Hollywood recycling Korean box office hitsKorean films have in recent years been favored for remakes by foreign producers. Since 2001, copyrights of more than 20 Korean films have been sold abroad (whereas such cases were rare before then).
So far, three movies have been made over for non-Korean audiences, and two returned to Korea this month with noticeable changes from the original plots Korean moviegoers were familiar with.
First was a Thai remake called “The Letter,” based on a 1997 tear-jerker of the same name (“Pyeonji” in Korean) directed by Lee Jeong-kuk. The second remake heading to local theaters this week is a Hollywood romance called “The Lake House,” an adaptation of director Lee Hyun-seung’s “Il Mare (“Siworae” in Korean).”
Directed by Phaoon Chandrasiri, “The Letter,” which opened in theaters earlier this month, basically follows the storyline of the original hit, in which Park Sin-yang and Choi Jin-sil played a newly married celebrity couple.
Like the Korean movie, the Thai version unfolds the heartbreaking tale of a young husband’s sudden death and the series of love letters he leaves behind, for his wife to find and read after his death. The most striking difference is that Ann Thongprasom, a model-turned-actress, plays a professional computer programmer in the film instead of the innocent housewife played by Choi Jin-sil.
The film topped the Thai box office when it opened there two years ago. Tissues were reportedly handed out in front of cinemas in anticipation of the audiences’ reactions to the final scenes.
First released in the Philippines, then in the United States and Canada in June 2006, “The Lake House” tried to give the Asian phantasmal work an American twist by reuniting the leads Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock and locating them in the middle of Chicago instead of an island off the west coast of Korea.
Reeves replaced Lee Jeong-jae while Bullock replaced Jeon Ji-hyun, who presented an innocent girly image in the 2000 original, when she was only 19.
The American version centers around Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock), who reluctantly leaves the beautiful lake house she has been living in for a job in a Chicago hospital. In the Korean version, Eun-ju (Jeon Ji-hyun) moves from a house by the sea to work as a voice actor in Seoul.
Both Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) and Sung-hyun (Lee Jeong-jae) are new tenants in the house and are puzzled that the two women left letters that seem to be dated two years later. They find out they are separated in time by two years: Alex is in 2004 and Kate in 2006, while Sung-hyun is living in 1998 and Eun-joo in 2000.
The story builds up similarly in both versions as the two continue to correspond through the mailbox at the house and find themselves falling in love.
The major difference between the two films is that the American producers chose to give their movie a happy ending while the Korean original was sad, emphasizing the darkness and lament the couple felt because they were never meant to meet.
by Lee Min-a
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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