Korean cinema admissions increased by 14.6% to 166 million in 2006, marking the tenth year of growth, according to figures released by leading Korean exhibitor CJ CGV.

The admissions figure is the third highest in South Korean box office history and also marks the fifth consecutive year over the landmark 100 million admissions level.

According to the exhibitor's report, local product accounted for a 64.7% market share nationwide and 60% in Seoul. Market share has been on the rise since 2002, but this was the first year that local films took over 60%.

In Seoul, US films had a 35% market share, while all other foreign films shared the remaining 5%.

Bong Joon-ho's creature thriller The Host, which is Korea's all-time top-grossing local film, took first place in the top ten with about 13 million admissions. In second place is historical drama King And The Clown which was an unexpected sleeper hit spurred on by word-of-mouth and 'word-of-mouse' on the internet.

Card sharp drama Tazza: The High Rollers trailed in third place with 6.8 million admissions - nonetheless a healthy score for the film which has an 18+ rating - while gangster comedy sequel My Boss, My Teacher followed in fourth.

These local hits were followed closely by Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible III, which opened in May to clock up 5.7 million admissions.

This year sees leading distributors CJ Entertainment and Showbox bickering over who led the market in 2006, and the industry is generally looking to forthcoming KOFIC data for the final word. An affiliate of CJ Entertainment, CJ CGV notably did not rank distributors in its report today.

Although both KOFIC's and CJ CGV's numbers are generally reliable within Seoul where electronic ticketing is the norm, CJ CGV's numbers are based on respective distributors' official tallies of their films' scores - and therefore considered to be potentially skewed.

On the other hand, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC)'s year-end statistics match up distributor reports with numbers taken from its automated ticketing database - which has about 91% of cinemas linked up - with the addition of tallies from theatres in the provinces that are not part of the database.

KOFIC's year-end round-up is scheduled to be announced next week.