HAMBURG — Big, enthusiastic audiences and a market full of eager buyers with bulging wallets has made the Pusan Intl. Film Festival a vital stop on the European Film Promotion agenda each year — which is why it will be taking a record 85 pics to the South Korean fest and market fest this time.

The EFP also is taking a delegation of 23 actors, directors, writers and producers from 13 countries to Pusan along with 23 office participants.

“It’s always been a wonderful festival with enthusiastic and intelligent audiences,” says EFP topper Renate Rose. “But it’s become even more interesting for us since the Asian Film Market opened three years ago.”

Through its Film Sales Support (FSS) effort, EFP will be helping Euro sales agents and production companies for a fifth straight year with their promotional campaigns in Pusan.

“The interest in European films keeps growing,” Rose says. “Through our FSS support, between 25% and 30% of the European films were sold in recent years — it’s tremendous that nearly one in three find buyers in Pusan. It’s not necessarily to Koreans but rather to India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and of course Japan. It’s a great place for us.”

Rose went on a lonely expedition to Pusan to plant the EFP flag in Asia 11 years ago. She says the feedback was so positive that the EFP has been expanding its presence in Pusan every year since. This year it will also set up an extended European umbrella office in the Asian Film Market Oct. 3-6 to be available for business meetings, screenings and promo material. It will also be overseeing British companies organized by the U.K. Film Council as well as 23 Euro sales companies and producers.

“The market has become extremely important for us,” Rose says. “Buyers come from all across Asia to see the latest from Europe.”

Rose adds the EFP long ago identified Pusan as the ideal beachhead in Asia for European pics — in part because of its focus on international independents rather than the Hollywood majors. The EFP, whose task is to raise awareness of European films across the home continent and boost the profile of Euro films around the world, has since made Pusan one of its major focuses each year.

“It’s an exciting festival for the public,” she says. “The screenings are packed, like in Toronto and in Berlin. And there are more and more screenings for professionals, which makes it even more interesting for us. It’s a great venue for European directors to show their films. The audiences are extremely engaged and come up with intelligent and unusual questions in the Q&As. The directors love that kind of involvement.”

Among the Euro directors bound for Pusan are acclaimed helmers such as Italy’s Paolo Taviani, France’s Claire Denis and Arnaud Desplechin and Sweden’s Jan Troell as well as first-time directors Froukje Tan of the Netherlands and Valdis Oskarsdottir from Iceland. Among the documentary directors are Dorothee Wenner and Thomas Grube from Germany. Thesps include Romania’s Maria Dinulescu, Kim Bodnia of Denmark and Audrey Marney of France.