Korea, Republic (South)

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Overview and productions

The rising global popularity of South Korean films, tele­vision and pop music has attracted interest in locations shoots on the peninsula. In the past year or so, international productions that have filmed in South Korea include French director Denis Dercourt’s Matin Calme, starring Olga Kurylenko and Yoo Yeon-Seok, Apple TV+’s literary adaptation Pachinko, and fashion house Dior’s commercial featuring champion figureskater Yuna Kim in its ‘Dior Stands With Women’ campaign.

 

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 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 known for their high production values. These include facilities in Busan and Jeonju, cities that host prominent film festivals with project markets attached. With the pandemic, indoor set shoots have increased and certain studios are running at full capacity so it is advisable to enquire well in advance of booking.

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 up international productions with local service providers such as MereCinema/Keystone Films Korea, which specialises in French productions such as Matin Calme, Nine Tailed Fox 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 service providers and film commissions. Korean film crews and post-production techs take pride in their work. Mutual respect and understanding — sometimes gained over a good barbecue — can go a long way towards getting stellar results.

Size matters

South Korea’s population is around 51 million and its capital Seoul is a metropolis of 10 million people. It has an efficient public transportation 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.

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 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 two hours from Seoul by high-speed train and three hours by express bus.

First people to contact

Sumin Seo, Korea Film Commissions & Industry Network,  @ seo.sumin@kfcin.or.kr; Eunah Lee, KFCIN @ lee.e.a@kfcin.or.kr

 

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