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Classic 'Taekwon V' reanimated
- Updated 2003.09.13

When people in their 30s and 40s were little kids using pencils and rubber erasers instead of laptops and cell phones, they had heroes just like today's children.

The hero that flew across blue skies and always defended the weak was Robot Taekwon V in the first Korean sci-fi animated film of the same name, directed by Kim Cheong-gi. After being introduced in 1976, it enjoyed a large following among young viewers and seven sequels were made through the early 1990s.
"Robot Taekwon V" gradually faded from people's memories as other animations came on the scene beginning in the late 1990s. Though many Taekwon fans longed for its revival, the original print of the film could not be located.

However, a duplicate film of the first reel of "Robot Taekwon V" was recently discovered in the warehouse of the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC) and the animation film will run at local theaters next year.

"When I heard that the film had been found, I felt as if a long-lost child taken for dead after many years had come back to me," said the director Kim, 62, in an interview with The Korea Herald at the Seoul Animation Center.

Though in his 60s, Kim looks much younger and his eyes sparkled over thick black horn-rimmed spectacles. "I made lots of animations including 'Sonogong,' 'General Ddol-I' and have a strong affection for all those works," Kim said. "But the work that I am most proud of is 'Robot Taekwon V,' of course," he added.

Kim said that "Robot Taekwon V" presented a Korean robot hero to young children who were crazy about "Mazinga Z," a Japanese animation that was very popular in Korea, too. "Until 'Robot Taekwon V' came along, 'Mazinga Z' had been the only hero. I wanted to give Korean children another hero, one made by Koreans," Kim said.

To demonstrate the traditional Korean character of the hero, he gave the robot the means to deliver powerful Taekwondo kicks. "Many people thought I was good at Taekwondo. But I cannot do it at all," Kim said with a smile. He invited belt-holders in Taekwondo and asked for exhibition games. Kim depicted their exact movements. "It was a tough job but worthwhile, too," he said.

Kim, the first Korean sci-fi animation director, said that he had a lot of interest in science even as a child. "When I was young, I saw the steam locomotive in Seoul for the first time. It was amazing," he said. "From that time, I have been interested in science. I was attracted to stars and the universe, in particular. This is the reason why I have continued to make SF animations," Kim added.

Though the newly found print has lots of scratches, it can be easily restored, according to Kim. As the original author and director of this animation, Kim has already given his consent to run his masterpiece at theaters and Shincine, the company that purchased sales rights, has plans to remake the film as a 3D animation.

"I am confident that 'Robot Taekwon V' will satisfy not only the expectations of people in their 30s or 40s who are nostalgic about Robot Taekwon V, but also little kids' tastes," Kim said.

"A 'Robot Taekwon V' exhibition was held three years ago. I was surprised to see little children excited and clapping with joy. From that experience, I have come to believe that kids can empathize with Robot Taekwon V, despite the generation gap," said the director.

O Youn-hee


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