Encouraged by economic recovery in the region, DreamWorks backer CJ Entertainment is stepping up production in its native Korea to 10-12 pictures a year. The company has produced only 10 pictures to date.

"We stepped back from production during the economic crisis, but the time is now right to increase our investment," said Mark Yoon, CJ Entertainment's general manager for international sales and acquisitions.

'The quality of Korean films has improved massively in the last few years thanks to an influx of new talent. Korean domestic audiences are responding and our films are becoming more and more attractive to the international market."

CJ Entertainment, which invested an initial $130m in DreamWorks, is part of the massive Cheil Jedang commodities-to-media conglomerate. The company plans to fully or partially finance Korean films in return for majority equity positions and in some cases international sales duties. CJ Entertainment has said that it will commit a minimum of $10m a year. But, with average Korean budgets now in the $3m region, this may need to rise. "We are also now beginning to recoup from our first pictures," said Yoon.

Newest additions to CJ's slate include:

  • The Ginko Bed 2, a sequel to the internationally successful erotic picture of the same name, which is to be produced by Ginko Bed's original director and directed by Park Jaehyun.
  • Joint Security Area, an action drama now being directed by Chan-Wook Park. The action tracks a female security officer sent into the buffer zone between North and South Korea. Production is by Myung Film, the company behind blockbuster Shiri.
  • Kilimanjaro, also now shooting, an action picture directed by Seung-Wook Oh about a clash between two brothers, one a cop, the other an illegal fisherman.
  • The Isle-2000, a dramatic thriller now in post-production, about the growing relation between a murderer and the woman who prevents him from committing suicide. The picture will be released in April.
  • CJ Entertainment is also targeting Japan as the next leg of its expanding distribution empire. It already has an offshoot in Hong Kong to handle releasing in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    The company is also revolutionising Korea's exhibition scene. It has opened two multiplexes, plans to open three more this year and expects to operate 200 screens by 2003.