Filmmakers turn to popular novels for inspiration
Published : Jan 26, 2012 - 19:20
Updated : Jan 26, 2012 - 20:07
More best-selling books to be made into movies in 2012

We saw its success on the silver screen last year, with the hits “Punch” and “The Silenced.”

Following the box-office triumph of the two bestsellers-turned-films, Korea’s publishing scene is seeing more of its output being turned into motion pictures this year. The film rights to about 10 popular books have been sold to production houses so far.

The books to be turned into films include author Park Bum-shin’s romance novel “Eungyo,” Kim Tak-hwan’s historical fiction work “Russian Coffee,” Jeong Yoo-jeong’s crime thriller “A Night of 7 Years,” big-name author Kim Hoon’s “String Song,” and popular young writer Kim Ae-ran’s latest novel “My Palpitating Life.”
A scene from “Russian Coffee,” which was made based on writer Kim Tak-hwan’s historical novel. (Cinema Service)

“We are definitely getting a lot more inquiries from Chungmuro, especially after the success of ‘Punch’ and ‘The Silenced,’” said Lee Soon-hwa, the chief of publishing house Changbi’s film rights department. One of the leading publishers here, Changbi sold the rights to “Punch” and “The Silenced” to Chungmuro, and recently signed a contract with production house ZIPCINE for “My Palpitating Life.”

“I’d say last year saw a lot of success,” Lee told The Korea Herald in a phone interview on Thursday. “But we are also a bit concerned that some movies often turn out to be totally different from the originals. We have it in a contract clause to have the movies not too different from the books, but what we can do during the production phase of the films is quite limited.”

Among the films, nurse-turned-writer Jeong Yoo-jeong’s “A Night of 7 Years” generated intense competition among production houses. Some 15 companies reportedly showed interest in the crime thriller, which tells the story of a man whose father is a condemned murderer.

Kim Jang-wook, the head of production house Punch Ball who bought the rights to the book for about 100 million won, said the novel is simply perfect for the silver screen.

“It is extremely hard to discover well-written thriller scripts,” Kim told The Korea Herald on Thursday. “You’d find two or three if you are lucky. This is an extremely well-written novel that is highly entertaining, which is also filled with possibilities for a lot of visual and cinematic creativity.”

Kim said he hopes to see the current trend bring more energy and money to the scene, and eventually lead to more opportunities for up-and-coming directors.

“I’d say only one or two out of 100 young directors debut with their original screenplays ― it’s that tough,” he said. “The best-selling books may seem like they are taking away the young filmmakers’ chances, but I think more chances will come to them after the scene becomes more exciting and tense with more well-made films.”

Meanwhile, director Byeon Young-joo’s upcoming mystery thriller “Train,” which is slated to open in theaters in March, is based on popular Japanese contemporary author Miyuki Miyabe’s novel of the same title. It tells the story of a man in search of his fiance who suddenly disappeared.

“The basis of the film is a Japanese novel, but what attracted us to it was its universality,” said Park Ji-oh, the film’s promoter.

“We did not try to get rid of what’s considered Japanese in the film. The major difference between the novel and the film is its main character. He is a lot more involved and driven in the film than in the novel.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)