South Korean major Cinema Service has announced plans to establish a branch office in Tokyo to directly distribute its films into Japan.

To be named Cinema Service Japan, the company will be established by June and will initially co-distribute with other local film companies. Within five years the office intends to release its films independently.

Cinema Service founder Kang Woo-suk - whose latest directorial effort Silmido was sold to Universal Japan for a $3m minimum guarantee - left for Japan on March 9 to meet with Shochiku, Amuse Pictures, Gaga Communications and other major Japanese distributors.

The branch office marks the first effort by a Korean company to directly release its films into Japan, which accounts for 70% of the international market for Korean films in dollar terms.

Rival distributor CJ Entertainment established a distribution office in Hong Kong several years ago, and distributed its first Korean film there in 2002.

Meanwhile, CJ Entertainment will distribute The Hotel Venus, the first Japanese film to be made entirely in the Korean language.

Directed by Hideta Takahata, the film stars Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, a member of the pop group SMAP and a fixture on the Japanese entertainment scene for more than a decade. Kusanagi most recent previous film, Resurrection, was a surprise hit for Toho last year.

Kusanagi made the announcement about the Korean release at a recent Tokyo press conference. Based on a popular late night series on the Fuji TV network, Hotel Venus is a drama set in a seedy hotel run by a manager (Kusanagi) with a sympathetic ear -- and filled with emotionally troubled guests who have need of it. Asmik Ace released the film in Japan on March 6.