Korean auteur Kim Ki Duk’s hate-hate relationship with the Korean media may have finally reached its climax. Earlier in the year, Kim vowed that he would stop releasing his films in Korea if his latest work Time was not well received. Originally, Time, an unconventional film about plastic surgery, would not be screened in Korea at all, but it was picked up by distributor Sponge after an online petition for its domestic release attracted 10,000 signatures. Released on a limited number of screens on August 24, box office numbers for Time, in keeping with Kim’s previous films, have been humble.
In the last few months, Kim Ki Duk has been under a lot of pressure due to his earlier criticism of Bong Joon Ho’s blockbuster film The Host. During a talk show, Kim remarked that the success of The Host was an indication of the (low?) level of Korean films and audience expectations and accused The Host of unfairly dominating screens. His comments caused a quick and angry public backlash. Kim later wrote a letter of apology to Director Bong Joon Ho and fans of The Host. In the letter, Kim degraded his own films and said that he himself should leave the film industry.
Internationally acclaimed for his piercing, controversial works, Kim Ki Duk is one of Korea’s most renowned directors. His films have screened at festivals worldwide, garnering many awards and almost universal praise. In 2004, Kim Ki Duk received Best Director honors at both the Berlin and Venice Film Festivals for Samaritan Girl and 3-Iron, respectively. But in his native Korea, response to his films have been at best lukewarm. The outspoken director has a notoriously bad relationship with the Korean media, and domestic audiences are less than enthralled with his arthouse works. With the exception of 2001’s Bad Guy, Kim’s films have barely registered at the Korean box office. His previous film The Bow screened in just one theater for less than a week for a total box office of 1,398 admissions. In comparison, his films regularly attract audiences of 200,000 plus overseas.