A successful novelist and screenwriter before becoming a director, Lee Chang-dong came late to filmmaking, but quickly established himself as one of Korea's most talented directors. He studied Korean literature at Kyungpuk National University, where he directed and acted in numerous plays. He graduated in 1980 and published his first novel, Chonri, in 1983. In the early '90s, he co-wrote, with director Park Kwang-su, two pivotal films of the Korean New Wave: To the Starry Island (1993) and A Single Spark (1996). Now an established figure in the Korean cinema community, Lee was encouraged by his colleagues to become a director (they even formed a mock committee dedicated to the cause.) His first film, Green Fish (1997), a critique of Korean society told through the eyes of a young man who becomes enmeshed in the criminal underworld, won awards at the Rotterdam and Vancouver Film Festivals. His next film, Peppermint Candy (2000), took an even broader and more bitter view of Korea's recent history. Like Christopher Nolan's more gimmicky Memento, released the same year, it tells its story backwards, covering 20 twenty years in the life of a man progressively ruined by his experiences in the military, law enforcement, and business worlds. Fueled by its powerful performances, unique narrative structure, and strong social critique, it was widely praised both in Korea and abroad. He was so impressed with the work of two of the film's actors, Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri, that he cast them in much more demanding roles in his next film, Oasis (2002), as a mentally disabled man and a woman afflicted with cerebral palsy who fall in love. Less overtly political than his previous films, it nevertheless garnered him even more international recognition, winning five awards at the Venice Film Festival.