Daniel Dae Kim Wants to Bring North Korean Defector Story to Screen (Exclusive)

Daniel Dae Kim Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of APA

Daniel Dae Kim Headshot - P 2013

In addition to the book-to-film project, the "Hawaii Five-O" star is also in talks to remake a South Korean medical drama for CBS TV.

SEOUL -- Daniel Dae Kim is looking to co-produce a North Korean defector story while also discussing details for a CBS remake of a South Korean medical series, the Hawaii Five-O star told The Hollywood Reporter.

Since launching his own production banner 3AD, the actor signed a two-year development contract with CBS Television Studios in September to develop new projects. This week, he met Korean broadcasters and cineastes to discuss co-productions and remakes, of which he will serve as producer.

Cross-border projects are most timely, the actor-turned-producer told THR, in this post-"Gangnam Style" age.

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"It's all about the timing and confluence of different events: K-pop is bigger than ever, there is awareness in the U.S. of an international market, there is interest in intellectual property such as basing TV and film on books and foreign content," Kim said. "There is also this emergence of Korean directors breaking into the U.S., and there's people like me with an interest in both Korean and American TV."

Two major projects in talks are a film adaptation of Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country -- a memoir by North Korea specialist Mike Kim about his experience helping North Korean refugees cross over to China -- and a U.S. remake of the popular Korean TV series Good Doctor, possibly for CBS TV.

"Escaping North Korea traces a Korean-American's experience helping North Koreans cross over to China. It's a really beautiful and relevant story, one I think the world should know," Kim said, adding that he and his producing partners, Chris S. Lee and the book's author, Kim, are seeking South Korean collaborators.

"It's something I'd love to shoot in [South] Korea as a co-production. I have the rights for the film adaptation and we are working on the screenplay right now. I'd like this to be a true co-production, with good actors from all sides [Korea and U.S.]. The story as I envision has some of the best roles reserved for Korean actors."

In the meantime, he is also seeking to introduce South Korean content to America.

"There's something that Korean TV does that no other country does -- the way they portray heartbreak and melodrama. In America, there are more serialized dramas and there can be room for something inspired by Korean TV, because I believe good content can transcend cultural barriers," he said.

The 45-year-old says his Korean-American background helps make decisions. "I can understand the Korean dialogue, the cultural nuances of what the show is trying to portray. I think I have a fairly good sense of what will translate and what won't."

He was drawn to the inherent "Koreanness" of Good Doctor, about a brilliant pediatric surgeon suffering from savant syndrome, but also noted that the hit KBS2 series takes place in a hospital setting that is familiar to American audiences: "It's something that can fit into a recognizable world, with a breadth of characters that can be explored in the long run."