2005 may end up being a breakout year forseveral Korean directors who are well-known at home, but yet to fully establishthemselves abroad. Festivals in anadventurous mood, not to mention foreign distributors, should have much tochoose from in the coming year.

One of the biggest buzz projects to emergein recent months is a new drama by Hur Jin-ho titled Oechul (literally, "GoingOut"). Hur's tale of a womanwho meets another man while her husband is in a coma follows up on his twoprevious films Christmas In August(1998) - recognised locally as an enduring classic - and One Fine Spring Day (2001), which won Best Picture prizes at localawards ceremonies but mostly slipped under the radar of internationalfestivals.

However, the biggest news storm surroundingOechul is the casting of Bae Yong-joon as its male lead. In the past year, Bae has emerged as a majorstar in neighboring Japan, enjoying a media blitz that is unheard of for aKorean actor. With Oechul yet to evencast its female lead, twenty Japanese distributors have already contactedKorean producer Show East.

Another directorial star making his returnis Lee Myung-Se with Hyeongsa(literally, "Detective"). Known as the supreme stylist of 1990s Koreancinema, Lee made his breakout in 1999 with the visually ravishing action film Nowhere To Hide.

After impressing at Sundance the followingyear, Lee left for the U.S. to pursue a career in Hollywood - a decision thatwould cost him five years of his career, without any projects panning out. Lee calls Hyeongsa "a 19th-century NowhereTo Hide" about a male-female detective team. Hot young stars Ha Ji-won (Phone),Kang Dong-won (Romance Of Their Own)and veteran Ahn Sung-ki (Arahan)round out the cast.

Meanwhile emerging auteur Im Sang-soo, who brokethrough into the Venice competition section in 2003 with A Good Lawyer's Wife, takes on the real-life assassination ofdictatorial president Park Chung-hee in 1979, in what promises to be explosivepolitical material for the Korean market.Han Suk-kyu of Shiri and Tell Me Something stars.

Other works in the pipeline include a newfeature about AIDS from director Park Jin-pyo, whose previous film Too Young To Die (2002) aboutseptuagenarian lovers stirred up censorship controversies; Blood Rain, a gritty and gory 19th-century mystery thriller fromthe director of Bungee Jumping Of TheirOwn (2001); and the soon-to-be-released FlyingBoys, a coming of age drama from director Byun Young-ju (Ardor) that has evoked comparisons toJeong Jae-eun's Take Care Of My Cat(2001).

For full South Korean production listings, click here.