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City Goes Ahead With Fraud Charges Against Busan Festival Boss Lee Yong-kwan

Busan Festival Boss Lee Yong-kwan Charged
Sasha Don/Variety

Prosecutors in Busan have formally charged former Busan festival chief Lee Yong-kwan with fraud. Lee and three other former officials were charged Tuesday, according to the Yonhap news agency and Korean local media.

The charges relate to alleged irregularities in the way that Lee and the festival paid third party agents commissions for bringing in sponsorship revenue. The threat of such charges was raised several months ago by the city government. Lee responded that the system is standard practice in Korea and that it had been operated and approved for several years by the festival’s board, which includes city officials.

The decision to go ahead with the indictments is certain to be labelled as politically motivated. And it further increases the strife within the Korean film industry over the Busan festival. Many members of the Korean industry say that they will boycott the festival this year, if indeed it goes ahead.

The city government has been at odds with the festival management since the October 2014 edition, when managers went ahead with the screening of a polemical documentary film “Diving Bell” (aka “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol”) against the wishes of the mayor. The Busan Municipal Government previously tried to remove Lee, then made him share his post. But they failed to oust him. In February, however, Lee lost his job when his contract expired and was not renewed.