[EDITORIALS]How to Nurture a 'Seouliwood'Korean films have finally attracted more than 40 percent of moviegoers. According to the Korean Film Commission, 42.4 percent of cinema audiences viewed Korean movies from the beginning of this year until the end of May. Twenty-seven Korean films, including "Friends," attracted over 5.32 million viewers, a 10 percent jump from 32.2 percent of moviegoers recorded the same period last year. It is a bit too early to make a prediction of how long this increase will last, because American movies such as "Pearl Harbor" and 'Final Fantasy" are expected to attract large audiences this summer. Despite the upcoming competition, some observers think there is reason to believe that Korean films can retain that 40 percent market share for the year as a whole.
"Wonderful Days," an animated film, was imported by a Japanese distributer who paid $2.5 million for the rights there. "Friends," which attracted the largest number of viewers - over 8 million - in Korea, was also distributed abroad at a price of $2.1 million, the highest price ever for a non-animated Korean movie, hinting at a bright future of our cultural exports.
Korean movies occupied only 19 percent of the market in 1998, but during the last three years they drew more audiences because of increased numbers of multi-screen cinemas and favorable public opinion about new films spreading through the Internet. Such an improvement was possible because companies and individual investors changed their awareness of the returns possible from investments in movies. Furthermore, a sudden and sharp increase in the number of Korean moviegoers, most of them in their 20s, contributed greatly to the increased popularity of domestic films.
In order for the boom to continue, it is important to lay a firm foundation. As one movie hits the market, imitative films gush forth, and while it may be easy to make a movie, it is difficult to make a second one: About 80 percent of the new directors' debut films were also their last movie. Under the current circumstances, it is impossible to expect sustainable development in the movie industry. The Korean Film Commission should come up with measures to encourage screenplay writers and young directors and to provide tax benefits to some moviemakers. Korean movies have won some success in quantity. Now, it is time to make a leap for success in artistic quality.