In what is rapidly becoming a crowded market, the South Korean distribution sector is to receive another player in Showbox, a subsidiary of local exhibition company Mediaplex.

Showbox, still in initial stages of development, is reportedly in negotiation with investment company KM Culture in a deal that could push the number of high-profile local distributors to six.

Mediaplex, Inc. was founded in 2000 as a subsidiary of food conglomerate Tongyang Confectionary, renamed last year as Orion Group. Together with US-based Loews Cineplex, the company founded a joint venture Megabox Cineplex which quickly developed into the country's second-largest multiplex chain, operating 32 screens nationwide with plans to add a further 20 by this summer.

Earlier this month, Mediaplex announced its intention to enter the distribution field, with longer-term ambitions of producing and investing in films as well.

Initial negotiations with financiers KM Culture focused on Mediaplex co-investing in and distributing titles majority funded by KM Culture, such as the second film by director Jung Ji-woo or a newly-announced spy thriller featuring the return of top star Han Suk-kyu.

Although other co-investors in these films have ties to rival distributors, Mediaplex is continuing its negotiations while keeping open the possibility of aligning with a second partner.

Should Showbox enter the field, it will have the advantage of being the only distributor besides CJ Entertainment which operates a major theatre chain. CJ Entertainment shares ownership with Australia's Village Roadshow of the nation's largest cinema circuit CGV, which this week reached the 100-screen mark nationwide.

Although Korea's distribution sector has been dominated in recent years by Cinema Service and CJ Entertainment, in the past two months new players have emerged such as Big Blue Film (co-owned by Cinema Service) and A-Line, a distribution network operated by KTB Entertainment, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Kang JeGyu Films and Egg Films.