Korea bizzers move to save screen quota

Issue has drawn support among lawmakers

South Korean filmmakers are pinning their hopes on legislation to save the embattled screen quota that protects local films.

To facilitate Free Trade Agreement talks with the U.S., the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in January halved the number of days that exhibs must show local films to 73 and refuses to reconsider that.

“We’re lobbying to introduce legislation that would enshrine the quota in law,” Jonathan Kim, head of the Korean Film Producers Assn., told Daily Variety.

The issue has drawn support among lawmakers across the political spectrum, and representatives from four parties have held discussions with the film industry. Last July, 37 members of the National Assembly proposed an amendment to the Motion Picture Law to set the quota at 146 days.

Nonetheless, lawmakers would take a great political risk in supporting the legislation now that free trade talks have got the go-ahead.

The quota continues to draw widespread coverage in the press, mostly against a cut. Some polls now show three out of four citizens disapprove of the cut — a sharp rise from only a month ago.

Local filmmakers are also said to be in the early stages of planning a protest during the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Meanwhile, Culture and Tourism Ministry head Chung Dong-chae, who drew widespread criticism from the film industry for his handling of the screen quota and for his proposal to impose a 5% tax on film tickets, has been replaced by former actor-screenwriter Kim Myung-gon.

The 54-year old Kim is best known for playing the father in Im Kwon-taek’s “Sopyonje” and headed the National Theater of Korea from 2000-05.

Roh Jun-hyong becomes head of the Ministry of Information and Communication, currently embroiled in a tug-of-war with the broadcasting industry over who should oversee the introduction of Internet protocol TV.