ha Jung-woo and Jeon Ji-hyun thriller was set in Berlin, of all places.

It was also by far the most successful movie by longtime action director Ryu Seung-wan.



Secretly, Greatly - 7.0 million

From the get-go, this film promised big things. Not only was it the screen adaptation of a popular web comic by the artist Hun, it also featured three heartthrobs: Kim Soo-hyun, Park Ki-woong and Lee Hyun-woo. The three played North Korean spies living undercover in the South.

Powered by the eager young fans of those stars, “Secretly, Greatly” jumped out to the biggest opening weekend ever and the fastest 4 million admissions of any movie in Korea.



Hide and Seek - 5.6 million

One of the scariest films of this year, “Hide and Seek” played on a simple fear: What if there was someone secretly living in your house? Directed by first-time filmmaker Huh Jung, it pulled in 1.35 million admissions in its opening weekend.



The Terror Live - 5.6 million

With a newbie director, Kim Byung-woo, just one major character and 96 percent of the film taking place in one location - at the desk of a news anchor - the success of “The Terror Live” surprised everyone. But when your lead is Ha Jung-woo, any film can be a hit.



Cold Eyes - 5.5 million

This action thriller with Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Sung-woo and Han Hyo-joo featured a fictional police squad called the Surveillance Team.



World War Z - 5.2 million

Although considered a disappointment in most of the world, the Brad Pitt vehicle “World War Z” was the second-biggest foreign film of 2013 in Korea.

By CARLA SUNWOO [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]





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