The Host, a big-budget monster movie to be shot by one ofKorea's most respected directors, clinched a massive $4.7m pre-sale to Japan'sHappinet .Pictures at the recent Hong Kong FilMart.

The deal, which includes a $1.5m investment stake plusdistribution rights for Japan, is unusually high for a film which is still twomonths away from entering production.

Directed by rising star Bong Joon-ho - whose Memories OfMurder won multiple awards at San Sebastian in 2003 - The Hostcentres around a horrifying creature which inflicts mass slaughter on theresidents of Seoul.

Korean distribution company Chungeorahm Film openedpre-sales in Hong Kong on the basis of a translated screenplay and conceptualartwork which depicts the film's monster.

"We've already had many other discussions regardingpre-sales and investment deals, and we expect to finalise most of them beforethe completion of production," said Lewis Kim of Cheongeorahm. "I expect to raise up to $6m in minimumguarantees from the international market alone."

Bong, who has cast local star Song Kang-ho (Memories OfMurder, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance) in the lead, has said he hopes totranscend the monster movie genre by introducing political and social elementsinto the story.

The deal also reflects a growing trend of internationalcompanies taking up investment stakes in Korean films before they enterproduction. This is being driven bothby increased demand for top projects, and Korea's comparatively lower shootingbudgets ($3m - $5m on average, topping out at $10m) which make investment anattractive option.