We’re looking at five of Korea’s most celebrated editors
Dec 01, 2020
- Writerby Pierce Conran
Korea’s Most Sought-After Film Editors
Actors are the people we most often associate with the films we watch, while we’ll often give credit to the directors and screenwriters for the stories we’ve enjoyed and the way they were told. Yet, of course, it takes an army of talented professionals to mount a production. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a look at some of the key technicians in the Korean film scene, whose contributions are the most visible on screen - cinematographers and production designers. This week we will take a lot at the best of the best in a field that is just as important, but, especially when done well, is almost invisible.
More than any discipline in the medium, editing is considered to be one unique to cinema. It is the discipline that stitches the information together on screen, that feeds us details at the right time, and, in the best cases, keeps the story flowing and our attention focused throughout. Just as with other departments, editing has come a long way over the past 20 years in Korean cinema and these days the industry’s top editors are often scouted to work on films in other markets.
This week, we’re looking at five of Korea’s most celebrated editors, from the man who cut Parasite and the siblings who helped shape PARK Chan-wook’s stories to specialists in dynamic editing or weaving together complex, multi-strand narratives.
Though he is now probably the most famous Korean film editor around the world, YANG Jin-mo has actually only been an editor for a short time in the industry, starting as a co-editor of KWAK Kyung-taek’s low-budget film The Ugly Duckling (2012). After growing up in America and studying at Bard College in New York, YANG, who initially wanted to direct, went to Korea armed with a special expertise that set him apart from other wannabe editors - an interest in and understanding of VFX.
YANG entered the Korean commercial film industry as an on-set editor, the person responsible for cutting the day’s footage into a rough assembly, on LEE Myung-se’s The Duelist (2005). After working on several major films, in 2012 he wound up working as an on-set editor with three masters, which would alter the course of his career. He first worked with PARK Chan-wook on his short DAY TRIP (2012), and then, thanks to his ease with English, he worked on KIM Jee-woon’s The Last Stand (2013) and BONG Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013).
His first major film as an editor was The Beauty Inside (2015), for which he also unusually served as the on-set editor. Before long he edited YEON Sang-ho’s TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016), KIM Jee-woon’s The Age of Shadows (2016), BONG Joon-ho’s Okja (2017) and JANG Joon-hwan’s 1987: When the Day Comes. His tight and economical editing skills had already made him a hot commodity before BONG came knocking again with PARASITE (2019). YANG’s work on the film earned him the Eddie for Best Editor - Feature Film at the ACE Eddie Awards, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing. He most recently edited the tight horror-thriller Call, which bowed on Netflix last month.
KIM Sang-bum and KIM Jae-bum
Brothers KIM Sang-bum and KIM Jae-bum have long been considered the gold standard among editors in the Korean film industry. KIM Sang-bum got his start as the editor of the classic melodrama Art Museum by the Zoo (1998) and by the next year his brother had joined him in the editing room, first as an assistant editor before becoming a full editor, and the pair have largely worked together ever since. The KIM brothers are known for high-class and seamless editing and have been prized among directors for their ability to see and help craft the big picture of the films they work on.
Among their most famous long-time collaborators are none other than RYOO Seung-wan (Veteran, 2015), LEE Joon-ik (King and the Clown, 2005), JANG Jin (Someone Special, 2004), WOO Min-ho (Inside Men, 2015) and YOON Jong-bin (The Spy Gone North, 2018), but their most famous partner is without a doubt PARK Chan-wook. KIM Sang-bum started editing PARK’s films with Joint Security Area /JSA (with KIM Jae-bum as an assistant) in 2000, and the pair have edited all his subsequent Korean films, including Old Boy (2003) and The Handmaiden (2016). The pair’s most recent join credits include A Taxi Driver (2017), Rampant (2018) and Money (2019).
Known for her dynamic, high energy editing, NAM Na-young got her start under the veteran editor PARK Gok-ji in the late 1990s, first working as a negative cutter on works such as No. 3 (1997), The Contact (1997) and Swiri (1999). She became an editor in her own right in 2002 through the sex comedy Wet Dreams.
Shortly thereafter, NAM began one of her key partnerships, with director RYOO Seung-wan on Arahan (2004), continuing to work with the action maestro on Crying Fist (2005) and City of Violence (2006). Following that, she started working with another genre film master, KIM Jee-woon, on his action blockbuster The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008). The pair collaborated again on his intense revenge thriller I Saw The Devil (2010), which netted her the Best Editing prize at the Asian Film Awards. Her skill for kinetic editing has best been showcased in her works with KANG Hyoung-chul, which include Sunny (2011) and Swing Kids (2018).
NAM has worked on many other notable films over the years, including Castaway on the Moon (2009), Masquerade (2012), and The Fortress (2017). She most recently edited the currently in-theaters caper comedy Collectors.
Whether they feature many characters, timelines or even fantastical chronological devices, some projects have to weave many different threads together and if there’s one editor in Korea who could be called a specialist in layering multiple timelines and storylines in film, it’s surely SHIN Min-kyung.
After getting her start on Korean film sets and then editing departments in the late 1990s, SHIN struggled to land work as a film editor and worked instead on music videos and commercials before returning to films when KWON Chil-in gave her a chance to prove herself on Singles (2003), and she’s been a steady force in the industry ever since. Her most lasting partnership has been with CHOI Dong-hoon, as she has edited all his films and the stories of the many characters in them, from The Big Swindle (2004) all the way to Assassination (2015).
Her ability to shape storylines with many components has been put to good use on films such as the disaster action-drama Haeundae (2009), the prosecutor saga The King (2017), which earned her the Best Editing prize at the Asian Film Awards, the time loop thriller A Day (2017) and the period financial drama Default (2018). Her other notable credits include Crush and Blush (2008), Cold Eyes (2013), for which she also won at the Asian Film Awards, and Coin Locker Girl (2014). This year she edited the global hit zombie film #ALIVE.
In university, KIM Sun-min followed a friend into a film club and after graduating she wound up in the directing staff for LEE Myung-se’s Their Last Love Affair (1996). Through the late 90s, she worked in various capacities on set and then as a film negative cutter, before debuting as an editor on the 2000 film Jakarta. She followed that up with Wanee And Junah (2001) and My Boss, My Hero (2001) and before long she partnered with BONG Joon-ho to cut what would become the seminal thriller Memories of Murder (2003).
Since the early 2000s, KIM has been one of the most prolific and respected editors in the business, amassing well over 100 credits and though her career has seen her take on a variety of different projects, she has frequently been drawn to heart-pounding horrors and thrillers, from Memories of Murder to Antarctic Journal (2005), THE OUTLAWS (2017) and Door Lock (2018). But her most pulse-raising works have been those she cut for NA Hong-jin, starting with The Chaser, which earned her the Best Editor prize at the Asian Film Awards, and continuing with The Yellow Sea (2010) and THE WAILING (2016). She also worked again with BONG Joon-ho on The Host (2016), for which she was also nominated at the Asian Film Awards.