Oscars: South Korea Submits 'The Throne' for Foreign-Language Category

The Throne South Korean Oscar Contender

The film is the second costume drama by Lee Joon-ik to vie for an Oscar nomination.

South Korea has selected The Throne (Sado), by seasoned filmmaker Lee Joon-ik, as its candidate for the best foreign-language film Oscar, the film’s distributor Showbox/Mediaplex announced on Thursday. It is the second period drama by Lee to represent the Asian country for a spot in the Academy Awards race.

Lee is a veteran of costume court dramas set in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), the world's longest ruling Confucian dynasty. His 2005 film King and the Clown remains one of the highest grossing Korean films of all time and was Korea's Oscar submission in 2007. "This is my second chance [at possibly winning an Oscar nomination] after King and the Clown and I hope for good results. It would be something meaningful to share with my cast and crew members," the director told The Hollywood Reporter following a press preview of the film in Seoul on Thursday.

The Throne stars Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer) as the infamous 18th-century King Yeongjo, who had his own son put to death. Popular actor Yoo Ah-in, star of box-office smash Veteran, plays the role of the tragic Crown Prince Sado, who perishes after being locked in a wooden rice chest for eight days at the height of a hot summer.

"The tale of Yeongjo and Sado has been told many times. It’s about the throne and power, but it’s also about a father and son," said the director. "There is no son without a father, and there is always a mother next to him. These relationships feed into a myriad of other relationships, and one will end up getting hurt. One tries to overcome these pains, and tragedy ensues when one cannot overcome them."

While Korean films have gained in prominence and international recognition in the past few decades, the country has yet to receive a foreign-language Oscar nomination. The Korean Film Council, which chooses the country's Oscar contender, said it picked The Throne, because, unlike previous submissions including the bleak dramas Sea Fog and Pieta in 2014 and 2013 respectively, the period drama has a more universal appeal.

"While The Throne is based on a Korean historical event, its sophisticated mise-en-scene makes it universally understandable. It has won high esteem from the council for this reason," said a statement released by the state-supported film body. 

Sept. 3, 7:15 a.m. Updated with additional quotes from director Lee Joon-ik.