UIP's South Korean branchoffice will transition to a Universal Pictures International operation as ofJan 1, 2007. Universal Pictures International Korea (UPIK) will directly distributeUniversal films in the territory as well as acquiring local product there.

UPI has alreadyestablished a presence in Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland,Holland, Belgium and Russia.

"We arevery excited to now have our own presence in the Korean market, which continuesto grow from strength to strength," UPI president David Kosse said.

"This is anew era for Universal Pictures and we are proud of the team members of UPIKorea, who will now be able to dedicate themselves to Universal films with muchgreater focus."

It's widely expected in the Korean industry that Paramount and DreamWorks titles will be handled by leading local distributor CJ Entertainment, but this wasn't confirmed at press time.

At the end of Oct 2006, UIP Korea held 7.4% of the Seoul admissions market share according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

With its May release Mission: Impossible III leading all foreign films, the distributor placed fourth after CJ Entertainment, Showbox Mediaplex and Cinema Service, and first among the direct US distributors.

Although UIP was expected to remain intact in the major Asian territories at least until 2008, Universal also recently opted to partner with local distributor Edko Films in Hong Kong. UIP oversees distribution of Paramount titles in that territory through sub-distributor Intercontinental.

Jean Noh in Seoul contributed to this article.