The Korean Film Archive (KOFA) was founded in 1974 (then called “Korean Film Depository”) and gained full membership into the FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) in 1985. It serves to preserve, catalogue and showcase Korea’s national cinema heritage. I recently visited them at their DMC Complex in Sangam-dong and will definitely be returning for another trip to learn about Korea’s fascinating cinema history.
“I think that it is the eventual meaning for existence of Korean Film Archive to make a foundation for real ‘Korean Wave’ to investigate Korean tradition and history sincerely, not ‘Korean Wave’ as a fashion, and to make world video culture as well as Korean video culture rich.”- Lee Byung-hoon, Director of Korean Film Archive.
KOFA boast three cinema houses where one can view classic and modern Korean films free of charge. I was pleasantly surprised to find that visitors can watch a number of films there as recent as 2010 releases. Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, for example, has three screenings set for February. Also films such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), A Peppermint Candy (1999), Secret Sunshine (2007), I’m a Cyborg, but that’s OK (2006), Oasis (2002), and My Dear Enemy (2008) are showing, just to name a few.
For those of us who aren’t able to understand Korea, the Korean Film Archive is also holding a special screening of a number of Korean films with English subtitles. The first of which was on February 20th with Madame Freedom (1956). The film was then given some context and commentary by Darcy Paquet, a published author on Korean cinema, followed by a Q & A. If you are interested in taking part, please take note of the following date and come along for the next screenings:
April: A College Woman’s Confession (1958, Shin Sang-ok)
June: Holiday (1968, Lee Man-hee)
August: March of Fools (1975, Ha Kil-jong)
October: Gilsotteum (1985, Im Kwon-taek)
December: The Lovers of Woomook-baemi (1990, Jang Sun-woo)
The exact date will appear on KOFA’s home page so be sure to check those dates as they draw nearer. These screenings are not only for foreigners as Darcy Paquet’s presentation is translated into Korean, ensuring that everyone who attends will be to understand and participate.
Classic Korean films can also be rather hard to come by and if you wish to purchase a copy there are a number of DVD’s you can buy outside KOFA’s Cinematheque. They include individual DVD’s as well as collections of influential Korean directors. The Korea Film Archive also contains the Korean Film Museum. It offers visitors a chance to learn about the history of Korean cinema, and English speakers can make use of the museum’s audio guides.
Korean cinema has come along way in recent times, with modern Korean directors emerging with fascinating and exciting features that have earned critical acclaim form around the world. But as Lee Byung-hoon noted, it is important to sincerely acknowledge and investigate the history of the Korea film industry in order to understand and appreciate its foundations. Korea’s past has been a turbulent one and it has had a major impact on the nature of the industry. War, occupation, government regulation and censorship, have shape the films of their time and a journey into the industry’s past parallels Korea’s socio-political struggles.
If you are interested in finding out more on Korean cinema or KOFA, visit their official website: www.koreafilm.org
-Christopher J. Wheeler