[A Look Back On Korea's 'Cheonman Movie' #14] The Host

나확진 / 인턴 이효윤 / 2021-11-08 18:00:06
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by Ra Hwak Jin/ Lee Hyo Yoon

[Episode 14] The Host (2006 Directed by Bong Joon-ho)

▲ This image shows the poster for the film "The Host." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

Director Bong Joon-ho's 2006 blockbuster "The Host" gathered 10.91 million of audience to rank No. 15 for the biggest smash-hit Korean films, according to KOBIS data. But, the Korean Film Yearbook reports that the film was watched by 13.01 million people and is the 6th most popular film. As KOBIS data sometimes did not include ticket sales before 2010, the two stastics show different results.

The film stems from the thought, "What if a monster appears at Han River" and has opened a new chapter of Korean monster-movies. After "The Host," multiple new monsters from films, "D-War" (2007), "Chaw" (2009), "Sector 7" (2011) and "Monstrum" (2018) were born. But it wasn't easy for them to catch two hares at once like "The Host" - praises from both the public and the critics.


▲ This photo shows director Bong Joon-ho. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


◇ Breaker of genre-boundaries, director Bong Joon-ho creates legendary monster - begins from U.S army's releasing toxin

The blockbuster has devoted so much into creating its monster investing half of their production cost (1.1 billion Korean won) into it. The result was successful. 15 years have passed but the creature still looks realistic and scary. Like his nickname, “Genre destroyer” (translated), director Bong, who rejected to follow the footsteps of previous monster-films, melted criticism and satire against the society’s harsh reality, family love and humor into every scene.



▲ This photo, provided by Chungeorahm FIlm, shows a scene from the film "The Host" in which the monster is moving fast in its cramped hideout. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

From the beginning of the film, Bong uses a real crime that happened in the U.S military in Korea. The film starts with a scene that shows how the monster appeared in Han River. The U.S army released toxic waste to the water.

The real incident Bong used to create his monster was the 2000 “McFarland” scandal.

In 2000 February, Albert L. McFarland, top official at the U.S. military’s morgue ordered the employees to dump 480 bottles (20 boxes) of unrefined formaline, chemical used to preserve bodies, to the Han River.

The incident was reported to the world by an employee’s informing to Green Korea. McFarland refused to stand in the Korean court according to the U.S.-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). After 5 years since the exposure of his crime, the court finally sentenced him to 6 months in jail and 2 years of suspension in 2005.

“Like Godzilla was created due to the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima, my monster was motivated from the McFarland scandal,” said the director.

The scenes in which those who contacted the monster were isolated in worries of infection and showing lax actions make the watchers feel bitter.

Arrows, firebombs and a metal pipe that looks like a bamboo spear, the weapons the family used to fight off the monster are noteworthy as well.


▲ This photo shows (from the left) Bae Doo-na, Byun Hee-bong, Go A-sung, Song Kang-ho and Park Hae-il, the actors and actresses in "The Host." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

◇ Song Kang-ho, Bae Doo-na and Ko A-sung…Director Bong’s personas

Actor Song Kang-ho frequently appeared in director Bong’s productions. After Bong’s 2003 production, “Memories of Murder,” Song took part in “The Host.” Then, he worked with Bong in the director’s Hollywood debut-film, “Snowpiercer” and in the Academy Award winning masterpiece, “Parasite.” Song is surely “Bong Joon-ho’s persona.”

The actor actually said on an interview with Yonhap News when “Snowpiercer” was released, “My relationship with director Bong is a destiny. He is the closest movie companion to me.”

Actress Ko A-sung, who played Song’s daughter in the movie, later meets the actor and the director once again in “Snowpiercer.” After some years, the actress who worked with veteran actors and actresses for Korea’s legendary monster-movie in the age of 14 said that the film was a fortune of her life. But she also admitted the pressure she had felt while filming the movie.

Actress Bae Doo-na appeared in director Bong’s first full-length film “Barking Dogs Never Bite.” Actor Byun Hee-bong who played Song’s father in the film and actor Yoon Je-moon who helped getting rid of the monster appeared in Bong’s 6-minute short film “Sink and Rise” (2003) which is the key hint for “The Host.”


▲ This photo, provided by Keizo Mori/UPI, shows South Korean actor Song Kang-ho(L) and Director Bong Joon-ho, Oscar winner of Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture for "Parasite," attending the press conference in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, February 23, 2020. This film's some shooting locations have become tourist sites in Seoul, South Korea.  

▲ This photo, provided by GIORGIO ARMANI Beauty, shows actress Bae Doo-na. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



◇ “The Host” artwork installed in Han River Park…raised criticism of “waste of money”

In the end of 2014, 8 years after the release of “The Host,” the Seoul City installed a giant artwork of the monster in Yeouido Hangang Park. It is 3 meters high and 10 meters long similar to that of the actual monster in the film which is 13.7 meters long.

The officials of the Seoul City explained that it was a part of a project to promote Han River but a number of citizens criticized that it was a waste of money.

The criticizers did not understand why the city poured 180 million won into the project when almost 10 years have passed since the film’s release and whether it was an appropriate tour promotion for the Han River’s story.



▲ This photo shows the "The Host" artwork installed in Yeouido Hangang Park. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 




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