Aussie and Korean producers team up for drug smuggling drama

Pong Su (Photo credit: ABC).

The infamous case of the North Korean cargo ship involved in Australia’s largest drug bust will be dramatised in a feature film, potentially as the first official Australian-Korean co-production.

Reg Cribb is writing the first draft of action drama The Pong Su for the producers, Unicorn Films’ Lizzette Atkins (Looking For Grace, Celeste, Aim High In Creation) and Jonathan Kim of Korea’s Hanmac Culture Group.

The cargo ship was used to smuggle 150 kilograms of heroin into Victoria in April 2003. The Australian Federal Police monitored the operation and the ship was seized off the coast of NSW on the orders of Prime Minister John Howard.

The film will follow eccentric defence lawyer Ian Hayden, his Korean interpreter Yuna and their relationship with their charismatic client, the ship’s master, North Korean Captain Song.

“In a story full of contradictions and moral ambiguity, the defence team is determined to see justice done,” Atkins says.

Atkins and executive producer Steve Hayden, Ian Hayden’s son, who wrote the original treatment the film is based on, teamed up with Jonathan Kim, whose credits include the movies Making Family, Masquerade and The Equation of Love and Death.

(L-R) Steve Hayden, the Seoul Film Commission’s Erica Ko, Jonathan Kim and Lizzette Atkins.

The producers are in negotiations with one of Korea’s most renowned directors and plan to shoot the film mostly in and around Victoria.

“The Koreans are confident they can raise a significant proportion of the budget out of Korea, based on the story and the Korean director,” Atkins tells IF.

“Both parties are keen to do it as an official co-production, as are the co-production bodies in each country. The exciting thing about The Pong Su is that it is potentially a perfect fit. On the Australian side we would of course employ the Producer Offset.”

This week the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age launched reporter Richard Baker’s podcast The Last Voyage of the Pong Su.