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Movies Reveal Korean Culture Better Than Any Guidebook

Posted September. 30, 2005 08:12,   


When the lights go out, a Korean high school classroom in the 1970s appears on the screen. As soon as they see President’s picture above the black board, foreign tourists talk in whispers. It’s a Korean classroom scene about 30 years ago, which is unfamiliar to them. Their faces look sincere.

If you want to know the raised status of Korean movies, here is the perfect place for it. The Europe-Korea Foundation (EKF), a charity arm of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, is holding a “Cinecafé” event, which is stirring a Korean movie boom among foreigners.

In the latest event on September 28, “Public Enemy 2,” also titled, “Another Public Enemy,” was shown. Although the film stopped a couple of times due to malfunctioning errors, no one in the audience complained.

The Cinecafé, which is being held in the Raemian Culture Center located in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, is open to every foreigner. The Cinecafé is held every other Wednesday morning. After watching a movie, they discuss the movie having lunch. Chris Berco (female) who is from Australia and attended the event for a third time, said, “It’s a good chance to watch Korean movies which are barely introduced in Australia. Watching a Korean movie is a better way to learn about Korean culture more vividly than reading guide magazines on Korea.”

The EKF has run its Cinecafé since last November, and it organized the movie screening event to help foreigners better understand Korea.

Nicole Risse, the director of the EKF, explained that they choose movies which are not violent and have a high level of English subtitles, and that they are introducing various movies ranging from director Kim Ki-duk’s art movies to director Kang woo-suk’s hit movies.

The biggest hit among dozens of movies screened in the Cinecafé until now is “The Way Home,” which describes how a grandmother and her grandson share each other’s feelings. When this movie was shown earlier this year, foreigners who obtained good reviews in advance flocked to see it. Risse hinted that foreigners prefer movies containing unique Korean sentiments, such as affection among family members and respect for parents.

As the Cinecafé is open in the morning, most audience members are female. The EKF plans to run the Cinecafé for businessmen and students in the evening as well.

When “Untold Scandal” starring Bae Yong-joon was introduced as a next month’s movie after the screening of Public Enemy 2, members of the female audience shouted for joy. After all, the power of Korean wave’s star is great.

The admission fee, 10,000 won, will be donated to a shelter for disadvantaged children in Bucheon, Gyeonggi province.

Mi-Kyung Jung mickey@donga.com