April is not considered tobe high season at the box-office in Korea, but in past years it has shown aknack for producing major box-office hits.

My Little Bride (2004, $17m local gross), Memories Of Murder(2003, $27m), The Way Home (2002, $20m) and Friend (2001, $38m)have all got off to a roaring start in April. This year, several contenders arelining up to continue the tradition.

Perhaps the twohighest-profile releases of the month will square off against each other onApril 1st.

A Bittersweet Life is a noirish gangster tale directed by Kim Jee-woon,who has proven to be box-office gold in the past with such hits as horror film ATale Of Two Sisters (2003) and wrestling comedy The Foul King(2000).

Bittersweet is attracting keen attention ahead of its releasefor the casting of a top local star, Lee Byung-heon, who is also well known inJapan.

Kim has said that he wantsto present the already-attractive Lee as a dazzling screen icon, and he will beassisted by the talents of Korea's top production designer Ryu Seong-hee,credited for the distinctive look of box-office smashes Memories Of Murder,A Tale Of Two Sisters and Old Boy. Apart from its Korean release tobe handled through top distributor CJ Entertainment, Japanese distributorNippon Herald is also reportedly pushing for an April release to take advantageof the Golden Week holiday.

Meanwhile, distributor ShowEast is readying boxing drama Crying Fist, directed by Ryoo Seung-wanand starring his acclaimed younger brother Ryoo Seung-beom - both of whomscored a hit with Arahan in 2004.

They will be joined by ChoiMin-shik, the lead from Park Chan-wook's Old Boy who is currently at theheight of his popularity. Director Ryoo says that the style of this latest filmwill less genre-specific and will hark back to his independent debut Die Bad(2000).

Gritty violence spiked withhumour is often a hit with local audiences, and Show East is gearing up for astrong campaign to promote the film.

Another potential Aprilrelease is Cinema Service's Blood Rain, a murder mystery set in 1800 thatpromises to be extremely gory. Based on Korea's first modern-style novelpublished in 1906, the film centres on a string of gruesome killings at atraditional paper mill on a remote island. The $5m film - high by localstandards - is directed by Kim Dae-seung of Bungee Jumping Of Their Ownfame.

Other upcoming titlesinclude MKB's Hello And Goodbye, Little Brother about a boy forced togrow up when his older brother contracts cancer; and Sagwa, arelationship drama starring award-winning actress Moon So-ri of A GoodLawyer's Wife and Oasis.

For full South Korean production listings, click here