In the past two years the Korean Culture Centre UK has provided us with the Year of the 12 Directors in 2012, and the Year of the 4 Actors just last year. This third and final year however is the Year of the Film Professionals, kick starting this year is the Screenwriter turned Director, Park Hoon-jung. You may have witnessed Park Hoon-jung’s work as a screenwriter in The Unjust and I Saw the Devil (one of our favourite films). In 2011 Park directed his first big screen film, The Showdown, followed by his latest film New World (신세게) starring Lee Jung Jae, Choi Min Sik and Hwang Jung Min. If you are a lover of thrillers and violent films, Park is definitely one to watch out for.
During the interview Park may have been a little on the nervous side at first with fidgety hands. After a few questions however, he began to open up and get more comfortable, cracking jokes every now and then showing his sense of humour. When asked should we be worried if we meet him on a lonely dark winters night? Park laughed it off and answered with a “I am a very normal person, you shouldn’t get worried or scared whether you meet me in at night or during the day“.
As the interview goes on we learn just how brilliant a man Park is, I Saw the Devil was one of his very first screenplays and with no film training, it’s quite an impressive debut! And how did he do it? “Everything I know about directing I learnt from watching many, many movies“. What’s more, when asked how his intial discussions with directors Kim Jee-woon and Ryoo Seung-wan went, he answered “My screenplays were hardly changed in either case, so what you see in the films is basically what I wrote”. His screenplays are so well written that directors don’t feel the need to change anything. The only amendments that were made were during production, for example when Choi Min-sik was casted instead of a younger man, Park slightly changed the script to cater to Choi Min-sik so the dialogue became more natural to his persona. The effort and attention Park puts into his screenplays are great and it is written into his contracts that he is to be involved in castings so he can ensure the idea and story behind his screenplays are executed correctly.
There is a Korean saying that states if you don’t know much you are very bold and brave. I think that saying relates to me greatly – Park Hoon-jung
Park has a genuine love for film and screen writing and although he has gained much more attention since directing, he is still very humble about his work and knows that there is still a lot to learn. As he gets more director chair opportunities, he uses these experience to help him when writing scripts: “now it takes a far longer amount of time for me to write because I’m visualising what will be difficult or easy to portray“. Park is also not a diva, he is a man who thinks greatly about things such as budgets and puts a positive spin on what others would see as a constraint: “In terms of budget limits, I feel the constraints are a positive thing and force me to think of ways to portray scenes with a lower budget and I honestly think that’s a good thing.” One of the reasons as to why he chose The Showdown as his directorial debut was because historical films have become films of lavish sets and costumes, but Park wanted the audience to focus on the mystery and the characters hence he directed it himself with a much lower budget. Park also said he had actually written the screenplay for The Showdown before his other film screenplays and he always had the intention of directing it himself.
Before meeting Park Hoon-jung, we did a little research and many class him as the king of the Korean thriller but this was never intentional as Park simply sets out to write a story and his inspiration comes from current events in Korea and watching the news. That being said, Park suggests that he would like to explore other genres in the future but “there are certain subject areas such as romance and comedy that I don’t think I’d be very good at“. We would personally like to see how he handles a love story, but Mr Hangul Celluloid asks a very interesting question during the round table interview that really got us thinking. South Korea has gotten a reputation for their rather graphic sex scenes, but Mr Hangul Celluloid has noticed that all of Park’s films contain no references to sex or sexuality whatsoever, apart from ‘I Saw the Devil’ where the sexual content is largely used to underline the deeply twisted nature of the characters involved rather than being sex related to love or romance. Park replies with:
It was indeed a deliberate choice of mine. As you rightly said, there is currently rather a trend in Korean cinema for showing sexual scenes and because that’s the case I felt that I didn’t need to follow in a similar manner at all. Personally, I don’t really like those types of movies so it must be something to do with my personality that I don’t want to reference those kinds of scenes or content.
So maybe a Park Hoon-jung romance won’t be on the cards any time soon… But never fear, Park is already working on his next project which is another period piece which we’ll definately be keeping an eye out for!
I am preparing another period piece set during Korea’s occupation by Japan but at this point that’s really all I can say about it…
You can read the full roundtable interview with Park Hoon-jung over at Hangul Celluloid.
And that is the end of the first quarter of the KCCUK’s Year of Film Professionals programme. There are 3 more special guests this year along with many more FREE Korean film nights at the good ol’ KCCUK.