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South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon received a top honor from the French government on Saturday during the 23rd Busan International Film Festival. Fabien Penon, the French ambassador to South Korea, awarded the French Arts and Letters Medal (Officer) in the southern port city to Kim.
Kim has long crafted a reputation for his unique brand of genre films with distinctly noir overtones and stylish visuals. He is known to have been greatly influenced by French noir films of the 1970s and ’80s, and has had a notable presence at French cinema events. In 2008, Kim’s period actioner The Good The Bad The Weird was well received at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was hailed for introducing a new brand of “kimchi Western” films. In 2014, he received an homage from the Gerardmer Fantasy Film Festival in France.
In 2013, Kim made his Hollywood debut with the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner The Last Stand, while his 2016 period intrigue The Age of Shadows, the first Korean local production by Warner Bros., was chosen as South Korea’s submission for the foreign-language film Oscar.
Kim’s Officer status marks the latest recognition of Korean artists by the French government. In 2015, then-French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin awarded the Arts and Letters Medal to Hong Sang-soo. The year before, BIFF founder Kim Dong-ho was decorated by the French government, while Cannes-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon was also recognized in 2009 during the Busan fest for her contribution to the arts.
In 2006, France and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at enhancing film collaboration. The two countries have since seen numerous co-productions, such as Hong’s 2012 In Another Country, starring iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert, and Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 blockbuster Snowpiercer, which is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.
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