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The cinema of South Korea has become a large market in the world, with the increasing global success and globalization of the Korean film industry.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the value of the cinema of South Korea in 2018 was USD 1.6 billion out of the global film market of USD 41.1 billion, placing the value of South Korean cinema at the fifth largest in the world following North America, China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

South Korea ranks first for attendance frequency per capita in the world, and Korean films take 51% of the local box offices.

Korean cinema, the history of which spans 101 years, has been recognized for its cinematic quality at international film festivals, and is currently being introduced widely around the world. Since 1961, when The Coachman became the first Korean film to win the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, South Korean films have stood out at the most prestigious film festivals in the world, known as the Big Three: Berlin (Germany), Cannes (France), and Venice (Italy).

Films such as Old Boy, Oasis, Burning, and On the Beach at Night Alone won leading awards in major categories. Famous Korean film directors such as Bong Joon-ho, Im Kwon-taek, Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook, Hong Sang-soo, and Kim Jee-woon are attracting attention in the global film industry.

In 2019, Bong Joon-ho became the first Korean director to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film Parasite, which also won four leading awards at the Academy Awards in 2020. This has triggered more global interest in Korean films.

As Parasite took home the most awards at the Oscars 2020, winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Directing, International Feature Film, and Writing, world media began earnestly reporting about Korean films.

For example, the british newspaper, Guardian, recommended the film The Handmaiden, and Rotten Tomatoes, an American review-aggregation website for film and television, spotlighted Poetry.

Parasite - Official Trailer (2019) Bong Joon Ho Film

Furthermore, South Korea also holds various international film festivals to enhance the status of its films, which serve as a driving force for the further development of the Asian film industry.

For instance, the Busan International Film Festival, the largest film festival in South Korea, the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and the Jeonju International Film Festival attract attention from filmmakers around the world each year with a variety of concepts and programs.

In addition, South Korean films are gaining great popularity through OTT platforms. Specifically, #Alive, a South Korean zombie film released in June 2020, is an example of successful Korean films introduced abroad through OTT media services. It topped the global movie charts in 35 countries two days after its release on Netflix.

Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite Oscars 2020 (w Sharon Choi)

Film Festivals in South Korea

Busan International Film Festival

The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), held every October since its launch in 1996, is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia.

BIFF serves as a venue for introducing a new vision of Asian cinema, encompassing documentaries, animation, commercial film, independent film, and both digital film and analog film. It is also where Asian directors and actors/actresses are in the spotlight around the world.

Busan International Film Festival : http://www.biff.kr/kor/

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival

The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan), held every July since its launch in 1997, focuses on Asian films including Korean films.

BiFan mainly presents South Korean and international horror, thriller, mystery, and fantasy movies.

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival : http://www.bifan.kr/

Jeonju International Film Festival

The Jeonju International Film Festival (JEONJU IFF), launched in 2000, is held every April or May in Jeonju, the home of traditional Korean culture.

JIFF celebrates low-budget independent films, most of which are evaluated as challenging and creative fictional features.

Jeonju International Film Festival : http://www.bifan.kr/

Seoul International Women’s Film Festival

The Seoul International Women’s Film Festival (SIWFF) is the largest international women’s film festival.

It first took place in April 1997 with the catchphrase “See The World Through Women’s Eyes.” SIWFF presents films that explore “women’s reality from the women’s perspectives” and strives to strengthen the diversity, publicity, and popularity of women’s films.

Seoul International Women’s Film Festival: http://siwff.or.kr/kor/default.asp