Select Chinese audiences soon will enjoy a raft of 20 Korean films in a festival spanning six decades now hitting three theaters in Beijing, Haikou, and the southwest Chinese mega city of Chongqing. 

The Korean Film Festival in China 2010 launched Thursday in Beijing with titles never before screened in China by controversial directors such as Kim Ki-duk and Park Chan-wook.

The Korean Film Council and China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television sponsored the festival. It is the largest retrospective of Korean cinema ever mounted in China and happens to coincide with mounting tensions between Beijing and Seoul over North Korea, which on Tuesday launched an artillery attack at the South, sparking international pressure on Beijing to rein in Pyongyang.

The most unusual title at the festival for China’s usually middle-of-the-road cinema fare is probably Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, by director Park Chan-wook. The 2005 film starring Lee Young Ae, is about a woman siccing torturous revenge after she’s released from prison for a murder she did not commit.

Kim Ki-duk’s most controversial and violent films will not screen at the festival, which instead will showcase his peaceful cinematic Buddhist mediation Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (2003).

The Korean film retrospective’s earliest title is director Han Hyung-mo’s 1956 drama Madame Freedom, and its most recent is director Kim Sung-oo’s Chinese film My Ex-wife’s Wedding, which premiered at the Pusan International Film Festival in October.

Kim will also host a master class for Chinese festival-goers. Also appearing will be Yoo Ji-tae, actor in festival film One Fine Spring Day by director Hur Jin-ho, who’s also giving a master class.

In an announcement, KOFIC said Hur, whose last film, A Good Rain Knows (2010), was shot in Chengdu, China, will also shoot his next project here, the latest in a series of Sino-Korean co-productions as Korean directors try to tap China’s larger and now booming movie going market.

Other guests attending the opening night at Beijing’s MOMA Broadway Cinemas, owned by Hong Kong producer Bill Kong’s Broadway Cinematheque, were said to include Kwak Jae-yong, on hand for a screening of his 2001 pan-Asian comedy hit My Sassy Girl.

Also notable among the films screening are Poetry by Lee Chang-dong and the 1960 version of the erotic thriller The Housemaid, by Kim Ki-young, which was remade this year by Im Sang-soo. Im’s version, which competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, will not screen at the festival.

After screening in Beijing, the festival will move to Haikou, the capital of the island province of Hainan on Nov. 28, and then on to Chongqing, China's largest city with a population of 32 million. It was not immediately clear how long the screenings would last and MOMA Beijing Broadway Cinematheque could not be reached by phone on Friday.

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