Shim Hyung Rae (심형래), known throughout Korea for his comedic character Young Gu (영구) and as director on D-War (디 워, 2006) and The Last Godfather (라스트 갓파더, 2010), is facing bankruptcy.
Reporting on August 31st/September 1st 2011, news agencies claimed that the comedian-turned-director had not paid staff at his production company ‘Yonggu Art.’ 43 employees at the company filed a petition for unpaid wages – amounting to 800 million won – which brought to light the financial difficulties Shim was embroiled in. As Shim was unable to pay the outstanding wages, the building in which ‘Yonggu Art’ was located was seized. In addition, Shim Hyung Rae also borrowed heavily from savings banks in order to produce his films, but had been unable to make repayments. In turn, the savings banks have tried to sue him, and the court cases are currently ongoing.
Both D-War and The Last Godfather were critically mauled by the press and word of mouth, yet despite this the hype surroundings his films at the times of their release was immense. However, audience numbers failed to reach expected figures, falling far short of breaking even. The films had been produced with America in mind, hoping to cater to audiences there and therefore increasing audience attendance.
The Korea Times also reported that Shim had a weakness for casinos, and that his gambling addiction was the root of the problem.
As reported here, Scott Ross, the co-chairman of inDSP USA and technical director of special effects, claimed that Korean films are:
“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.”
Clearly Shim Hyung Rae attempted to follow such advice and break into the American market, yet his failure to do so has ultimately cost him his production company.