An impressive 411 non-Korean films received certification from South Korea's Media Ratings Board for local release in 2007, compared with only 293 in 2006. But while some might see this as the flood gates opening to imports, local distributors believe it is just a temporary measure to fill space at the cinemas.
'It's true that foreign films saw a rally because of the lack of well-made local films last year, but I don't think this phenomenon will last,' says Chris H Lee, head of acquisitions at Showbox Mediaplex. 'The number of imports may spike, but whatever market share Korean films lose, we're seeing (most of) it go to Hollywood films.'
Heading into Cannes, Korean buyers will be looking for Hollywood-style action movies as well as romantic comedies and heart-warming family films. Kirsten Sheridan's August Rush, a weepie about an orphaned musical prodigy (played by Freddie Highmore), did particularly well in Korea last year, netting $8m. Distributors will also be in the market for edgy small-to-mid-size-budget films to slot in between local releases. Showbox in particular has had success in Korea with films such as Ong Bak, Underworld and Hoodwinked! It is also increasingly picking up tentpole foreign films such as John Woo's Red Cliff.
By contrast, culturally specific and low-brow Hollywood comedies do not translate well. For instance, 2007's Superbad did not even secure a theatrical release, going straight to ancillary platforms.
'With so many foreign films being released, the opening weekend has become crucial and advance marketing is key,' says KD Media's head of marketing and acquisitions Jack Shin. The company, with a stable base in specialised printing and DVD distribution (it also releases Walt Disney titles in South Korea), has recently moved into theatrical releases.
Another consideration for local distributors is new-media platforms. SK Telecom (SKT), one of Korea's leading telecommunications companies, has recently launched a theatrical distribution outfit. It will be in Cannes for the first time, looking for high-profile films and global projects to market innovatively.
'Most people won't view an entire film on their mobile phone, but they will watch trailers, out-takes and making-of films. Online pay-per-view services before video release are also a factor, and we have an Iptv platform with HanaTV,' says Hosung Joh, director of SKT's film business team.
The buzz films from Korea
Dir: Yoon Jong-bin
Yoon re-teams with actor Ha Jung-woo following their success with The Unforgiven, which featured at Cannes in 2006. Beastie Boys is set in the world of high-end 'host bars' where men serve women in karaoke rooms with drinks and more
Int'l sales: Fine Cut/Cineclick Asia, (82) 2 538 0211
Dir: Kim Ki-duk
A drama about a man who dreams of a past love every night and a woman who unconsciously acts out his dreams in real life. Japanese star Joe Odagiri, whose credits include Tokyo Tower and Sad Vacation, plays opposite Korean actress Lee Na-young. Likely to have a private market screening in Cannes.
Int'l sales: Showbox Mediaplex, (82) 2 3218 5649
Dir: Kim Hae-gon
A casino heist film from director Kim, best known for Between Love And Hate, starring heart-throbs Kwon Sang-woo and Song Seung-hun.
Int'l sales: CJ Entertainment, (82) 2 2017 1193
Dir: Jeon Soo-il
Following Venice title With A Girl Of Black Soil, Jeon's latest stars Oldboy's Choi Min-shik as a down-on-his-luck Korean who returns the remains of a poor Nepalese labourer to his family in the Himalayas.
Int'l sales: Showeast, (82) 2 3446 9688