In his keynote speech at the 2011 International Digital Content Conference, Scott Ross, the co-chairman of inDSP USA and technical director of special effects, claimed that:
“I’m a big fan of movies by Chan-wook Park and Joon-ho Bong. Unfortunately, no one sees them because Korean movies are made for Korea […] (The) Korean film community and content community clearly create great art. But in the stream of global content, they’ve not been a global player.”
Later, when asked to elaborate, Mr. Ross stated that Korean films were:
“very specific to Korean culture, and they’re shot in Korean language with Korean scriptwriters,” and that, “(e)veryone thinks their stories, cultures and movies are global content. But that’s not the case. Hollywood movies are global content. I’m not saying I like them but that is the case.”
While Mr. Ross is clearly a highly respected man in his field, his comments seem particularly unfair. Aside from the rudeness of his comments, he’s claiming that Korean films are not ‘global’ because they contain Korean culture. According to him, Hollywood movies contain the content required for a film to be successful internationally. While I don’t wish to put words in Mr. Ross’ mouth, it’s quite clear that by ‘Hollywood’ he means ‘American.’ This is an incredibly arrogant assumption considering the vast number of different cultures and languages throughout the world. Certifying his stance even further, Mr. Ross continued:
“From a Korean perspective, Korea has to decide whether they want to be in ‘the show’ or ‘the business’ as in art vs. money. Produce the content in English. And it should have global content sensibility.”
Therefore, according to Mr. Ross, Korean films need to be in the English language and contain ‘global’ (i.e. American) narratives and culture in order to successful.
However, one of the reasons that Korean films are successful is ultimately because they offer something different from typical Hollywood fare. Certainly, Korean films do primarily receive profits from within and the surrounding Asian countries that is true. Yet Korean productions have been regular participants at international film festivals, notably Cannes, such as The Housemaid (하녀) in 2010 which was a competitor for the Palme d’Or. Also, Hollywood often buys the rights to films that originated in Korea, such as Il Mare (시월애, 2000) which was converted into The Lake House (2006), and Oldboy (올드보이) which currently has director Spike Lee and actor Christian Bale attached.
So what do you think? Are Korean films too Korean? Should they be ‘Americanized’? Post your comments below!