There have been a lot of ups and downs for the Korean film industry over the years, but 2012 was the biggest up ever, on so many levels. Just looking at the numbers (courtesy of KOBIS):

  • Total admissions: 195 million (old record was 160 million, 2011)
  • Total box office: 1.45 trillion won, or $1.36 billion (old record was 1.26 trillion, 2011)
  • Korean films: 58.8% (2nd best in decades, maybe ever)
  • Korean admissions: 114.5 million (old record was 91.7 million, 2006)
  • Korean box office:  835.5 billion won (old record was 613.7 billion, 2011)

In addition, 32 Korean films pulled in more than 1 million admissions (the old threshold for being considered successful … although, admittedly, that seems a bit low these days). Nine Korean films topped 4 million admissions, three topped 6 million, and two (The Thieves and Masquerade) topped 12 million.

Just to give you some perspective, before 1999’s Shiri, no Korean movie had ever pulled in more than 4 million admissions. Shiri blew away the records then, with 6.2 million admissions, but today that is not enough to crack the top-20.

Those aren’t the officials numbers, btw. Just my quick look at KOBIS. But clearly 2012 was pretty freakin’ incredible for Korean movies, especially for someone who first traveled to Korea in 1996 when the movie industry was in shambles financially (when they made 23% of a 203 billion box office).