The rising Korean cinema has inspired a flurry of new understandings of the nation’s media and cultural policies. However, there remains a gap in the historical factors leading to this phenomenon, regarding particularly Hollywood’s long-term negotiations with import and screen quotas. This study charts Hollywood’s export activities in Korea and analyzes differences between the US economic approach to film as ‘goods’ and Korean view of films as ‘cultural expressions’. The Korean government’s perseverance to safeguard film as cultural heritage and its ability to stand-up against relentless trade pressures from the US have led to the contemporary Korean cinema’s tangible success. Ironically, a brood of American films, which flooded Korea after 1988, helped raise this tiger from its slumber and the subsequent spread of Hallyu the so-called Korean wave, across East Asia and the globe.