The Korean Monster Figure 3-Pack
Fan-Made Figures of Three of Korea’s Most Well-Known Monsters
Author: Kim Song-ho
Source: Hong Gi-hun, Big Monster Club
Can you believe that, in the 40 years since the initial releases of South Korea’s YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP (Daekoesu Yonggary, 1967) and SPACE MONSTER MAN WANGMAGWI (Ujugoein Wangmagwi, 1967), there hasn’t been any merchandise of the titular monsters? Well, it’s true. How about Pulgasari from North Korea’s PULGASARI (1985)? Very limited number of figures were released in Japan, but that’s all. Not in Korea. But now we have them because, in 2008, an avid Korean monster fan made them himself!
The man in question is Hong Gi-hun. He is a graphic designer and the founder of Big Monster Club, the biggest monster film club in Korea. Mr. Hong founded the club in 1999 on the community section of now-defunct nkino.com, a Korean movie portal site. After nkino.com ceased service in 2006, he moved to Naver and resumed moderating the club. During Big Monster Club’s 10-year history, Mr. Hong and the club members supported Korean monster films such as REPTILIAN (Yonggary, 1999), THE HOST (Gwoemul, 2006) and DRAGON WARS (D-War, 2007). And he had several interviews with Korean media and has been trying to let people know about the charm of the Korean monster films. He also collects vintage toys and helped many genre-related film festivals and events in the last several years, with consulting programs or providing his collection for exhibition.
Then in November 2007, he announced that he would produce a series of Korean monster figures. He said he was frustrated in the fact that there are no products based on the Korean monster films and therefore he decided to make them himself. He made it clear that it was a semi-official effort that would not pursue commercial interest, but to let the small number of fans enjoy owning Korean monster toys. He chose three of the most well-known Korean monsters: Yonggary 1967, Wangmagwi and Pulgasari.
In some cases, the original copyright holders could not be reached. Mr. Hong said that director Shim Hyung-rae’s (REPTILIAN, DRAGON WARS) company Younggu Art owns the rights to Yonggary and that Mr. Shim gave his blessings for the Yonggary toy.
Hong Gi-hun applied his own designing skills and, for sculpting and manufacture, the Korean toy dealer World Toys was brought in to collaborate. The figures are made of resin and fully painted. Height is 11 to 12 centimeters (about 4.72 inches) each. The sculptures have half-realistic, half-SD (super deformed) style. They are quite cute, but at the same time, each has its distinct features and details.
For designing the figures, Mr. Hong watched the films countless times and tried to find as much information about the monsters as possible. Among the three monsters, Wangmagwi was the most difficult to design. Because the source film SPACE MONSTER MAN WANGMAGWI is not yet commercially available in Korea in any form, he had to attend every screening or related seminar in the past few years… and those events occured very seldom. Unlike in the US or Japan, there are no such thing as a ‘monster encyclopedia’ in Korea, so the only reference is the film itself. The effort certainly paid off.
The prototypes were to be revealed in December 2007, but production was delayed for several months. Actual pre-orders began on April 10, 2008 and the final products were delivered 4 months later, in August 2008.
The figures were limited to 50 sets (Yonggary, Wangmagwi and Pulgasari made 1 set). The price was 60,000 Korean won (approximately 42.73 USD) per set. 2 sets were personally presented to directors Kim Ki-duk (YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP) and Shim Hyung-rae by Mr. Hong, so 48 sets were sold publicly.