Bollywood Goes to South Korea – The Land of Morning Calm

Bollywood in South KoreaSouth Korea may not yet be on the travel itinerary of many Indians (and even our Filmmakers), but its a country that most Indians are aware of, and its one country with whom India is likely to have much more interaction in the coming years. Here we take a look at the Bollywood movies filmed in South Korea, how’s the South Korean market for consumption of Indian entertainment, and vice versa.

South Korea – Closer to Home

For most Indians who go on a vacation in Asia, the more popular destinations are usually Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Bali in Indonesia. South Korea may not be there on their itinerary but that may change over the years.

Most Indians would know that the capital of South Korea is Seoul. They loved the ‘Gangnam Style’ K-pop single by the South Korean musician Psy (actually it was loved the world over). Its a country that has become very good at hockey in recent years (beating India on several occasions) and has hosted the Asian games and even Olympics.

But what many Indians probably don’t know is that South Korea is an Asian media powerhouse that consumes more domestic entertainment (Korean language) than foreign, and Southeast Asia countries like China & Japan also rely a lot on the South Korean entertainment industry.

And this is what probably the Bollywood filmmakers want to capitalize on as well. The recently released ‘Ek Villain’ (Shraddha Kapoor, Sidharth malhotra) was a remake of ISTD (Korean thriller ‘I Saw The Devil’, 2010).
Read: Why Bollywood should make legal remakes…

Considering all these things, its a surprise that South Korea was left largely untouched by Bollywood so far. This is likely to change in the coming years.

Bollywood in South Korea

The 2006 Bollywood movie Gangster, starring Emraan Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut & Shiney Ahuja, was shot in South Korea.

The ‘Tu hi meri shab hai” song was shot at various places in Seoul, including the Grand Park and Cheonggyecheon Park. The “Lamha lamha” song was filmed at Nami Island in South Korea.

Here’s the song ‘Tu hi meri shab hai” from the Bollywood movie Gangster

The exotic locales and jazzy trains of South Korea, used as the backdrop, did enthrall the Indian audience. And although Gangster was the first Bollywood movie filmed in Korea, surprisingly, not many Bollywood movies were filmed in South Korea after that.

Sometime back, Bollywood producer Sajid Nadiadwala’s team had visited south Korea, after receiving an invitation from Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO), and met with the Korean ministers to discuss the possibility of a tie-up between his company, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment (NGE) and the KTB. “It’s a huge achievement for NGE and I’m really honoured to be associated with the KTO. We’ve explored some really good places in Korea like Seoul, Busan, Gangwon and Jeju Island. It’s a very beautiful country,” said Nadiadwala.

So don’t be surprised to see our top Bollywood stars romancing around Busan and Jeju Island in South Korea, in forthcoming movies. Earlier, portions of Salman Khan’s Kick was supposed to be shot in South Korea, but those portions were shot in Poland instead.

South Korea Not Promoting Itself Better?

So is it that South Korea is not promoting itself better as a film shooting destination? Most Bollywood insiders do agree and think that other Southeast Asian countries have a clear lead over South Korea in this contest. The South Korean government is aware of the issue and is seriously considering the possibility of promoting Korea as a film shooting destination.

Some time back Seoul had named Shah Rukh Khan as a kind of goodwill ambassador to upgrade cultural relations between the two countries (Shah Rukh has been appearing in advertisements for South Korean automaker Hyundai Motors for the past several years). South Korea also plans to open more Korean Cultural Centers in India, beyond the one they have established in New Delhi.

Another challenge for South Korea is that there’s a shortage of hotel rooms in Korea, which limits its ability to attract big functions like the Bollywood’s IIFA awards (Macau seems to be the clear winner in that case).

Time Ripe for Brand Bollywood to Expand in South Korea

In recent years, Bollywood films has become quite popular in South Korea. Bollywood actors, especially the Khans, are popular among the Korean youth. So it may seem that the time has come for Bollywood to penetrate the South Korean market.

Although, South Koreans generally enjoy Bollywood fare, some think that the films drag on too long and there are way too many musical numbers (I guess that’s a common grouse in foreign markets). Besides, shorter films mean theatres in South Korea can have more number of shows (most theatres reject very long movies). While most foreign films are under two hours in duration, Bollywood movies can easily last three hours.

However, there are always exceptions, and certain movies like ‘3 Idiots’ and “My Name Is Khan” were popular in South Korea despite their length (each clocked in at about 2 hours and 45 minutes).

South Koreans also seem to prefer light comedies and romantic films, so action based movies like “Don2” and “Robot” were big flop on the Korean peninsula.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Black” is believed to have sparked South Korea’s interest in Bollywood films. Most Koreans sympathized with ‘Black’ because it was about a deaf woman who overcame her disability and was able to succeed in life.

Same goes for the movie “Tare Zameen Par” (meaning “Stars on Earth”), which was about a dyslexic boy overcoming the various obstacles. The movie was loved by the educational sector in Korea.