HAEUNDAE: The Case of the Stolen Disaster Movie
Korean Government and Movie Industry Deal with Film Piracy
Author: Kim Song-ho
Source: Various Korean news sites and official press releases
Official Movie Site: HAEUNDAE
Korean box office figures courtesy of the Korean Film Council
In a previous article about the Korean disaster movie HAEUNDAE, SciFi Japan reported the film had been illegally leaked online and the Korean Public Prosecution Office had started an investigation to apprehend the culprits responsible. Fortunately, the case was concluded as the suspects were arrested and indicted a few weeks later.
HAEUNDAE, the first full-scale disaster movie of Korea, opened on July 22 at 546 screens across the country and became an instant blockbuster. Currently, the largest-grossing Korean movie of all time is Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 monster movie THE HOST (Gwoemul) which attracted 13.01 million admissions. HAEUNDAE swept away 5 million admissions after just 13 days of release and crossed the 10 million mark after one month. As of October 22, HAEUNDAE is still in release and has accumulated admissions of 11.39 million. That puts the movie at first place in the 2009 Korean box office and fourth place on the domestic all-time list.
On August 29, as the movie was swallowing up the Korean cinemas like a tsunami itself, Korean news sites reported that a high-quality, full-length HAEUNDAE movie file had been leaked online. It was a big shock to everyone involved with the movie. The production company JK Film and distributor/co-investor CJ Entertainment stated that both companies would seek out the persons or organization that initially circulated the file and demand the authorities pursue all necessary legal action.
Three weeks later, on September 17, the Cyber Terror Response Center of the Korean National Police Agency stated it apprehended three individuals on the suspicion of illegally leaking HAEUNDAE. They were Mr. Kim(A), age thirty, a sound engineer for the Korea Blind Union (a support organization for the visually impaired); Mr. Ko, age thirty, a hair designer friend of Kim(A); and Mr. Kim(B), twenty-eight, who was studying in China. According to the police statement, Kim(A) received a HAEUNDAE digital file from the production company on July 17 to prepare a special descriptive audio version of the movie for the blind. However, he gave the file to his friend Ko, who was visiting from China.
After returning to China, Ko gave a DVD containing the movie file to Kim(B), a customer of his hair shop on July 28. And this Kim(B) uploaded the file to two P2P sites, where it quickly spread all over the internet. After being apprehended, Kim(A) reportedly claimed he had told Ko, “Watch it by yourself and do not give it anyone. I never expected consequences quite like this,” and begged the police for adequate representation. On October 8, the police indicted all three suspects (only Ko was indicted without detention).
The incident stirred the Korean movie industry and fandom like never before. On September 24, HAEUNDAE director Youn Je-kyun attended a ‘Copyright Clean Forum’, a cooperation project under the auspices of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Copyright Protection Center. At the forum, Youn stated that the estimated amount of damages to financiers was 16 billion Korean won (approximately 13.41 million USD). He also said, “As I heard from investigating authorities, a popular file uploader can earn 30 to 40 million won (25 to 33 thousand USD) a month… illegal downloading is like drugs.”
The case even made an issue at the government inspection which took place from October 2 to 24. On October 16, assemblyman Jeong Byoung-kook released a statement detailing sales damages to HAEUNDAE caused by the leak. According to the data he submitted, the estimated amount of damage reached to 32.7 billion won (27.4 million USD). At the time of the leak, HAEUNDAE was sold to or in negotiations for sale to 24 countries. Jeong also presented data regarding additional copyright markets (home video, broadcasting, digital downloads, merchandising, etc.) of Korea. The data stated that a ratio of those additional markets to the whole movie industry was 18% in 2007, down 8% from 2001. Compared to 71.3% of the United States market, 66% of Europe, 59.9% of France and 61.6% of Japan, the market ratio in Korea is seriously low. Jeong criticized the Korean Film Council, stating that the organization did not take the matter of eradicating illegal downloads or piracy seriously enough.
Currently, the top movie stars of Korea are unfolding a ‘Good Downloader Campaign’. The campaign started earlier this month and encourages people to shift from illegal downloads or buying pirated DVDs to using legal, industry-approved downloading services. While not the first time celebrities have participated in such campaigns, but this time the name value of the stars is a lot higher. Actors who are involved, such as Ahn Sung-ki (the “National Best Actor of Korea”), Park Joong-hoon (HAEUNDAE), Song Kang-ho (THE HOST), Ha Ji-won (PHONE), Jang Dong-gun (TAEGUKI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR), Jeong Woo-sung (MUSA), Kim Ha-neul (MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT), and Kim Tae-hee (FORBIDDEN LOVE) are well known even in the international market. They were featured in a special commercial for the campaign [see the video at the top of this article] and attended a proclamation ceremony on October 9 during the Busan International Film Festival.
Thus, the leaking of HAEUNDAE did not end with the Korean movie industry and fandom, but became a kind of a social issue in the latter half of this year. It remains to be seen whether this case evolves into a seed of hope for the dwindling additional copyright market of Korea.
For more information, videos, and images from HAEUNDAE, please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Principal Photography Begins on Korean Tsunami Movie HAEUNDAE
- HAEUNDAE Wraps Filming
- HAEUNDAE Teaser Posters and Trailer
- HAEUNDAE Strikes!