The Korea Herald


[New on the Scene] Kim Seong-sik makes directorial debut after 10 years as assistant director

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 7, 2023 - 16:00

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Director Kim Seong-sik (CJ ENM) Director Kim Seong-sik (CJ ENM)

Director Kim Seong-sik’s “Dr. Cheon and The Lost Talisman,” which has been top of the box office since the extended Chuseok holiday that started Sept. 28, comes after he spent 10 years as an assistant director. In the first week of opening, the film attracted over 1.5 million moviegoers.

Originally an animator who wished to become like renowned Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, Kim decided to change course after watching director Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of Murder." He would later go on to work with Bong in “Parasite.”

Besides Bong, Kim has worked with several of the country’s renowned filmmakers. He was an assistant director for director Park Chan-wook for “Decision to Leave” and director Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan.”

“Dr. Cheon” combines his sensibility as an animator and the know-how he has accumulated while working with auteurs, according to Kim.

“While preparing to release this film, director Bong gave me detailed feedback. Director Park also came to support me by hosting a talk on my movie with the audience,” Kim told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on Sept. 26.

“Both said my movie was not their type, though,” Kim said, laughing.

Kim’s “Dr. Cheon” is indeed a combination of many things. Mixing action and comedy, the urban fantasy film also includes sophisticated and fancy computer graphics and visual effects. The film shows Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won), a fake exorcist, meeting a new client, You-kyung (Esom), who is able to see ghosts. Dr. Cheon soon finds himself on a mission to deal with a strong demon, Beom-cheon (Huh Joon-ho), who can possess human bodies.

While “Dr. Cheon” is based on the webtoon “Possession,” director Kim said he wanted to put his own colors into the story line.

“Since I’m an animator, I thought this movie could show vivid colors of cartoonlike scenes with computer graphics. I prioritized showing a rhythmic development of the story, selectively portraying some key points of the overall context,” he said, adding that he also plans to make “Dr. Cheon” into an animated series if the movie is successful.

Asked if he had wanted to debut as a filmmaker with his own original scenario, he simply said he didn’t want to wait anymore.

“I was already a bit depressed and disappointed in myself after working as an assistant director for 10 years. Then I met with Filmmaker R&K, who handed me a scenario of this film. I found this a golden opportunity that I could not afford to miss,” said Kim.

Kim also has high hopes for a sequel, hinting that there are many hidden symbols and themes in the movie that he hopes to talk more about.

“I want to point out Korea’s traditional elements like shamanism in the movie, as well as the myth surrounding the sword Chilseonggeum that Dr. Cheon uses. There are so many stories to tell and explain about other supporting characters as well, like the demon Beomcheon and the fairy god,” he added.

“Dr. Cheon and The Lost Talisman” opened in theaters on Sept. 27.

The following article is the ninth in a series that introduces Korea’s new and emerging actors and directors. -- Ed.