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Busan: KOFIC’s New Busan Era Takes Time to Shine

A cross-country move is never easy and while two years have passed since the Korean Film Council relocated from Seoul to Busan, there are still a number of kinks to work out.

As part of a government decentralization strategy in 2005, KOFIC — Korea’s film industry regulator and financier — and the Korea Media Rating Board were relocated to Busan in 2013. During the process of settling down in their new home numerous problems have surfaced.

Since KOFIC-owned Namyangju Studios is still for sale — the proceeds of which were to provide the start-up costs for its new Busan building — it has had to use temporary office space in Centum City. Subsequently, because KOFIC still lacks enough space for itself, the org’s initial plans to relocate the Korean Academy of Film Arts and media center down to Busan have yet to happen.

KOFIC chairman Kim Sae-hoon recently expressed his determination to push ahead with relocating KAFA to Busan, but that will cause another problem. KAFA is a film education institute where renowned Seoul-based professional filmmakers participate in helping student filmmakers develop their skills. The academy’s relocation to Busan will require a new budget which will have to include transportation and accommodation costs for filmmakers to travel to the coast. It will also require new dorms for students, which KOFIC does not have at the moment.

The 250 miles between Busan and Seoul also attributes to the ineffectiveness in practicing the purpose of the film bodies’ relocation. Policy-wise, the relocation was supposed to reduce the concentration of government and industry in Seoul — as in, KOFIC and the rating board were expected to control and network the film industries scattered in different cities from Busan. Since some 90% of the film industry infrastructure, human resources, and capital are concentrated in Seoul, however, industry voices have said that it has become inefficient to communicate with the film bodies.

One achievement that KOFIC did make was that it got to work on the new film production center in Busan, which was one of its initial goals when relocating. Korea’s ministry of culture and sport, Busan city government, KOFIC and Gijang County signed a memorandum of understanding in June for the production complex with two indoor studios, one outdoor site, post-production facilities, and a center for production support and funding. Construction is currently set to take place between 2017 and 2019 on the 918,000-square-meter site. Three more stages may be added later.

On the upside, however, is that the film bodies’ relocation has helped the city of Busan, along with the Busan Film Festival and the Busan Film Commission, get UNESCO’s “City of Film” designation and become the first Asian city to join the organization’s Creative Cities Network.

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