'The Thieves' Takes Box Office by Storm with Nearly 10 Million Viewers

Choi Dong-hoon's "The Thieves" is set to become sixth Korean film to attract 10 million spectators.

"A total of 9.24 million moviegoers have seen the movie as of Sunday," said its distributor Showbox Mediaplex on Monday. The flick was released on July 25. "We expect the figure to surpass 10 million by Thursday."

If so, it will become the first Korean film to achieve the feat in three years after "Haeundae" by Yoon Je-kyoon in 2009. The first domestic film to attract such a large audience was "Silmido" by Kang Woo-suk in 2003.

Choi is credited with the immense success of "The Thieves." His three previous films were all commercial hits -- "The Big Swindle" attracted 2.12 million viewers, "The War of Flower" had 5.68 million, and "Woochi: The Taoist Wizard" sold 6.13 million tickets at the box office.

The Chosun Ilbo asked Choi on Monday whether he thought "The Thieves" would prove to be this popular. "No film director thinks about how many spectators their film will draw when making a movie," he said. "Because it was a crime film, I thought the reviews would be split, so I can't still believe that the film has been such a huge success. I even doubted if the figures by the Korean Film Council were correct, so I checked them again and again."

With the exception of "Woochi: The Taoist Wizard," all the other films he has directed revolve around criminals. "This is the kind of material I like to see as a cinemagoer. People have a boundless curiosity about crimes, accidents and so forth. Nobody wants such things to happen to them personally, but they still want to see them in a dramatic setting," said Choi.

Actor Lee Jung-jae (left) hugs a fan at an event to welcome the 10 millionth viewer of the film Actor Lee Jung-jae (left) hugs a fan at an event to welcome the 10 millionth viewer of the film "The Thieves" at the Time Square plaza in Yeongdeungpo, Seoul on Monday. Also attending the event were director Choi Dong-hoon (second left), and actresses Kim Hye-soo (second right) and Kim Hae-sook.

This is the first film Choi has worked on with his wife and producer Ahn Soo-hyun. "Initially, we didn't like the idea of collaborating because we were worried that it would cause arguments. But there are actually a lot of positives to working together. Whenever I doubted myself as a director, she gave me very valuable advice. We stuck to our principle of respecting each other's work, and she is very good in keeping work and private matters separate. That made everything a lot easier. We are husband and wife, but also friends, so it was fun working together," said Choi.

Ahn, who joined in the middle of the interview, said, "As we used to work on different films, there were times when we couldn't see each other for three months at a stretch. This time, it was good because we worked in the same place and got to see each other all the time."

When asked about his future plans, Choi was tight-lipped, saying merely that he is "a young director who still has a long way to go."

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 14, 2012 10:47 KST