A full 20 minutes of Avengers takes place in and around downtown Seoul, South Korea, including Digital Media City and the chi-chi Gangnam (yes, that Gangnam) district. The urban backdrop is a direct result of Seoul paying more than $3.6 million of the film’s production costs while in Seoul. Moreover, Marvel agreed to portray South Korea as a “high-tech, modern country” and to avoid portraying it “in any negative manner,” according to the Daily Mail. During filming but before the payoff was revealed, director Joss Whedon even went on YouTube with a special message about being “really grateful” to be there.

Korean Air appears often in the film’s Seoul scenes, and the Avengers producers cast South Korean star Claudia (Soo-hyun) Kim as a medical expert. It’s noteworthy that Iron Man 3 also cast China superstar Fan Bingbing as a medical expert. One big difference, though, is that the South Koreans’ involvement seems to have escaped the same criticism leveled at Iron Man 3’s partnership with Chinese interests. That film saw Hollywood accused of “appeasement” and launched 100 “kowtow” headlines.

Perhaps Seoul’s civic leaders saw an early draft of the script that depicted the South Korean city in a bad light. Indeed, the recent Sony leaks revealed that Mexican officials agreed to pay millions of dollars in incentives to create a more favorable depiction of the country in the upcoming James Bond film, Spectre. Studios may have discovered a whole new revenue stream for assured blockbusters: geographic blackmail.

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