Even in the absence of a film the size of Oldboy or The Host, Korean sellers are discovering they are hardly back to square one.
"Korean cinema has established itself enough now that we have regulars who come to the markets with knowledge of Korean films," says Luna Choo, manager of international sales at Showeast.
"There are well-known directors that can be banked upon, and aside from that, we focus pitches on genre, concept and remake possibilities," says Juyoung Park, Prime Entertainment's vice-president of sales & acquisitions.
Among major buyers of Korean films are Japan's Amuse Entertainment, SPO, Avex and Pony Canyon; North America's The Weinstein Company, Magnolia and Sony Classics; and Europe's Indie Circle, Lucky Red, Splendid, ARP, Haut et Court, Wild Side and Tartan. The US studios, particularly Warner Bros, DreamWorks and Universal, are interested in films with English-language remake potential.
Most Korean sellers, including CJ Entertainment, Showbox Mediaplex, Prime Entertainment and Studio 2.0 handle films they have either produced, funded and/or distributed, which accounts for why almost everything is taken to market.
Sponge Entertainment, a long-time buyer of international arthouse films and a financier of local low-budget films, has started selling its "smaller titles" such as Korean-Chinese Zhang Lu's Chongqing (see below) and Jaihong Juhn's Berlinale Panorama title Beautiful and leaving its "bigger titles" such as Zhang Lu's Iri and Lee Yoon-ki's My Dear Enemy, starring Cannes-award winning actress Jeon Do-yeon, with Fine Cut/Cineclick Asia.
As far as independent sellers go, Fine Cut/Cineclick Asia is considered the market leader. It handles choice local films including hit thriller The Chaser, for which Warner Bros recently bought remake rights. But Fine Cut/Cineclick too is feeling the need to diversify.
"We're moving away from the concept of being just a Korean film sales company and going for global co-productions," says Young-joo Suh, head of Fine Cut, who most recently co-produced Argentinian director Pablo Trapero's Spanish-language Leonera, which is screening in Competition at Cannes.
Another independent seller looking outside of Korea is Activers Entertainment. The company recently added a trio of Japanese films to its line-up, including the much-talked-about 26 Years Diary, based on the true story of a Korean man who died trying to save a drunken Japanese man in the subway.
The buzz films from Korea
Dir: Zhang Lu
Directed by former Cannes Critics' Week (Grain In Ear) and Berlinale competition (Desert Dream) film-maker Zhang Lu, this film is set in the municipality of Chongqing. It is about a young woman who teaches Mandarin to foreigners and dreams of a better life and a better relationship with her father.
Int'l sales: Sponge Entertainment, (82) 2 518 3908
- Viva! Love
Dir: Oh Joum-kyun
An upbeat drama directed by acclaimed short film-maker Oh, Viva! Love stars veteran Korean TV actress Kim Hae-sook as a landlady who falls for her daughter's jilted fiance, played by Kim Young-min.
Int'l sales: Studio 2.0, (82) 2 2107 5496