Director known for violence, torture to create tourist promotion

A scene from Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy.
A scene from Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy. 

When choosing someone to helm a film promoting the joys of your city to potential tourists , you might want to avoid a director renowned for explicit images of violence and torture.

But maybe Seoul's tourism officials saw something others missed in Park Chan-Wook's award-winning Oldboy when the protagonist removes - in lurid close-up - the teeth of his screaming victim with a claw hammer.

"It's fair to say we had some concerns," Kim Ki-Hyun, director of the South Korean capital's tourism business division, said of the decision to commission Park for the promotional project Seoul: Our Movie.

"But then we aren't looking for a TV commercial-type video, but something artistic and genuine," Kim said.

The project is an unusual and possibly brave one, given that the municipal government is waiving almost any control over the finished product.

There is no script, no shooting schedule, no location list and director Park will not actually be directing anything.

Instead, with his brother, prominent media artist Park Chan-Kyong, he has been tasked with compiling the response to the project's call for the general public to send in amateur videos of under five minutes on the subject of pretty much anything related to Seoul.

Submissions will be accepted until November 9, after which the Park brothers will begin sifting through the material which they eventually intend to edit into a 50-minute online movie.

"We're not looking for pretty cityscapes," Park Chan-Kyong said. "We want material that shows Seoul as a real place where real people live."

The project is not limited to people living in Seoul, the brothers said, adding they hoped to get submissions from around the world.

Born and bred in Seoul, the 48-year-old Park Chan-Wook said he had been drawn to the project by the idea of viewing random, fresh perspectives on a city he feels he has "taken for granted" and become "desensitised to."

"We are not at the core of this. The public is. And that makes it exciting."

He brushed away suggestions that the dark nature of some of his movies meant he would be attracted to submissions that focused on the city's seamy underside.

"It's not as if we're going to end up with a film about a serial killer. We understand the commission and there's a balance to be struck," he said in an interview.

"But the fact that they commissioned artists to do this, rather than an ad agency, shows that their intention was not to make something conventional," he added.

More than 11 million foreign tourists visited South Korea last year, according to the Culture Ministry - the first time the country has broken through the 10-million mark.

Chinese nationals account for the vast majority of arrivals and tourist authorities are keen to widen the net and bring in more European travellers who tend to skip South Korea for China, Japan or Southeast Asia.

Seoul is particularly keen to attract a younger demographic to a city with a vibrant night-life that prides itself on being the most wired capital in the world.

"The movie project will be released online, and is really something we believe will appeal to people in the 20-30 age range who we consider most likely to visit or come work in Seoul," Kim said.

Park Chan-Wook said he had no idea how the final cut would turn out.

"It's perfectly unpredictable. That's what we like about it," he said.

AFP

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