Helmer is first hands-on artist to be appointed to post

SEOUL — South Korean director Lee Chang-dong (“Oasis,” “Peppermint Candy”) — was named the minister of Culture & Tourism in Korea last week, one of many surprising picks in the cabinet of the newly-inaugurated President Roh Moo-hyun, sworn in on Feb. 25.

Lee, who became the first Korean director to garner an award from a major fest when he received a Special Director’s Award from the Venice Film Festival for “Oasis” last year, is the first hands-on artist to be appointed to a ministerial post at the Culture Ministry.

Born in 1954, Lee, a teacher and novelist, entered the film industry as scriptwriter and assistant director in early 1990s. He established a production house in 1996 and made his directorial debut with the sensational social feature “Green Fish” in 1997.

He also played a crucial role in protecting the local cinema industry by forming civic organizations to preserve the national screen quota system for domestic films.

Local industryites want Lee to continue protecting the system through talks on the Bilateral Investment Treaty and Free Trade Agreement with the United States, as well as through the ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations.

“Since this is the first time that an actual artist is seated at the post, we hope he will also help shift focus from industrial to the true essence of art,” an organization made up of 16 cultural associations said in a joint statement.

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