Koreanproduction house Show East has licensed its now-in-production melodrama AprilSnow acrossAsia, including a key sale to Universal Pictures Japan.

Theraft of deals should ensure that the Hur-Jin-ho-directed picture gets aday-and-date release across the Asian region.

Inaddition to the sale to Universal, the film was licensed to Golden Scene for Hong Kong, Encore Film for Singapore andMalaysia, and Spring International for Taiwan.

Head of sales Michelle Son said "we are very close to finalising the deal withThailand, Philippines, Indonesia, China and others."

Son said: "Afterthe news spread that Bae Yong-joon, the biggest Asian star of the moment, wouldhave the starring role, buyers from all over Asia were calling us seeking adeal."

Thecompany received seven firm offers from Japan, where Korean culture ismassively popular and where the appeal of TV-actor-turned-film-star Bae hasreached Beatlemania proportions.

Sonsays that the final decision went to Universal Japan for its "precise marketingstrategy and strong distribution channel. Universal Japan has already securedthe Toho circuit, the top-notch distribution line in Japan and is planning thebest marketing strategy to connect theatrical, DVD and TV releases."

Berlinmarket gossip recently suggested that the value of the Universal deal exceedsthe film's $6m budget, but Show East described such speculation as "uncertaininformation" and said that it is ruled by a confidentiality agreement.

April Snow, the story of two people brought togetherwhen their cheating spouses are involved in a car crash, went before thecameras earlier this month. Hur previously directed hits Christmas In August and One Fine Spring Day.

The deals arealso a triumph for Show East's new sales team. The company, which was formedtwo years ago by Kim Dong-joon, former head of Korea Pictures, already hascredits that include the multi award-winning Old Boy and has until now seen its output handledby third party sellers.

The new team,headed by Son also includes Jan Chung and Luna Choo.

Sonsaid that the day-and-date release is a deliberate anti-piracy move. It pointsout that Korean films and their stars are hugely popular, but that few filmshave been big theatrical hits outside Korea. "This is because of the illegal salesof pirate DVDs and illegal downloads through internet. Therefore, thesimultaneous Asian release of April Snow is a meaningful step and it is thefirst time ever that all Asian partners unite to make this happen," said Son.

Marketingwill be carefully coordinated in each country with press junkets and the pre-openingAsian tour executed according to a precisely arranged schedule. The firstjunket is planned for March with the film's release scheduled for September.

Universalhas been a keen buyer of local Asian films. Last year it handled Tae Guk Gi, the biggest ever film atthe Korean box office, and recently picked up Yonfan's erotic charmer PlumBlossoms.