South Korean product strong

Asia’s industryites left the 15th Pusan Film Festival encouraged by the strength of the biz within the region, and saddened by the departure of fest director Kim Dong-ho, who has run the show since it began 10 years ago.

South Korea flexed its muscles afresh at PIFF — the fest’s top prize, the New Currents Award, was shared by local pics, “The Journal of Musan” by Park Jung-bum and “Bleak Night” by Yun Sung-hyun.

These were the two most talked-about movies during the fest, which next year moves from its home on the Haeundae seafront to a dedicated site, the Busan Cinema Center.

The strong local showing was reflected in the fest’s market, which was dominated by deals struck by local big names CJ, M-Line Distribution and Finecut.

An international contingent came to Friday’s closing ceremony, including Thai helmer Wisit Sasanatieng, Japan’s Isao Yukisada and Oliver Stone.

Kim paid tribute to the fest staff and the people of the city, and there were tears as well as curiosity and some concern about the fest’s future under new management. “Standing before you, this is the happiest and the most honorable moment of my life,” Kim told the aud.

Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper told Variety that Kim had put Pusan on the map in a very short time, creating a hub for people to find Asian films and meet Asian filmmakers.

“I think the festival has its personality, and it comes from Mr. Kim,” said Cooper, who was jury head of Flash Forward, a competition for new, non-Asian filmmakers, won by “Pure,” directed by Swede Lisa Langseth.

Kim’s successor is widely tipped to be co-director Lee Yong-kwan, who founded the fest with Kim while teaching film at Chungang U.

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