For years the southern South Korean cityof Busan (also spelt "Pusan")was known as something of a cultural backwater, more so when compared to its biggermetropolitan rival Seoul.

Then five years ago director KT Kwak shot his 1980s-set feature Friend back in his hometown, taking advantage of its distinctive characteristicssuch as the old-time fish markets, railroad tracks and seawall.

Friend proved a hit at home but, perhapsmore importantly showcased South Korea's second city to strong effect. Since thenthe local industry has flocked to take advantage of the port city's bonuses, includingcomparatively warmer climate and proximity to sea and mountains.

Support from business and all levelsof government and the Busan Film Commission - establishedin 1999 after the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF)repeatedly attracted foreign film professionals - have also helped, shepherdingthe growing production hub towards one goal: becoming the centre for film-makingand visual media in Asia.

Foreign shoots such as Claire Denis'The Intruder and Korea-Japan co-productionOne Missed Call 3 may have taken advantageof the city's services, adding to the growth in international shoots, but theyare far outnumbered by homegrown films.

The coming quarter sees Park Chan-wook - best known for his Vengeance trilogy - coming to thecity for I'm A Cyborg,But That's Okay. Pop star Rain (aka Jung Ji-hoon) and ingenue Im Soo-jung (A Tale of Two Sisters) star in the romantic comedy about a delusionalgirl who thinks she's a battle cyborg. The film will shootin the Busan Film Studio and botanical gardens among otherlocations.

The production teamon Choi Dong-hoon's gamblingdrama A Flower's War - starring Cho Seung-woo - are currentlynegotiating use of the city's railroad system as well as permits to shoot on Hweng-ryung Mountain.

Meanwhile Yu Ha (Once Upon a Time InHigh School) is filming the story of a lowly gangster, A Dirty Carnival with Cho In-sung (The Classic), on Haeundaebeach and in front of Busan Theatre - both well-knownto visitors to the Pusan International Film Festival.

Kim Dae-seung(Blood Rain) will also shoot the centralscene of his melodrama Traces Of Love - about the 1995 collapse of SampoongDepartment Store - in the city.

And director/producer Jang Jin (Someone Special) is to shoot Geurook-han Geybo starring Jung Jae-young, at the Busan horse-racingground, as well as scouting for shoots in an abandoned buildings and a school aswell.

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