Will South Korea’s comics finally get a fair stab at the global market?
This is a question I discussed with professor and Korean culture analyst Jung-sun Park recently. Park had suggested to me that yes, manhwa, (which is what comics are called locally in South Korea, where she’s currently based), now have a much higher chance of getting noticed internationally thanks both to the increasing influence of the Internet worldwide and also electronic reading devices such as the Kindle and the iPad, in which comics in particular seem to have found a successful new portal.
But now, it seems that manhwa will be getting another unexpected boost from Hollywood, with the upcoming 3-D film Priest, which (surprisingly) stars well-known English actor Paul Bettany. Priest can be described as a futuristic vampire apocalypse tale, hailing from the horror genre, and is actually based on a Korean manhwa series of the same title by Min-Woo Hyung.
And the movie’s been creating some buzz this past month or so (it’s scheduled to be released in North America on May 13) with its official trailer having just been released.
After watching the two-and-a-half minute clip myself, I’m not exactly sure whether this is going to bring positive attention to Hyung’s work or tomanhwa in general. Then again, in my experience, trailers certainly aren’t always the best guide to how good or bad the actual film ends up being.
However, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, while describing it as appearing to have ‘maybe just enough cool sci-fi gadgets, explosions and sinewy heroes with grizzly good looks and piercing gazes to bring in big box office bucks,’ ends its own assessment on a slightly more cautious note: ‘Fingers crossed Priest won't end up being the kind of movie you watch…and pray will be over soon.’
I have to agree.