In this exclusive interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, top Korean movie director, Kim Hak-soon, whose movie, Northern Limit, debuted at No.1 in the South Korean Box Office, revealed his intention to collaborate with Nollywood soon. He also spoke on other sundry issues.
How does it feel having your movie, Northern Limit, debuting at No.1 in the South Korean Box Office, toppling movies like Jurassic World?
First of all, I’m very happy to see my movie making very big success here. At the beginning and planning of the movie script, I didn’t know it was going to draw much attention among the people. We had more than 6 million views of the movie in a day and I was very surprised with the result. And I believe all this comes from the support of the Korean people. I invested everything I had into this movie and I’m excited to see that it was a success.
What inspired you to go into the movie industry?
I studied in the United States. Back then, there was a Korean movie shot in the states. While I was a student, I was also working as a producer and was simultaneously recording a movie. So when I returned to Korea, there were lots of movie companies and directors that contacted me and offered to make my first movie on the sponsorship of the broadcasting and movie company here in Korea. I got involved in many movies as a supporting director and that was the starting point in the industry.
What have been your major challenges as a movie director?
The biggest challenges for most of the directors and I is to get funds for our movies and investments. Be it independent or commercial directors, getting funds is the most challenging part. It’s not that difficult for the directors who are well known and have high popularity to get investment but for the unknown or directors who are just starting off, it’s very challenging because there is no way for them to prove their capabilities.
What particularly has kept you going through the years?
My first movie was made in 2003, it was more like an art movie and not many people were there. Since then, I have been teaching students at the university. To be honest with you, my dream is making movies on site and not to be in the classroom. Just like me, all the people in this industry are also dreaming to make long and very real movies. Of course I have so many short and experimental films, I still keep writing scripts. I always dream of finalising my reality films because I can’t get any investment from the film distribution companies. But ultimately, my dream is to keep on making movies because I can’t do without it.
We know it’s not easy to be in this industry and also there are times you are not with your family. So how do you balance work and family?
Honestly, I have been getting this question from interviews I had granted around the world where they asked me what is my biggest failure so far, only that you are being very mild with me. In retrospect, I believe I can’t have lot of time with my family because I invest almost all my time to make movies. If I had been working like a regular office worker, from 9am to 5pm, I would have been having much time for them. But with this job, we don’t have a regular schedule, we often come back home late or even don’t come back at all. I feel very sorry for my children but these days when I finish with my movies, I just try to make up for the lost time.
Let’s look at the Korean movie industry, how would you rate it today, compared to when you started up, do you think you are getting there or you are already there?
I started developing interest in the movie industry back in 1985 and since then, there has been lots of growth and development in the industry. The young talents in the industry just try to establish new system. Since then, we have continued to witness dramatic and astonishing changes; changes that have seen Korean movies being awarded in the international film festivals. After that, we are having the Korean blockbuster which means which gets like more than 10 million audiences which is a great number compared to the total population of our country. Prior to then, not everybody loved Korean movies, but after these kinds of changes, more people try to watch the Korean movies because they found them interesting and very funny. These days, more than 50 per cent of our viewers try to choose Korean movies because they are getting to love the scripts. Behind these changes, there have been huge investments because between the 1980-1990s, we didn’t know how many people were watching the movies, so the Korean Movie promotional committee did a computing system which helped to show how many people were watching a particular movie and based on that number, the investment companies started making huge investment to see how the movies could be successful and at the same time, profitable. So I think all these things culminated into a huge stepping stone for the success of the movie industry. So the investment from the large companies has played a key role. Back then, there was just a movie theatre standing alone but now, we have adopted multiplex system, which means a cinema has different screens so people could choose whatever they like. So these two things have changed the scene of the entire Korean movie industry. I told you that the Korean people started loving the movies because the script had changed, the story is no more in clichés, the stories and scenarios about a movie are very attractive and also the movie shooting technology has developed a lot. Very speedy and sophisticated technologies just like the one Hollywood are adapting are now being used and these things have played a great role.
The Nigerian movie industry is the third largest in the world and the biggest in Africa, would you like to collaborate with Nollywood soon, and would it be a blockbuster?
You know from the very beginning, when I started from the United States, I always try my best to understand and accept the oriental, the Asian work together with the western work attitude and their mindset. My dream is not just working in Korea, but also I want to stand as a movie director on the global stage. Not just me alone, I believe that many Korean movie directors should also eye the global stage to showcase their art. I’m very delighted to know that Nigeria is the third largest movie industry in the world, when I’m given the chance, I’m more than willing to cooperate with Nigerian movie stars, directors, producers etc. For you starring in my movie (laughs) there is a possibility that I will look for a character for you.
What should your fans expect from you?
There are many things ongoing. Recently I was contacted by the Navy asking me if I could make some movies out of some stories about the fight against pirates around the African sea. Also, I’m interested in many things. I had contact with many movie companies asking me if I could make a war movie, thriller, or melodrama, these things are going on and I’m always interested and focus on the Korean War. I’m also trying to make another war story. I’m looking at the subject of sex slaves when we were colonised by Japan. My message is that I believe trying to be the best is the only way one could be the best and that’s how I have been living so far. The only thing you can do is doing your best. I also believe that people should have more sincerity towards their work. How they think about their work and how they deal with it, I think they have to seek for the truth.