In 2004, Korean cinema saw two films, Silmido and Taegukgi, pass the hitherounscaled 10 million admissions mark.

The industry also made key strides in its most importantoverseas market - Japan. However, moves by Korea's major studiosled to fears of a 'monopolistic' accumulation of power.

CJ Entertainment won a bitter struggle for exhibition chainPrimus Cinema, thereby gaining an undisputed power advantage over all itsrivals. Kang Woo-suk, CEO at Primus' former owner Cinema Service, said hecould be forced to give up distribution operations next year. Meanwhile, thevertically integrated Showbox, backed by major conglomerate the Orion Group,emerged as a major player.

Overheard this year

'Liking good-looking actors is not real culturalexchange.' Oldboy lead Choi Min-shik, on Korean pop culture'snew-found boom in Japan.

'Amonopoly is dangerous for any system, but its effect on a film industry is muchmore severe. Unlike other industries, film finance, production, distributionand exhibition are all strung into one line. The products that are made do notcirculate - their distribution is controlled. That's why a powerimbalance can have such a negative effect.' Lee Chang-dong, director and former Minister of Culture, onthe increasing power wielded by Korea's vertically integrated studios.

'I'm setting up an animal farm.' DirectorKim Ki-duk, after winning both a Silver Bear at Berlin for Samaritan Girl and a Silver Lion at Venice this year for 3-Iron.

Breakthrough talent

It hardly seems to matter that Bae Yong-joon, the star of UntoldScandal, is still completely unknownoutside of Asia. Given his explosive popularity in neighbouring Japan, wherehis nickname 'Yonsama' was voted Word Of The Year by a localmagazine - Bae looks assured of a long and prosperous career. In 2005, hestars in director Hur Jin-ho's anticipated drama Oechul.

Box office snapshot

Highest-grossing film: Taegukgi (Showbox) $64.8m

Highest-grossing arthouse film: Fahrenheit 9/11 (Studio Plus) $1.9m

Highest-grossing international film: Troy (Warner Bros) $20.4m