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The Host

Theatrical release poster
Hangul 괴물
Hanja 怪物
RR Goemul
MR Koemul
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Produced by Choi Yong-Bae
Written by Baek Chul-hyun
Bong Joon-ho
Starring Song Kang-ho
Byeon Hee-bong
Park Hae-il
Bae Doona
Ko Ah-seong
Music by Lee Byung-woo
Cinematography Kim Hyung-ku
Editing by Kim Sun-min
Distributed by Showbox
Release date(s) South Korea:
July 27, 2006
United Kingdom:
November 10, 2006
United States:
March 9, 2007
Running time 119 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget $11 million
Gross revenue $89,106,383 (worldwide)

The Host (괴물, Gwoemul - "Monster") is a 2006 South Korean monster film, which also contains elements of comedy and drama films. The film was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who co-wrote the screenplay, along with Baek Chul-hyun.

Starring in the film as members of an unremarkable family thrust into the middle of extraordinary events were Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Ko Ah-seong. A combination of blockbuster plot and political commentary, the film also deals with the implications of America's military presence in Korea.

Following the success of the director's work, Memories of Murder, The Host was heavily anticipated. It was released on a record number of screens in its home country on July 27, 2006. By the end of its run on November 8, the film was seen 13 million times, making it the highest grossing South Korean film of all time. The film was released on a limited basis in the United States on March 9, 2007, and on DVD, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats on July 24, 2007.



The film opens with an American military pathologist commanding a reluctant Korean assistant to violate protocol by dumping over 200 bottles of formaldehyde down the drain, which leads to the Han River. A few years later, two men are standing and fishing in Han River when one discovers a mutant amphibian (which is never shown). He releases the palm-sized creature when it bites him. Four more years later, a man commits suicide by jumping off a bridge into Han River, but not before noticing that there's "something dark, underwater."

In the present day, Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) is a seemingly slow-witted man who runs a snack-bar with his father, Hee-bong (Byeon Hee-bong). Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-seong) is a schoolgirl and Gang-du's daughter. Gang-du's sister, Nam-joo (Bae Doona), is a national medalist archer who has an unfortunate tendency to hesitate, and his brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il) is an alcoholic former activist who has not done much since graduating from university.

Gang-du is delivering a meal to some patrons, and sees a crowd gathering along Han River. He joins them as they stand near the side of the river and point at something under the Wonhyo Bridge. It is the creature, now grown. It drops into the water, and moves towards shore. Gang-du throws a can of beer into the water near it, and the creature grabs for the can. The other people nearby then begin to playfully toss other pieces of food to it, but the creature disappears from view. A few moments later, the creature appears on shore behind them, and begins to attack and devour people. Gang-du and an American man named Donald try to fight the creature, and successfully hit it with a street sign, Donald however, loses his arm to the creature afterwards. As Gang-du runs away, he sees Hyun-seo emerge from the snack bar and grabs her hand without stopping. He then stumbles and unwittingly grabs a different girl. A short distance away, he looks back and sees the creature pull Hyun-seo into the river. Gang-du then sees the monster dragging her on the opposite bank before disappearing into the water.

As the family mourns the young girl in a shelter set up for victims of the attack, government representatives in yellow bio-hazard suits arrive and demand to know who has had direct contact with the creature. Gang-du admits that he has, and the family is forced to the hospital, where Gang-du is quarantined. The Korean government announces that the creature is not only a direct danger, but also the host of a deadly, unknown virus that they claim infected the American whose arm had been bitten off. Gang-du receives a phone call from Hyun-seo, who is not dead, but trapped in a sewer. She is cut off as her cellphone battery runs out. Gang-du tries to explain to others, but his explanation sounds more insane than sane to the people at the hospital. Hee-bong believes his son, and uses up his life savings so that they can escape from the hospital and rescue Hyun-seo. They are then able to obtain a truck, two non-yellow hazmat suits, weapons, and a map of the sewer system around the Han River.

The family search the sewers to no avail. They return to their snack stand at the banks of the Han river to rest for the night. Hee-bong admonishes his younger son and daughter for lambasting Gang-du, admitting that his son's slow-wit was caused by him because over the years he wasn't able to provide sufficient care for his older son as he did with them. They wake to find the creature watching them. Hee-bong fires on the creature, causing it to attack them and overturn the snack stand. As the creature tries to get at them inside, Hee-bong fires a shot that causes the creature to flee. Hee-bong, Gang-du & Nam-il give chase, firing wildly. Hee-bong is eventually killed by the creature, and Gang-du is captured by soldiers; Nam-il and Nam-joo escape but are separated.

In the hospital, Gang-du overhears that there is no virus: the government is merely perpetuating a charade to save face. The American scientist who lets out the secret claims that Gang-du is infected in the brain. A team of doctors perform a frontal lobotomy on Gang-du. Afterwards, a nurse mocks the seemingly brain-damaged and unresponsive Gang-du. He suddenly takes her hostage with a syringe full of his "infected" blood, his "slow-wittedness" apparently cured by the lobotomy, and escapes to find that he is not in a hospital, but the back of a military truck on the Han River shores. He drives to Wonhyo Bridge in an ambulance.

Hyun-seo has been trapped in a deep sewer pit since she was spit out by the creature. The creature periodically drops off victims into the pit, to store for later. Hyun-seo finds all the others dead or dying except for a young street urchin named Se-joo. Nam-il goes to a college friend for help, and traces Hyun-seo's phone call. He is betrayed for reward money, but cleverly escapes. Before losing consciousness under a bridge, he sends a text message with Hyun-seo's location to Nam-joo. Nam-Joo goes to the bridge, but comes across the creature. She is near enough that she has a shot, but just as she has the creature in her sights, she hesitates. The creature runs past her and she is knocked unconscious. Hyun-seo tries to climb out of the sewer by a rope fashioned from her and other victims' clothes, but the creature snatches her and places her back on her feet. The camera cuts to black as the creature pounces on her and Se-joo.

Gang-du discovers the feeding pit only in time to see the creature dashing away with a child's arm dangling from its mouth. He chases it on land as it dives into the river. Nam-il wakes to see a homeless man who has been tending to him, and with the man's help and liquor, he makes several Molotov cocktails and together they take a taxi to the Wonhyo Bridge. Nam-joo also awakes. She sees the creature and Gang-du run past her and follows them. The three siblings are led to the riverbank, where the creature attacks demonstrators protesting the government's use of Agent Yellow - a chemical weapon highly harmful to humans - against the creature (and the non-existent virus). Police press back the demonstrators, trying to hold them back. The crowd finally disperses as the creature comes near to the shoreline. All three siblings meet up briefly on top of the bridge, but Gang-Du leaps from the bridge to chase the creature.

Agent Yellow is released and incapacitates the creature temporarily. Pushing through the poisonous fumes, Gang-du pulls out the two seemingly lifeless children from the creature's mouth. Hyun-Seo had grabbed the other child and had avoided being fully swallowed by grabbing onto a large tooth but the three siblings discover she has suffocated. The creature revives and tries to return to the river. Enraged, Gang-du grabs a street sign and begins to battle the creature. Nam-il also begins to throw his Molotov cocktails at it. The creature, apparently terrified of fire, continues to flee. The homeless man whom Nam-il met appears and douses the creature with gasoline, but Nam-il accidentally drops his last bottle as he attempts to throw it. Nam-joo picks up one of the lit fragments with her arrow and shoots it into the creature's eye, causing it to burst into flames, screaming in agony. The creature makes a last attempt to flee towards the protection of the river, but Gang-du finally kills it by shoving the street sign through its mouth, piercing its brain.

As Nam-joo and Nam-il mourn over their dead niece, Gang-du manages to revive Se-joo. In the epilogue, we see Gang-du and Se-joo living as a family in the rebuilt and cozy-looking snack bar, sometime in the winter. One night Gang-du believed he saw something move outside. He gets his rifle but then sets it down, believing it was his imagination. A televised US Senate press release - claiming that the Korean "disease crisis" was caused by "misinformation" - is drowned out by their conversation. The child asks him to turn it off, as he finds it boring, and they eat dinner.


  • Byeon Hee-bong as Park Hee-bong
  • Song Kang-ho as Park Gang-du
  • Park Hae-il as Park Nam-il
  • Bae Doona as Park Nam-joo
  • Ko Ah-seong as Park Hyun-seo
  • Oh Dal-soo as Voice of the monster
  • Lee Jae-eung as Se-jin
  • Lee Dong-ho as Se-ju
  • Yoon Je-moon as The homeless man
  • Lim Phil-sung as Nam-il's senior, the office worker
  • Kim Rwi-ha as Yellow 1 (in the funeral)
  • Park Roh-sik as The inquiry officer
  • Ko Soo-hui as The hostage nurse
  • David Joseph Anselmo as Donald
  • Scott Wilson as U.S. Military doctor
  • Paul Lazar as American doctor
  • Brian Lee as Young Korean doctor
  • Spike Spencer as Park Gang-du (English Voiceover)



The film was the third feature-length film directed by Bong Joon-ho. Following the positive reaction to the director's debut, Barking Dogs Never Bite, coupled with the critical acclaim and box-office success of his previous work, Memories of Murder, the film was given a generous production budget of around 10 billion won[1] (just over $10 million US), huge by local industry standards.[2]


Some of the filming took place in the real sewers near the Han River, rather than on a set. The stars and crew were inoculated against tetanus by the medical officer. During filming, the crew had to deal with the effects of changes in weather and ambient temperature. This including the sewage water freezing in cold temperatures, so that it had to be broken up and melted; and during hot and windy periods, the water evaporated and the silt turned to dust, which blew around in the breeze and into the faces of the crew.[3]

Special effects

The director had to work around the budget-imposed restrictions, especially when it came to special effects. The creature was designed by Chin Wei-chen, the modeling was done by New Zealand-based Weta Workshop and the animatronics were by John Cox's creature Workshop.[4] The CGI for the film was done by The Orphanage, which also did some of the visual effects in The Day After Tomorrow.[5]

The monster was designed with some specific parameters in mind. According to the director himself the inspiration came from a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in the Han River.[6] Therefore, the director's wishes were for it to look like an actual mutated fish-like creature, rather than have a more fantastical design. In the opening scenes of the film, two fishermen presumably encounter the creature whilst it is still small enough to fit in one of their cups; suggestive of its humble, more realistic origins. The monster also exhibits frontal limbs similar to amphibians' legs. This element of its design seems to have been more a choice of functionality on the designers' part as the monster needed to be able to run and perform certain acrobatic movements during the film.[4] For a genre film monster, the creature's size is rather small, only about the size of a truck. Also unlike in many other monster-themed films, the creature is fully visible from early on in the film, sometimes for large stretches of time and even in broad daylight, which earned the film some critical praise.[7]

Political background

The film was in part inspired by an incident in 2000 in which a Korean mortician working for the U.S. military in Seoul dumped a large amount of formaldehyde down the drain. In addition to its environmental concerns, this has added some antagonism against the United States.[8] The American military situated in South Korea is portrayed as uncaring about the effects their activities have on the locals. The chemical agent used by the American military to combat the monster in the end, named "Agent Yellow" in a thinly-veiled reference to Agent Orange was also used to satirical effect.[4] The director, Bong Joon-ho, commented on the issue: "It's a stretch to simplify The Host as an anti-American film, but there is certainly a metaphor and political commentary about the U.S."[9]

Because of its themes that can be seen as critical of the United States, the film was lauded by North Korean authorities,[10] a rarity for a South Korean blockbuster film.

The film features a satiric portrayal of the South Korean government which is portrayed as bureaucratic, inept, and essentially uncaring. Korean youth protesters are featured satirically in the film, with a mixed portrayal, partially heroic, and partially self-righteous and oblivious. According to Bong Joon-ho, the Park Nam-il character is a deliberate anachronism, a reference to South Korea's troubled political history, which involved violent protest. "When you look in terms of this character, it's sort of like the feeling of time going backwards. [...] You could say that he is the image of the college protester back ten years ago; it doesn't exist in the present day."[11]


The Host premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2006 and was released nationally in South Korea on July 27, 2006. Having been heavily hyped and featuring one of the most popular leading actors in the country, Song Kang-ho, the film was released on a record number of screens and made the South Korean record books with its box office performance during its opening weekend. The 2.63 million admissions and $17.2 million box office revenue easily beat the previous records set by Typhoon.[12][13] The film reached six million viewers on August 6, 2006.[14] In early September the film became South Korea's all time box office leader, selling more than 12.3 million tickets in just over a month in a country of 48.5 million. By the end of its run on November 8, the viewing figures came in at 13,019,740.[2]

The film was released theatrically in Australia on August 17, 2006. During the first half of September 2006, it premiered in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. It received a theatrical release in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2006. This was its first official release outside of film festivals, and outside Asia and Australia. Its American release was March 9, 2007. It was or is planned to be released in several other countries; among them are France, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, and Spain.

The Host received screenings on several film festivals. In addition to its opening in Cannes, among the most prominent were the Toronto, Tokyo and New York film festivals. The film swept Korea's Blue Dragon Awards : The Host received five awards, Ko Ah-seong took Best New Actress and Byeon Hee-bong was awarded as Best Supporting Actor.[15]

The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma ranked the film as 3rd place in its list of best films of the year 2006.[16] The Japanese film magazine Kinema Junpo selected it as one of the top 10 best foreign films of the year 2006. (Flags of Our Fathers won the best foreign film of the year 2006.)[17]

With a limited American release starting March 11, 2007, The Host garnered very positive reviews, with a 92% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[18] In addition it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85.[19] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote "The Host is a loopy, feverishly imaginative genre hybrid about the demons that haunt us from without and within."[20]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[21]

Awards and nominations

The Host won 18 awards and received a further 10 nominations.


  • Asia-Pacific Film Festivals
    • Best Editing, Seon Min Kim
    • Best Sound, Tae-young Choi
    • Best Supporting Actor, Hie-bong Byeon
  • Fantasporto (International Fantasy Film Award)
    • Best Director, Joon-ho Bong
  • Grand Bell Award, South Korea
    • Best Director Joon-ho Bong
    • Best Editing Seon Min Kim


  • Saturn Awards
    • Best International Film
    • Best Performance by a Young Actor, Ah-Sung Ko
  • Grand Bell Awards, South Korea
    • Best Actor Kang-ho Song
    • Best Citematography Hyung-ku Kim
    • Best Supporting Actor Hie-bong Byeon
    • Best Supporting Actress Ah-Sung Ko
    • Best Film

Home media

The Region 2 UK release of the film was released on March 5, 2007, while the Region 1 U.S. DVD was released on July 24, 2007 in both single disc and a two disc collector's edition in DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats.[22]

Video game

Twitch Film announced on November 3, 2009 that a videogame is planned,[23] it will be released as a multi-platform first-person shooter.[24]


On June 19, 2007, it was announced that a sequel was in progress for a 2009 release, with a different director.[25] The budget for The Host 2 has been set at close to $12 million, and will be based on a script by webcomic artist Kang Full.[26]


In November 2008 it was announced that Universal will be remaking the South Korean horror film with Gore Verbinski producing, Mark Poirier writing the script, and first-time director Fredrik Bond directing the film. The film is set for a 2011 release.[27]


  1. ^ "Bong Joon-Ho Talks 괴물 (The Host)". 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  2. ^ a b Korean movie reviews for 2006 at, retrieved on January 12, 2007
  3. ^ The Host DVD (additional features). [DVD]. Optimum Home Entertainment. 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c Scott Weinberg (2006-09-13). "TIFF Interview: The Host Director Bong Joon-ho". Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  5. ^ Barbara Robertson (2006-07-27). "Oh Strange Horrors!". CGSociety. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  6. ^ Giuseppe Sedia,Interview with the director October 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  7. ^ Adam Nayman. "The Host ...With the Most". Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  8. ^ Jon Herskovitz (2006-09-07). "South Korean movie monster gobbles up box office". Reuters. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  9. ^ Heejin Koo (2006-09-07). "Korean filmmakers take center stage to bash trade talks". Bloomberg news. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  10. ^ "North Korea lauds S. Korean movie 'The Host' for anti-American stance". Yonhap news. 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  11. ^ "The Host: Monstrous Political Satire". Hollywood Gothique Daily Journal. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  12. ^ Mark Schilling, Darcy Paquet (2006-07-31). "'Host' with the most". Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  13. ^ ""The Host" Stomps to Multiple Box Office Records". The Chosun Ilbo online. 2006-07-31. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  14. ^ Kim Tae-jong (2006-08-06). "'Host' Breaks 6-Million-Viewer Mark". Korea Times (online edition). Retrieved 2006-08-07. 
  15. ^ The 27th Blue Dragon Awards on the site See also [1]
  16. ^ Palmarès 2006 at, retrieved on January 12, 2007
  17. ^ Yang Sung-jin (2007-01-16). "Director hosts new standard". Brunei Times. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  18. ^, retrieved March 26, 2007
  19. ^, retrieved January 25, 2007
  20. ^ Manohla Dargis (2007-03-09). "It Came From the River, Hungry for Humans (Burp)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  21. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  22. ^ SciFi Japan » Cover Art and Press Release for THE HOST DVDs
  23. ^ The Host 2 Becomes a Video Game
  24. ^ 'The Host' Being Developed as a Video Game
  25. ^ "The Host" Getting a Sequel, WorstPreviews, June 19, 2007. Retrieved on April 12, 2008.
  26. ^ Darcy Paquet, Korean film industry hot for sequels, Variety, February 28, 2008. Retrieved on April 12, 2008.
  27. ^ Gore Verbinski Producing The Host Remake for Universal

External links

Preceded by
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
The Show Must Go On

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