Home to a dynamic local film industry, South Korea’s multifaceted scenery — ranging from ultra modern to traditional architecture sitting by rivers, fields, mountains and seas — has been attracting international productions buoyed by the country’s locations incentives. The national incentive has been raised in 2020 from 25% to 30% and can still be accessed at the same time as other regional locations incentives.
Productions that shot in South Korea in 2020 include season two of US-South Korea co-production TV series Dramaworld at the beginning of the year, and Denis Dercourt’s murder mystery film Matin Calme, which shot late September to late October with Olga Kurylenko and Yoo Yeon-seok. Other films in recent months include French director Eric Lartigau’s romantic comedy #iamhere (#jesuislà) starring Alain Chabat and Doona Bae, Netflix’s zombie series Kingdom and the third instalment of the streaming giant’s original film trilogy To All The Boys: Always And Forever, Lara Jean.
This year’s Covid-19 pandemic has made getting permission for filming in public institutions difficult and shooting in the subway is banned, but the country has not had a complete lockdown. It has instead opted for assiduous testing, contact tracing, quarantine, disinfecting and social-distancing measures that also apply to productions. Shooting outdoors and in studios is currently ongoing with the application of quarantine measures. International visitors are tested and given two weeks of mandatory quarantine.
As a peninsula, South Korea boasts several different kinds of beaches next to mountains and forests, gleaming modern cityscapes, stretches of rice paddies and a variety of sets to capture different periods in history.
South Korea is a filmmaking powerhouse where local films usually take up around 50% of the box office. It has experienced crews and several studios, outdoor film sets and post-production houses around the country. These include facilities in Busan and Jeonju, cities that host prominent film festivals with project markets attached.
English is not spoken widely but filmmakers, translators and coordinators 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 up with local service providers.
Local film productions adhere to the 52-hour work week and standardised contracts, which service providers and film commissions can help producers with. Korean film crews and post-production techs take pride in their work. Mutual respect and understanding, and sometimes a good barbecue, can go a long way towards getting stellar results.
South Korea is a country of about 52 million people and capital Seoul is a metropolis of 10 million people. It has an efficient public transport system and traffic that can take anywhere from 10 minutes in nearby downtown areas to well over an hour to travel from one end of the city to the other, especially in rush hour. But taxi fares inside Seoul will rarely go over $50.
Numerous productions shoot in the country’s second-largest city of Busan, a southeastern port city with beaches and mountains, and on Jeju, which is the country’s southernmost volcanic island and a popular tourist destination with cobalt blue waters. Both are less than an hour’s flight from Seoul.
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 (less than two hours from Seoul by high-speed train and three hours by express bus) have also become popular.
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