FIAPF – lnternational Federation of Film Producers Associations honours Lee Choon-yun for his outstanding achievements in film in the Asia Pacific region.

It is without doubt that the Whispering Corridors series broke new ground for Korean-style horror in the 1990’s, often marked as the starting point of the ‘K-Horror’ film. In a domestic market that generally shies away from sequels, its success has become a working model for others to follow. Championed by producer Lee Choon-yun, the series began in 1998 and now has a total of five installments, with the franchise seeing both commercial success in Korea and recognition internationally through the home market and festival circuit, bringing many genre fans worldwide to discover Korean cinema.

The acclaim this brand has achieved is highly commendable and an acknowledgement to the determination, commitment and creativity Lee brought to the series. Born in 1951, Lee began his career in musical theatre, before entering the world of Korean film in the mid to late 80’s. Having originally worked with artistic projects such as Kim Ki-young’s Hunting for Idiots (1984) and Jang Sun-woo’s Age of Success (1988), he soon found himself with the reputation for launching many young stars careers, perhaps first notable in Kang Woo-suk’sHappiness Does Not Come in Grades (1989) which gave Lee Mi-yeon her breakout role. The Whispering Corridors series itself provided the launching platform for many of today’s beloved stars, including Choi Kang-hee, Kim Gyu-ri, Kim Ok-bin and Kong Hyo-jin. However the most successful actress Lee is credited to having been responsible for is that of Shim Eun-ha, who worked with Lee on Art Museum by the Zoo (1998) andInterview (2000).

Lee decided to launch his production company, Cine2000, in the wake of the film liberalisation movement in Korea in the 1990’s, and has gone on to contribute greatly to the diversity of Korean genre films, developing more than 20 features. Notable productions include Park Chan-wook’s Trio (1997), the melodrama Interview(2000), the erotic drama Addicted (2002), the sports comedy Spin Kick (2003), the period biopic Hwang Jin Yi(2007) and the hit action-comedy Running Turtle (2009) starring Kim Yun-seok. Lee has a reputation for giving opportunities to many young filmmakers and first time directors, including Min Kyu-dong, Kim Tae-yong and most recently with Kim Byung-woo on the surprise smash hit The Terror Live (2013).

As he approaches 30 years in the industry, Lee has developed a ‘big brother’ image, working as a mediator between experienced filmmakers and emerging talents, as well as providing a strong connection between industry and government. He is an opinion leader on policy issues and industry conditions, and has stood as chairman of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity in Moving Images.

Arguably one of the most important players in modern Korean cinema, Lee Choon-yun has been a symbol for the industry during the time of its greatest developments. Avid fans of Korean film might even be able to recognise him, as the producer known for his sense of humour, often makes cameo appearances in a wide range of films.

Kieran Tully
Artistic Director, Korean Film Festival in Australia