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Busan Festival ‘100% Certain’ to Go Ahead, Says Co-founder Kim Dong-ho

Busan Festival '100% Certain' Go Ahead,
Sasha Don/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The troubled Busan festival is “100% certain” to go ahead this year, according to Kim Dong-ho, the industry veteran who last week rejoined the event that he co-founded 21 years ago.

“After 15 months of conflict the two sides reached a compromise and appointed me to this post,“ Kim told Variety in Cannes. “The festival has been guaranteed freedom of expression and freedom of programming.”

The mayor of Busan, Seo Byung-soo, last week agreed to step down from the ex officio position of chairman, with Kim, the most respected figure in Korean cinema, drafted in as chairman of the organizing committee.

Conflict had flared during the October 2014 edition of the festival when selectors went ahead with the programming of controversial documentary “Diving Bell” (aka “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol”) against the wishes of Seo.

The stand-off led to financial cuts at the 20th anniversary edition in 2015. Since then, festival director Lee Yong-kwan has been eased aside and large parts of the Korean film industry have threatened to boycott the 2016 edition.

“This is only a first step. And there are many things that remain to be done, but we can now be certain that the festival will go ahead,” Kim said. “It will go ahead with all the normal (competition, market and project market) activities that we have become used to.”

Kim acknowledged that with only four months before the festival kicks off in October, the time for preparation is significantly shorter than in a normal year. But he insisted that there was still enough time to make film selections.

From a financial and commercial point of view things may be harder. “We have not got many sponsors on board at this stage, but we have been maintaining contact with them and hope to secure some,” Kim said.