Kore-eda says first South Korean film is a 'universal story'

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Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose first South Korean film "Broker" helped its male lead to a best actor prize at Cannes, said the movie about unwanted children is a "universal" story that defies cultural barriers.

The South Korean cinema industry added to its global winning streak Saturday by scooping two key prizes at Cannes for a pair of beloved veterans, including "Broker" actor Song Kang-ho.

Park Chan-wook clinched the best director award for his erotic crime movie "Decision To Leave".

Kore-eda, who does not speak Korean, made "Broker" with an all-star South Korean cast, including Song ("Parasite"), Bae Doona ("Sympathy for Mr Vengeance"), and K-pop sensation Lee Ji-eun.

The film looks at so-called baby boxes, where mothers can anonymously abandon their newborns to avoid the stigma and hardship of being a single mother in a patriarchal society.

The auteur, who won the top prize at Cannes for his 2018 film "Shoplifters", said that while researching the project he met real-life orphans, who told him they wondered, as unwanted children, if they should have never been born.

"I think this issue is a universal one, which goes beyond South Korea and Japan," the director said at a press conference in Seoul Tuesday, after returning from the French film festival.

He said the question "is there any life that's not worth living?" provided a universal topic for his film, relevant to all countries and cultures, especially "in an era where efficiency is prioritised".

Mothers are typically blamed for the hardships facing abandoned children, but he said it was not only their fault: "As a society, and as adults, we are responsible, too."

- 'Is this a dream?' -

Actor Song, 55, gained worldwide attention starring in 2019's "Parasite", the first foreign-language film to win the best picture Oscar.

In "Broker", he plays a debt-ridden man who discovers an abandoned baby and volunteers to find him a new family in exchange for money.

"I still can't process the moment when my name was announced," the actor said of his best actor win at Cannes -- the first for a South Korean male performer.

"I was in a state of panic for a few seconds, asking myself: 'Is this a dream or is this really happening?'"

Kore-eda has defied tensions between South Korea and Japan to build strong relationships with Korean talent, even visiting the Busan International Film Festival in 2019 in the midst of a trade war.

When Song won best actor, Kore-eda said, he was so happy for the actor to the point where he wondered "if I could be this happy. I'd never experienced it before."

"It wouldn't have been weird for Song to have received an award for his collaborations with directors Bong Joon-ho, Lee Chang-dong or Park Chan-wook.

"I feel humbled that he won this honour for his work in my film and it has become the happiest award for 'Broker,'" he said.

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