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he year 2006 was a boom year in a number of different respects.Production reached its highest level in a decade and a half, with 108 films released in theaters, and many more which were waiting for release at the end of the year.

Debut director Shin Han-sol's The Art of Fighting is a different sort of action film, one that largely avoids impressive displays of physical movement, and instead focuses on the gritty, sensual aspects of fighting.Ultimately Art of Fighting is worth watching, but is unlikely to rank as one of the highlights of 2006.(Darcy Paquet) With the critical success of its first omnibus film, South Korea's National Commission on Human Rights commissioned another series, If You Were Me 2.Hong Sang-soo was widely praised for his seventh film Woman on the Beach; The Host won over critical praise to go with its commercial success; and the 11th Pusan International Film Festival boasted a large number of independent films that stirred up excitement among critics.A number of films shot in a more commercial vein, such as gangster movie A Dirty Carnival, debut film Like a Virgin, drama Family Ties and even the crazy low-budget comedy My Scary Girl earned high praise as well.Set in a grim, ugly-looking town where the people seem motivated by boredom rather than any enthusiasm for life, the film is most memorable for its black humor and the great presence shown by its two lead actors.

With vulnerability and steely determination reflected in his eyes, Jae Hee, best known from Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron, is well-suited to the role of Byung-tae.

The Art of Fighting is well acted and capably put together, with a mostly predictable but engrossing narrative.

Yet the film leaves you with an odd sense of emptiness.

The pacing is perfect, the images of the friends in arms racing through the city still stay with me, and there's a nice little placement of one of the symbols of capitalism that brought a bit of laughter to what is otherwise a short full of sorrow, even more sorrowful considering its partly based on a true story.

Speaking of true stories, let me jump out of the order of this omnibus and mention the last short, Kim Dong-won's documentary about Korean-Chinese immigrants, "Jongno, Winter." Immigration laws in South Korea give advantages to diasporic Koreans from North America and Europe that are not afforded those from China, Russia, or the former Soviet States (the "-Stans").

Nonetheless, people in the film industry were sounding alarm bells by the end of the year.