[HOT ITEM]DVD Home Systems: The Joys of a Theater, Without the Long LinesKim Si-chul, 23, who majors in agricultural economics at Korea University, jokingly identifies himself as a typical cash-poor college student. Indeed, Mr. Kim, like so many college students in Korea, holds a part-time job (at McDonald's) and tutors high school students privately (in mathematics) to earn extra money.
And although he does not take his girlfriend to the movies, he insists that he is not a cheapskate. He just does not like to wait in long lines or to find that shows he wants to see are sold out. Besides, he recently splurged, plunking down 500,000 won ($380) on a DVD (digital versatile disk) player. It's the best-selling home appliance in Korea these days.
Mr. Kim thinks that his own "home theater system" is better than watching a film at a theater. He bought a DVD player for his personal computer at Yongsan electronics market. "The one thing I don't like about my own home theater system is that I can only see the movies on my desktop computer. I could not afford the one for the television," he said.
The price for DVD players made by local electronic companies such as Samsung and LG, are a bit too high for Mr. Kim. The least expensive is Samsung's, for 599,000 won, though you can find one in the United States for $200.
"Actually, our DVD player is quite popular, especially among young couples who are about to tie the knot," said Kim Ae-na, an assistant manager at Samsung Electronics.
Samsung released a DVD-VCR combination player last November which can play any type of software, including video tapes and music CDs, not to mention DVD titles. "We have been taking many orders from the United States," Ms. Kim added. And Samsung produced 100,000 of the combination players in the first half of this year alone.
According to Lee Jin-se, an assistant manager of public relations at LG Electronics, many movie buffs these days not only purchase a DVD player, but the whole home theater system: speakers, amplifiers and the DVD player. Systems from LG start at 1.2 million won.
For those who are interested in DVDs, but cannot afford to buy a system, the "DVD Room" has already begun popping up across Seoul. For 11,000 won, two people can watch a DVD movie in a private room with a built-in home theater.
Hong Mi-hee, a co-owner of Starmax DVD zone near Geonguk University in Seoul, said, "We have more than 160 regular customers coming on weekends, and other stores in Sinchon are even more prosperous."
There are 10 Starmax DVD stores already, and two others are scheduled to open within this month. DVD titles used to take a little longer to be leased than regular videotapes, but these days they are usually released at the same time.
DVDs offer the viewer much more than conventional videos. Mr. Kim, the agriculture student, said, "It gives you a whole new experience in watching a film. The sound system is much much better than videos." With a multitude of options, including bonus tracks, previews, alternative endings and interviews, a DVD can keep a movie fan enthralled for hours.
And for those who cannot speak the language, many Korean films released on DVD come with English subtitles, opening up a whole new world of cinema that used to be inaccessible.
by Chun Su-jin