Reversing his declaration that he would leave the Korean film world, controversial director Kim Ki-duk has announced a deal with Korean arthouse distributor Sponge to release his 14th film Breath in local cinemas.

Sponge formerly released Kim's last film, Time, on eight screens last summer. It took in 30,000 admissions, a fair run for a small-budget arthouse film in Korea.

Sponge CEO David Cho said: 'Instead of the usual investment-distribution deal a local film would see, we have a distribution contract that is basically the same as for an imported film - except that we don't have to actually import the film. We have a minimum guarantee, and then split whatever profits we see after recouping expenses. After seven years, the rights revert to the director.'

An award-winning director at Venice and Berlin, Kim refers to the deal - as with the one for Time - as 'an export deal'.

'Once I make a film, it usually sells to more than 20 countries,' Kim said. 'My real markets are in places like France and Italy, where one of my films can see $150,000.'

After a public brouhaha in August last year over disparaging comments on Korean audience tastes, Kim had declared he would leave the Korean film world if Time did not notch up more than 200,000 admissions. He has since reconsidered, saying 30,000 was a good number for the film's limited release. 'I'll keep making films for the 30,000 who do want to see my films,' he announced.

Breath , which has a budget of $500,000, saw its ninth day of shooting yesterday (Jan 18) and is due to wrap after one more day of shooting, scheduled for the weekend.

The film portrays a woman played by Park Ji-ah (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter And Spring) who falls in love with a death row inmate after she finds her husband, played by Ha Jung-woo (The Unforgiven), has had an affair. The inmate is played by Taiwanese star Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Sales agent Cineclick Asia is taking the project to Rotterdam 's Cinemart and Berlin 's EFM.