"Gwanghae" reigns supreme at S. Korea film awards

SEOUL - A costume drama about a stand-in monarch has swept South Korea's domestic Oscars, winning 15 of the 23 awards up for grabs, including best film.

"Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King" - distributed internationally under the title "Masquerade" - also won a best actor gong for its star Lee Byung-Hun at the annual Daejong (Grand Bell) Film Awards on Tuesday night.

Lee won for his dual role as King Gwanghae, the 15th ruler of Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and the humble acrobat Hasun, who stands in for the monarch when he faces the threat of being poisoned.

The film, which also picked up best director, best supporting actor and best screenplay awards, was one of two Korean films this year to break through the 10-million ticket barrier at the domestic box office.

The other, "The Thieves", a star-studded casino heist movie shot in Macau, only managed one award - best supporting actress for Kim Hae-Sook.

And there was only a single prize for "Pieta", maverick director Kim Ki-Duk's gritty revenge thriller that won the Golden Lion - a first for a Korean production - at this year's Venice International Film Festival.

The movie garnered a best actress award for Jo Min-Soo, who won for her role as a woman claiming to be the mother of a brutal loan shark.

2012 looks set to be a record-breaking year for South Korean cinema.

The Korean Film Council recently announced around 120 million cinema tickets had been sold across the country by the end of the second quarter of 2012, a year-on-year rise of around 20 per cent.

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