March 10, 2015

South Korean organizations demand greater freedom of expression in Cinema

Several organizations linked to the cinema industry have raised their voices to warn the public about the lack of freedom of expression in their sector.

Last month more than seventy independent organizations linked to the cinema industry organized a press conference in Seoul (South Korea), to express their concern and demanding more freedom of expression for this industry.

Some of the organizations leading this coalition were the Korea Film Producers Association (KFPA), the Directors Guild of Korea (DGK), the Movie Distributors Association of Korea (MDAK), and the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA).

During the presentation the coalition pointed out some recent controversies that they say threaten the autonomy of film festivals and restricts the freedom of expression in cinema.

The first controversy arose early this year when SeoByeong-soo, governor of the City of Busan, asked Lee Yong-kwan, director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), to resign from his position because there were some irregularities in the budget. But this confrontation had started one year ago when the documentary “The Truth Shall not Sink With The Sewol” was screened at the BIFF. The documentary talks about the Sinking of the Sewol Ship on 2014, and openly criticizes the people involved in the rescue of the victims saying that the operation was done incorrectly. It also criticizes the way the government gave information to the family members and the press during those critical days. After the screening the authorities were not happy with the screening of the film started to create a campaign against Lee Yong-kwan. But a public audit shown that the accusations about the budget were false.

This attack towards the general director of the BIFF was widely criticize by the independent sector that considered that the government should not interfere with the program of the festival. RutgerWoflson, director of the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale, raised their voices to support Lee Yong-kwan and the BIFF.

The second controversy came when the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) pass a new regulation on how the movies will be classify from now on. Under this new regulation all the movies screen during a film festival must be classify and have to be pre approve by the KOFIC. The coalition pointed out that this is a disguise censorship since they will not be able to screen uncensored movies or documentaries.

The last controversy arose when the KOFIC announced they will change the way they financially found independent projects. The organizationsstated that under this new legislation the government, because KOFIC depends from the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Korea, will have the power to reject projects that don’t follow their political line.

The coalition warn that they will not hesitate to take more direct action if this situation continues. The independency of the cinema and the freedom of expression is something they will not negotiate.

By Sebastián Nadilo

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