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Issue Report

Collection of full-length papers and in-depth analysis of economic and management issues.

The Korean Film Industry: Challenges and Prospects

The Korean Film Industry: Challenges and Prospects

KO Jeong-Min

Jan. 22, 2008

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The Korean film industry has experienced four distinct cycles in its postwar history. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it saw rapid growth as movies were one of the few entertainment options. At the time, Koreans went to more than five movies per year. The advent of the television industry, however, precipitated a gradual decline in movie audiences in the 1970s and then a full recession in the film industry from the 1980s to late 1990s, with people's movie going frequency dropping less than twice a year. In this sense, the plight of Korean film studios followed the pattern of the US , where movie-goers began to shrink in the 1950s as televisions became a standard in homes. US box office sales in 1946 were US$1.7 billion dollars, but, declined to only US$930 million by 1952, down 45% even though average ticket prices rose to 50 cents from 34 cents. The number of US movie-goers per week decreased from 100 million in the mid 1940s to 20 million in the 1960s.

The third cycle began in 1999 with the release of “Shiri,” a fruit of the Korean film industry's efforts to improve competitiveness and a result of more open environment for movie production. “Shiri” was first Hollywood-style big-budget action movie in the Korean film industry. It attracted more than 6 million people (out of the Korea 's total population of 47 million), a new record at the time. A string of blockbusters such as action movies “Silmido,” and “Taegukgi: the Brotherhood of War,” and the light-hearted “King and the Clown,” followed the next six years, some of which drew more than 10 million viewers. But the boom ended as fast as it began.

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