Discovering Korean Cinema: Availability

If you're a regular visitor to DVD Times, you may have noticed that here and there a few reviews of DVD titles from Korea have been popping up. If you've delved a bit further, into the DVD Forums say, you've probably noticed a popular and lengthy thread dedicated to discussing Korean films. So why this sudden interest in films from Korea? And why are a dedicated few being so vocal about them?

Well, it was wondering about these two questions that persuaded me to do a little research, and eventually to take the plunge and actually go and buy a Korean DVD to see what the fuss was about for myself. But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain the purpose of this article.

I am by no means an expert on Korean cinema. But frankly, at this point in time, probably not many people outside of Korea are. What I want to do, dear readers, is have you accompany me, if you so wish, as I venture forth into the uncharted territory of South Korean movie making. Who knows, at the end of it, maybe we'll turn into the experts we currently seem to be missing.

So, our first question is, why this sudden interest in Korean cinema? Well, how many Korean movies have you seen on the shelves of your local Blockbuster? Yep, it's largely down to availability. It's fairly safe to presume that the major reason we're hearing about Korean films now is because it's only with the advent of the Internet that we've had access to information about them - and with the advent of DVD that we've been able to get our dirty little hands on them.

There is another reason why we're hearing about Korean movies now, though. In 1999 the Korean film industry started booming. In that year, three of the top-ten biggest grossing films in Korea were homegrown, with biggest earner Shiri grossing more than twice as much as American imports like The Matrix and The Phantom Menace. This kind of success attracts attention.

A double-bladed light sabre proves to be no match for a Korean woman with a gun

So the second question, why the vocal minority? Well, it's because everybody who's seen them seems to agree that Korean movies are really, really good.

So, armed with this information, and with the vocal minority growing in size and volume, I eventually decided to cave in and give Korean movies a try. So where was I going to get one from?

Availability of Korean DVD is still restricted, though there are a few e-tailers out there who will happily deliver one straight to your door. There are, in fact, a number of Hong Kong editions of Korean movies out, so some titles can be bought from your preferred Hong Kong disc provider. However, if we really want to explore Korean cinema, we need suppliers of actual Korean edition DVDs (which are often better) and this is a bit more restrictive. The following sites kept cropping up in my research:

This is the company I myself decided to use, mainly because they accept CC and re-ship from within the UK, therefore avoiding customs. I've had no bad experiences with them so far. Special note: At the moment they are offering free shipping to Europe on orders of US$49 and above.

Poker Industries
This US-based supplier stock a wide range of Korean, Hong Kong, Japanese and other interesting DVD releases.

This Seoul based supplier offers some excellent prices on their sale items and stock many Korean releases, particularly of Western films, that other on-line retailers don't.

This is a family-run business based in S Korea. According to reports they offer a friendly, efficient service. The down side is that they don't accept plastic, but they do accept PayPal. The site is an excellent source of information about DVD features and region coding (many Korean DVDs marked as R3 are in fact R0).

As the name implies, DVDAsian stock a wide range of titles from all across Asia and not just Korea. A little more expensive than some of the competition, but reliable.

Based in Seoul, MrKwang provides service with a smile through his Ebay store.

Korean DVDs are pricier than their Hong Kong counterparts – prices start at around £12. However, quality anamorphic transfers and DD5.1 sound are commonly featured.

So, now we know where we can buy them from, which films are worth watching? Well…unless you want to go and do some research of your own (which I highly recommend), you'll have to wait for my next instalment. (Hint: You may be able to do a little research without straying too far from this site … try searching the reviews.)

As a footnote, I'd like to thank Dave Foster, Noel Megahey and various members of the DVD forums (too many to list, you know who you are) whose enthusiasm provoked me into beginning this journey of discovery

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