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Saturday, July 17, 1999 Published at 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

South Korea's answer to Godzilla

Godzilla walks through Manhattan in the American version

By BBC Correspondent Andrew Wood in Seoul

South Korea's answer to Godzilla - the country's most expensive film yet - has had its premiere.

The film is called Yonggary, and is a science-fiction tale of a giant prehistoric dragon brought back to life.

It is a familiar story to film-goers - an ancient warning, the prophecy fulfilled, and a fire-breathing monster revived to terrorise the world - perhaps as punishment for the sins of modern life.

Sales at the Cannes film festival have reportedly reached $3m already.

The original Yonggary film of the 1960s was classically, but charmingly, bad: a man in a rubber suit stamping on toy tanks and cardboard buildings.

The special effects in this version sometimes lack sophistication, looking more like a computer game than a film.

Taking on Hollywood

Although Yonggary may be a Korean creature, this film has been made in English.

The target market is the United States, which is where the money is.

Korea's film industry is emerging from years of censorship.

Film-makers worry that big budget Hollywood movies are crowding out local content, and they are trying to preserve laws which force cinemas to show Korean films for almost half the year.

Yonggary is being marketed here as Korea's answer to Godzilla, the legendary Japanese film dinosaur, whose story was recently remade in America.

But although the film cost around $10m to make, Yonggary is still a pale version of Godzilla.

South Korea is still catching up its richer neighbour, Japan - and it doesn't yet seem culturally confident enough to overtake it.

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