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Filmmakers stage massive rally against screen quota cut

2006/02/09 Source

Thousands from the Korean filmmaking community yesterday held a massive rally against the government's plan to reduce the amount of time required for screening local films.

The strong backlash from the movie industry erupted late last month when the Ministry of Finance and Economy said it will halve the screen quota for domestic movies from 146 days to 73 days a year beginning in July.

Calling on the government to keep the current quota system, a group of film directors, actors and production staff gathered in front of the Dongwha Duty-Free Shop building at Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Among the prominent participants were top actors Ahn Sung-ki, Hwang Jung-min and Jeon Do-yeon.

The rally followed a series of one-man demonstrations staged by top actors since last Saturday. Both the rally and one-man protests were organized by the Screen Quota Action Alliance, which comprises 40 groups of film directors, actors and producers.

Robert Pilon, the spokesperson for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, joined the rally to convey the organization's support.

He urged the Korean government to reconsider its decision to reduce the screen quota, citing the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity, which was adopted at its general conference in Paris last October.

On Tuesday, actor Choi Min-sik visited the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to return the "Okgwan" medal that he had received for his brilliant acting in the movie "Old Boy", which grabbed the runner-up Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

Choi said that without the screen quota, the success of "Old Boy" would have been impossible.

"I strongly denounce the government for its decision to give up its sovereign cultural right... It is absolutely a betrayal and self-destroying action", said Choi at his one-man protest after returning the medal.

A day earlier, actor Jang Dong-gun held a one-man demonstration in front of the National Assembly, holding up a picket that read, "Be friends with the screen quota system and we will wave 'Taegeukki' across the world". "Taegugki", the name of the Korean national flag, is also the title of a megahit movie Jang starred in.

Korean filmmakers say that screen quota cuts will lead to a flood of Hollywood pictures into the domestic movie market, denouncing the government for trying to accelerate negotiations with the United States on a bilateral trade agreement at the expense of the local film industry's interests.

However, government officials argue the local movie industry is now strong enough to compete with foreign movies without the protective system.

In a move to minimize a negative impact from the measure, the Culture Ministry announced a plan to raise 400 billion won over five years to support the local film industry. The announcement was met with a skeptical response from filmakers.

By Kim Yoon-mi

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