Korea, Republic (South)

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Overview and productions

In the past year, South Korea, home of Netflix sensation Squid Game and the Oscar-winning Parasite, has been feeling the effects of the pandemic with fewer Southeast Asian productions undertaken than normal thanks to the cost of quarantine and safety measures.

 

European and US productions prepared to take on those extra costs and determined to shoot in Korea have continued to visit, taking advantage of quarantine exemptions for business people — a group that included directors, producers and cinematographers.

 

Feature films that shot recently in South Korea include Davy Chou’s latest Cannes title All The People I’ll Never Be (playing in Un Certain Regard); writer/director Celine Song’s Past Lives, produced by A24 Films and CJ ENM; and Malaysia-Indonesia-Korea co-production Dream Together, a portmanteau directed by Ho Yuhang, Djenar Maesa Ayu and Kim Tai-sik.

Although the latter project originally planned to film all three of its segments in Korea, the pandemic had the directors pivot to each shooting in their respective countries and doing post-production in Seoul. Documentaries include Amanda Kim’s US production Nam June Paik: Man On The Electronic Superhighway and CNN travelogue Nomad With Carlton McCoy.

 

Previous restrictions on shooting in subways and parks have been lifted, although filming in civil-service facilities such as police stations or district offices is still difficult.

South Korea’s locations incentives include a national cash rebate of up to 25%, which can be mix-and-matched with other regional rebates — including Seoul’s 30% rebate — and in-kind support programmes.

 

Continuing draws include the territory’s dynamic landscapes ranging from futuristic skyscrapers to traditional houses seated against mountains, seas, rivers and fields, along with a solid local film and broadcasting industry infra­structure.

Locations

The country’s locations incentives are complemented by dynamic landscapes ranging from cutting-edge skyscrapers to traditional houses seated against mountains, seas, rivers and fields, along with a solid local film and broadcasting industry. 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made getting permission for shooting in public institutions more difficult and filming in the subway is banned. The country has not yet had a complete lockdown but instead opted for assiduous testing, contact tracing, quarantine, disinfecting and social-distancing measures that also apply to productions. Shooting outdoors and in studios is ongoing with the application of quarantine measures. International visitors are tested and given two weeks of mandatory quarantine.

The Korea Film Commissions & Industry Network (KFCIN) notes the country has seen fewer productions coming to shoot on location, most likely due to the mandatory quarantine period which raises budgets and is challenging for smaller productions. Areas outside of the capital Seoul are on lower levels of alert, so shooting crowd scenes, for example, is easier.

 

Infrastructure and crews

South Korea is a filmmaking powerhouse, with experienced crews and several studios, outdoor film sets and post-production houses around the country known for their high production values. These include facilities in Busan and Jeonju, cities that host prominent international film festivals with project markets and funds attached.

English is not spoken widely but filmmakers, translators and co-ordinators with international experience are increasing in number every year. 

 

Depending on the size and needs of a production, projects can arrive with just a producer and director, or bring in heads of department and more. The Korea Film Commissions & Industry Network (KFCIN) and regional film commissions can help set up scouting tours and match international productions with local production service providers, such as MereCinema/Keystone Films Korea, whichttps://www.kftv.com/country/korea-republic-southh specialises in French productions (credits include All The People I’ll Never Be), Nine Tailed Fox, which works with North American productions, and Filmline, which has experience working on Southeast Asian projects.

 

Local film productions adhere to the 52-hour working week and standardised contracts — producers can seek guidance from production service providers and film commissions. Korean film crews and post-production technicians take pride in their work. Mutual respect and understanding — sometimes found over a good barbecue — can go a long way towards getting stellar results from these dedicated professionals.

Size matters

South Korea’s population is around 51 million, with capital Seoul accounting for almost a fifth. Seoul has an efficient public transportation system and traffic that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to well over an hour to travel from one end of the city to the other, especially during rush hour.

 

Numerous productions shoot in the country’s second-largest city Busan, a southeastern port with beaches and mountains, and on Jeju, the country’s southernmost volcanic island, famed for its cobalt blue waters. Both are less than an hour’s flight from Seoul. Also popular are the port city of Incheon, near the country’s main international airport and one to two hours away from Seoul, and the smaller, more traditional city of Jeonju, which is less than 90 minutes from Seoul by high-speed train and three hours by express bus.

 

First person to contact

Sumin Seo, Korea Film Commissions & Industry Network seo.sumin@kfcin.or.kr

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