KT&G (originally Korea Tobacco & Ginseng and now re-styled as Korea Tomorrow & Global Corporation) Sangsangmadang has launched its Film Business Division with an aim to co-produce, co-finance and find films for its newly updated CineLab as well as to invest in, acquire, distribute and exhibit local and foreign films.

KT&G Sangsangmadang previously lent support to up-and-coming independent filmmakers and their films of budgets of less than KW100m ($88,000). Those films included Shin Dong-il’s Bandhobi and the documentary Action Boys. They are continuing that program with a budget of about $308,000 in cash and services this year.

“But we are now looking to build more infrastructure for the industry,” says Susan Chae, director of the Film Business Division. She adds that KT&G Corporation has an annual profit of about $704.1m (KW800bn), but it is looking to diversify.

KT&G plans to invest locally in three to four major commercial films a year, acquire three to four foreign films a year, and distribute a total of eight to 12 films a year. In addition, KT&G is planning to set up a cultural content fund next year.

The company’s film business division attracted attention from local industry watchers recently when it hired Dongyoung Kim, formerly of Sungwon Icom, as deputy general manager of the Film Business Division’s Distribution Dept.

Also, the company recently hired Park Jin-ho as deputy general manager of its CineLab. Formerly of the well-known post-production house HFR, Park’s numberous credits include digital color correction on Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host and Mother, and CGI on the horror film Acacia. He is currently working on his first film at CineLab - Jang Hoon’s war drama The Front Line.

The CineLab has also just gotten in the latest equipment such as Baselight and Davinci Resolve for digital intermediate work, and handles digital mastering for all digital camera types, including 3D subtitling. They also have ties with other post-production houses for sound and mixing as well.

“We’re hoping to find clients and co-production and co-financing partners at the Hong Kong Filmart,” says Chae. “We have reasonable pricing and one of the only labs where you can check your post-production work directly on digital and film projectors.”

The KT&G Sangsangmadang building in the hip university neighborhood of Hongdae houses a one-screen cinema, gallery, library and performance hall. The cinema is known for its sold-out cultural lectures and film Q&As that match up directors with writers and musicians. The company plans to have two more screens in Busan by 2013.