Old Movie Promo Posters in Korea

This entry is part 66 of 72 in the series SF in South Korea

In Korean cinemas, upcoming and currently-running films are advertised using handouts (available on a stand within the cinema) that are A4 printouts of the film’s poster on the front, with a writeup and some still frames from the film on the back. Maybe these exist in Canada now too, but I’d never seen such a thing before I arrived here, years ago. 

As long as I’ve been here, these flyers were always just a re-texted version of the film poster, with the title in Hangeul. (Sometimes, the title really is just “in Hangeul”—not translated, just written using English words in a Korean script. Years ago, some Taiwanese students of mine were puzzled by this and asked a classmate majoring in marketing, who explained that Koreans see English as “classy” and so therefore think “러브 액츄얼리” is a classier title than “실제로 사랑.” It’s worth noting that “러브 액츄얼리” sounds way less classy to an English-speaker’s ears than “실제로 사랑”… but, like Britons using French to sound classy in the old days, most Koreans don’t mind.) 

Anyway, while burbling about online I happened to stumble a webpage that contained the old Korean ads for Western films in the 80s. It’s pretty fascinating to see how different these things used to be back in the old days.  I also found it interesting how some of these films were (loosely speaking) SF movies (which is one reason I’m including this in the SF in South Korea series). 

But first, a couple of non-SF examples:

That’s for Streets of Fire, a movie I don’t know. 

If you can read Hangeul, you’ll see they’ve retitled The Karate Kid as “Best Kid”… presumably because if “Karate” were mentioned in the title it might hurt ticket sales? (Resentment of Japan and all that?) It’s also possible the government required it to be retitled, I don’t know. Odd choice, though: why import a movie about karate if you can’t even mention the sport in the film’s title?

The next two are for The Terminator, so yes, we’re into the SF content. This looks to be a newspaper ad:

It’s interesting to see a line of English in there… though there’s still more Hanja than English. Here’s a color poster:

Kind of crowded, with a screenshot added to the left, lots of Hanja, and text crammed into any available space…  

And finally, here’s what I think was the A4 for Ghostbusters (1984) (the larger size of which was available from here):

Not only is the strange editing interesting—notice the smaller Ghostbusters superimposed on top of a bigger image of themselves—but also the addition of two images of Sigourney Weaver—one up front, where she shows some leg, and the other in the back, where she’s channeling Zuul both Sigourney Weaver showing some leg, and Slavitza Jovan, playing Zuul. 1 This thing was clearly edited into shape with scissors and glue, which… well, that’s what was done in those days. Still, a fascinating document. It’s also notable that in 1984, Hanja (Chinese characters) were still being used: you can see some in various bits of text all over the poster. Also, the romanization is a lot faster and phonetical than is used today: 고스트 바스타 (“Goseuteu Baseuta”) in 1984 becomes 고스트 버스터즈 (“Goseuteu Beoseuteojeu”). These titles, again, are all just English titles romanized. (The actual Korean word for a Western-styled ghost is 유령, after all, and not 고스트… though the latter seems in wide use just the same.) 

Here’s an even busier ad for Ghostbusters from the same time:

Finally, like a lot of the other examples, it’s way more busy and crowded with stuff than the original Ghostbusters posters.

(Visit any major Korean portal website and you’ll see that this aesthetic preference for cramming as much stuff into a page hasn’t gone away.)

Oh, by the way, for comparison, here’s what the Ghostbusters 2016 promo A4 looked like:

If you recognize the image, that’s because it’s the same as one of the digital posters for the North American release, but with more text crammed into the top and the bottom:

I always get a kick out of seeing how Western entertainment was important and promulgated in Korea. That said, I’m busy, so that’s it for now. More soon… 

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  1. Thanks to Jeremy Tolbert for the correction! It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film.

2 thoughts on “Old Movie Promo Posters in Korea

  1. the colour poster was poorly edited to say both Egon and Ray is double
    exposed with one image of the guys came from the original us poster
    and likewise with the other image came from another us poster one
    is slightly of cantered and the rest came from the promotional pressers
    and magazines both Ray and Egon wasn’t needed to be double exposed
    this is called cutting corners instead of getting it done professionally by
    an poster artist lesson learned everyone.

    1. I’d be more impressed if you realized the kind of state Korea was in, back in the 1980s, and saw the flaws of the poster as sympatomatic of it still being a developing country attempting to replicate poster art without much of the technology or training use to make the originals.

      As a clue: someone I know was born premature in South Korea in the mid-1980s, outside of Seoul. She had to be put in an incubator. Her province had exactly one, and she was lucky to be born in the same small city in the countryside to which foreign missionaries had brought it, so she survived.

      Doubtless Korean poster artists existed, and worked with traditional media fine… but they likely had little to work with when it came to American promotional materials, and had to make do with stuff clipped from magazines. They were worried about having anything on hand to make their posters with, more than whether it looked great… and probably some of them realized that most of this stuff would be looked at and trashed in short order, and didn’t see the point of spending ten times as long to make it perfect.

      (Things have obviously changed since then.)

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