|Answer: < An Exotic Garden (Igugjeong-won) > (1957)
The first joint film after Korea’s independence was the 1957 film < An Exotic Garden (Igugjeong-won)> (Korea: Jeon Chang-geun, Hong Kong: Do Gwang-gye, Japan: Wagasugi Mitseo) produced by ‘Korea Entertainment Corporation’ (producer: Im Hwa-su) and Hong Kong’s ‘Show Brothers.’ After Independence, a couple is separated, each taking a son and a daughter with them. The son and the daughter meet without recognizing each other in Hong Kong as a songwriter and a singer and fall in love. The original story had a tragic ending to suit the tastes of the Korean audiences, but in Hong Kong, because people like comedies, they changed it to a happy ending. Most joint films were made with Hong Kong and Taiwan. Korea Entertainment Corporation went on to produce romantic joint films such as < The Affection of the World (Cheonji-yujeong) > (Kim Hwa-rang, 1958) (some film historians view < The Affection of the World (Cheonji-yujeong)> as Korea’s first joint film. We followed the data presented in the handbook from the 9th Busan International Film Festival ‘Reminiscing Korea-Hong Kong Joint Films’ in 2004), < Limitless Love (Aejeongmuhan) > (Jeon Taek-i, 1958), < Nostalgia (Manghyang) > (Jeong Chang-hwa, 1958), < Forever Only You (Eonjekkajina geudaeman-eul) > (Gweon Yeong-sun, 1959) with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
As producer Im Hwa-su of Korea Entertainment Corporation and critic Yoo Du-yeon reveal, the reason why they first initiated joint films was because they wanted to expand the narrow domestic market through Show Brothers who had secured the distribution network of Southeast Asia already. At the time, the Korean film industry had almost fully recuperated from the aftermath of the Korean War and was well into its restoration period with the number of films being produced increasing exponentially. Also, the company had its eyes on penetrating overseas markets and introducing novelty to the audiences back home through exotic sceneries and foreign actors. However, the novelty wore off sooner then they had expected and these films were criticized for having content with no national identity. In the aspect of securing overseas markets, Hong Kong was much ahead of Korea and Korea had to be satisfied with merely introducing some of its actors and actresses to foreign audiences. In 1962, an ambitious plan to make a joint film with 8 participating Asian countries came up during the 9th Asian Film Festival held in Seoul but the attempt failed when all the countries could not reach a common agreement.
In the mid 1960s, joint films made a transition into a trans-Asian action and martial arts genres that were entertaining but had no national identity. Such trends made the joint action movies of Shin Sang-ok and Ran-ran Shaw popular in the 1960s. Their 1st joint film, < Princess Dalgi (Dalgi) > (Im Won-sik, 1963), heralded the start of a series of refreshing action movies filmed in vast and deserted fields. Despite its popularity, action films began to decline after a while, unable to manage the lengthy production time and high costs.
Joint films were often thought of as low-quality films and this is because many of the joint films during its peak in the ‘60s and ‘70s were made to receive the governmental foreign film import quota (a policy where the government dictated the ratio of foreign films that could be imported whenever export films, joint films, or award winning films were produced) and many of them were ‘disguised joint films.’ In the ‘70s, disguised joint films flooded the industry where people would simply switch the director’s name to a Korean name even when only one Korean extra was cast in the movie and the whole film was directed by a foreign director. There were some instances where close-up shots of Korean actors were inserted intricately into the film of an already made Hong Kong movie.
In the late ‘70s, joint films that were made for the purpose of some other benefit started to disappear slowly. Korean joint films that had brought up to the surface many important issues, such as the expansion to overseas markets, introduction of Korean stars, exotic and refreshing spectacles, disguised joint films, and the creation of a trans-Asia film culture, met a phase of renaissance in the late ‘90s. A new form of joint film with topics from the formation of blocs and the globalization and universalization of Korean films came about. In particular, foreign production companies are investing in films of directors such as Kim Gi-deok or Hong Sang-su that have been introduced in international film festivals. At the same time, Korean stars are expanding out to foreign markets while large-scale commercial films and special movies are being made with the manpower and investment from many different Asian countries.