Choi Min-sik to stage screen-quota protest at Cannes

by Philip Gowman on 15 May, 2006

in Film

Londoners looking forward to the delights of next week’s Korean film festival can be forgiven for overlooking that other festival which starts this week… in Cannes.

The Korean film industry will take advantage of the event to publicise their opposition to the reduction in the screen quota. Here’s an article from today’s Korea Times:

A group of South Korean movie workers left for France Monday to protest at the Cannes film festival against South Korea’s plan to sign a free trade pact with the United States, representatives of the group said.

Choi Min-sik, star of the South Korean film Old Boy, that won the Grand Prize in Cannes in 2004, will stage a silent demonstration at the opening night at the Palais de Festivals on Wednesday, they said. The actor has been one of the main opponents of the government’s policy to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Washington. As part of the agreement, Seoul plans to reduce the mandatory days for screening of domestic movies in theaters, allowing more space for foreign movies. The reduction was a years-long demand from Washington under the influence of major U.S. studios.

“We want to tell the world about the injustice of the FTA. Domestic media have failed to tell the truth, so we want to go abroad and do interviews,” said Lee Tae-kwan, a script writer and member of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity in Moving Images, a local body of movie workers aimed at protecting the screen quota.

South Korea’s government announced in January that it will cut the mandatory screening days for homegrown movies to 73 days a year starting in July, from the current 146 days. Movie workers say the reduction of the quota will deal a heavy blow to low-budget Korean movies and help Hollywood blockbusters in the lucrative Korean market, where each individual watches at least three movies in theaters a year, according to statistics. They say the free trade pact breaches the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, approved by Korea and 147 other nations and opposed only by the U.S. and Israel last year.

Movie workers have been staging street demonstrations and one-man protests in downtown Seoul to reverse the policy. The Korean delegates will protest in the streets of Cannes, holding pickets reading “No to FTA Yes to Screen Quota” during the festival, the movie workers said.

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