The Korea Herald


Wonju city sues production company over title of horror film ‘Chiaksan’

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Aug. 29, 2023 - 08:22

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The poster for film “Chiaksan” (Doho Entertainment) The poster for film “Chiaksan” (Doho Entertainment)

The city government of Wonju in Gangwon Province said Monday that it would file a lawsuit to stop the release of “Chiaksan,” a horror film that is slated to open Sept. 16.

Wonju city said it would ask the court to ban the film from being released and further sue for any damages that the film might cause the city and its residents.

Directed by Kim Seon-woong and starring Yoon Kyun-sang, “Chiaksan” is set in 1980 and follows a ghost story in which pieces of a dismembered body are found in the Chiaksan area.

The city government's legal action follows production firm Doho Entertainment's refusal to change the film's title. The Wonju city government had earlier requested that the firm change the title, saying that the horror film’s portrayal of Chiaksan as the site of a heinous murder might cause residents anxiety as well as raise concerns that copycat crimes could happen following the movie's release.

“We will take bold action to make sure none of our 360,000 Wonju city residents suffer damages due to the film’s release. We won’t let this ghost story, which has never been heard of nor seen here, harm the image of the country’s safest and healthiest city,” said Wonju Mayor Won Kang-su.

Doho Entertainment argues that since the overall plot of the film is closely related to Chiaksan, changing the film title would significantly harm the storyline. The production firm added that it would issue statements saying the film’s background, location and characters are all fictional.

“We are sorry to cause concern among residents and the city government. But (changing the title) would make it hard to connect the story, and it would be hard to shoot the film over from the beginning due to the lead actor’s enlistment,” the production firm said in a statement.

It’s not the first time that a film title has stirred up controversy here.

The 2016 horror film “The Wailing,” which in Korean is titled “Gokseong” after the name of the county in South Jeolla Province, caused controversy over the fact that the film might harm the county's image. The film revolves around a series of mysterious killings and illnesses in a village in Gokseong.

After the film’s commercial and critical success, some argue the film in fact served to increase tourism to the county.

A similar issue emerged when 2018 horror film “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” opened as well.

In response, some in the production industry said that a creative work should be seen simply as a creative work.

“Freedom of creative production should be guaranteed. There are many cases in which horror or thriller flicks use the real name of a place to increase realism and immerse viewers in the story,” an industry worker argued.

Cultural critics also pointed to controversies continually emerging concerning the real-name titles of horror movies or locations depicted in them.

“The impact of pop culture is undeniable. A film with a negative portrayal of a certain city can harm local businesses in the area,” said pop culture critic Kim Hern-sik, sharing his view that production firms should take a more careful, sensitive approach.