The Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) was originally founded in 1984 in a small classroom inside the Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, predecessor to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). This has allowed it to flourish in a location very close to the Korean film industry, and for 40 years it has served as an educational venue for discovering and amplifying the Korean film landscape’s future potential. It is a place where the masters of modern Korean film found their beginnings, and where new talent is able to take charge of the future.


The Korean Academy of Film Arts is a national-level film education institute that has the special purpose of advocating for the training of film industry professionals. There was a time when the traditional process of becoming a director in the Korean film industry involved an apprenticeship system under which members of a specific director’s direction team would work as an assistant in order to gain experience. 


However, after the 1980s, the industry underwent radical changes as large numbers of exchange students returned from overseas film schools and kick-started a movement towards independent films created outside the system of popular media. This upheaval also prompted the emergence of private film education institutions independent of universities’ film departments, short film festivals, and private video technology that enabled the screening of copied videos. New directors and new film styles began to emerge in earnest, deviating from the traditional apprenticeship system and instead building on a foundation of various forms of human composition and diverse film cultures. KAFA, established in this trend, has created a different, alternative education opportunity situated somewhere between the film industry and an educational institution. It has made remarkable achievements by accommodating both non-majors who want to take their first shot at filmmaking and more experienced members of the industry who are interested in developing their own directorial styles. 


Above all, KAFA has been the starting point both for those directors who led the heyday of Korean films since the 1990s, such as Bong Joon-ho, Hur Jin-ho, Jang Joon-hwan, Min Kyu-dong, and Kim Tae-yong, as well as those who have led the generational shift of contemporary Korean films, such as Jo Sung-hee, Um Tae-hwa, and Huh Jung. Since its establishment, KAFA has steadily introduced dozens of high quality short and feature-length films every year, positioning itself as the birthplace of fresh talent in the Korean film industry.


To celebrate the 40th anniversary since KAFA’s founding, the London Korean Film Festival will introduce 4 feature films and 11 short films. These films have been positively received among KAFA works, and can act as a gauge for the beginnings of the directors and actors who are at the forefront of the Korean film industry.


Um Tae-hwa, whose 2023 film Concrete Utopia enjoyed critical success, made his debut in 2013 with the film  INGtoogi: The Battle of Internet Trolls. Also released in 2013 was director Kim Jung-hoon’s feature film Tinker Ticker. These two films both work that offer sharp insights into the nature of humankind, society, and the cultural Zeitgeist. 


Director Han Ka-ram’s Our Body is a work that highlights the presence of the female directors who have been shifting the Korean film landscape in recent years, as well as demonstrating the director’s unique personality in its focus on the idea of the “body” itself.


Mother Land, a stop-motion animated film by director Park Jae-beom, was painstakingly completed over the course of many years. The film illustrates the director’s deep affection for and dedication to the art of stop-motion, which is exceptionally uncommon in Korea, and also acts as an indication of the broad spectrum of talent emerging from KAFA programmes.


The festival also features 11 carefully selected short films, including: Container, a film from the sharp mind of director Kim Se-in, who received critical acclaim for her 2022 film The Apartment with Two Women; Don’t Step Out of the House, by director Jo Sung-hee, the director behind the 2021 sci-fi hit Space Sweepers; and director Jung Yu-mi’s film My Small Doll House, which has been widely praised by the animation world. 


All in all, these films represent the past 40 years of the Korean Academy of Film Arts, and through them, audiences will be able to experience all the contemporary emotions and concerns of the Korean film industry. 

Mo Eunyoung

Programmer for Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival