By Kim Boram
SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- Director Yeon Sang-ho, who helmed the smash hit zombie thriller "Train to Busan," said Tuesday that he wants to tell the story of the survivors and the land ruined by swarms of zombies from the 2016 film in his upcoming work, "Peninsula."
"While I was looking for filming locations for 'Train to Busan' years ago, there were many devastated places in Korea," Yeon said in a press conference streamed online. "I hoped to make a film at those ruins, if 'Train to Busan' went well. Anyway, dreams come true."
"Peninsula," which has been invited to this year's Cannes Film Festival, is set in the same universe four years after its predecessor, in which the whole country was hit by zombies except for the southern port city of Busan. It is Yeon's third Cannes' entry following the animated film "The King of Pigs" (2011) and "Train to Busan."
Since the zombie outbreak, Korea has been in a state of anarchy, has lost its name and is now called Peninsula.
Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won), a former soldier who escaped the zombie-infested peninsula four years ago, is tasked with going back to the devastated land to retrieve something.
He arrives in Seoul and discovers that there are some non-infected survivors left on the peninsula, isolated and struggling against attacks from zombies and savage humans in the post-apocalyptic world.
Yeon said he tries to present a wider scope of movement in "Peninsula" to help people feel the same horror and thrills as the characters, compared to high-concept shots of the narrow spaces in "Train to Busan."
"People liked 'Train to Busan' because they felt as if they faced zombie attacks in familiar settings, like a train," he said. "I hope they feel like venturing into an unknown world and being chased by hordes of zombies in 'Peninsula.'"
So the versatile director focused more on filming speedier car chase and shooting scenes in the ruined city of Seoul, with touches of computer-generated special visual effects.
As the creator of the sequel of "Train to Busan," regarded as a precursor to Korean zombie series, like Netflix series "Kingdom," Yeon noted that they are popular because neighbors who turn against each other.
"Korean zombies are not just monsters or evil creatures that we have to fight against. They were our family and colleagues minutes ago," he said. "I think this is the point that people like about Korean zombie films."
He said he did not expect his latest film, with a total budget of 20 billion won (US$16.5 million), to repeat the commercial success that "Train to Busan" achieved at home and abroad. It attracted more than 11 million viewers in South Korea and was the Korean film with the highest overseas earnings, of $129 million worldwide, before Oscar-winning "Parasite" (2019).
"I've just tried to make a high quality movie whose story continues from 'Train to Busan,'" he said. "I think a universal message is important in a big-budget commercial film. And this film gives a message of hope in the post-apocalyptic time."
"Peninsula," one of the most anticipated films in South Korea this summer, will premiere in theatres nationwide in July.