Joint Security Area (JSA), the highest grossing Korean film of 2000, debuted at number one on the Japanese box office chart following its release on May 26. Distributed jointly by Cine Quanon and Amuse Pictures, which also handled the 1999 Korean megahit Shiri, JSA enjoyed the widest release of any Korean film to play in Japan. It opened on 225 screens in the Toho chain.
In Japan's nine major cities, JSA grossed $1,012,785 in its first week on release, beating strong Japanese competition in Hotaru, the latest vehicle by screen icon Ken Takakura. Its nine city screen average, $48,228, also topped the chart. Nationwide, it earned $1.7m off 106,000 admissions on its opening weekend and $5m from 330,000 admissions, for a screen average of $22,200, in its first nine days.
Following its release in January 2000, Shiri proceeded to shatter the box office record for Korean films in Japan, grossing $15m. JSA is expected to easily pass this mark.
Directed by Park Chan wook, JSA tells the story of the friendship that develops between South Korean and North Korean border guards - and the subsequent investigation by a neutral Swiss-Korean military officer when that friendship results in one dead and one wounded North Korean and one wounded South Korean. Not a murder mystery so much as a human drama, the film lacks the high-octane action of Shiri, but presents its North Korean characters with a depth and sympathy that not long ago would have been unthinkable for a South Korean film.
Produced by Myung Film and distributed internationally by CJ Entertainment, JSA received its international premiere in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival this February.