Korean Industry Deadlock Means Busan Festival Boycott to Continue

Busan Festival Center
Courtesy of Coop Himmelblau

In a partial reversal of a previously indicated position, Korean industry groups Monday were deadlocked over a decision whether to continue or end their boycott of the Busan International Film Festival.

The Directors Guild of Korea voted by 48 to 82 on Friday (July 29) against a proposal to end the boycott. The Producers’ Guild of Korea voted by 42 to 66 against a similar proposal. Also voting on Friday, the cinematographers’ guild also voted down the proposal.

That left six of the nine guilds that make up the Emergency Committee to express their decisions on Monday (Aug. 1.) By Monday morning there was a tie with four groups in favor, four against and one undecided.

The committee decided to continue its internal discussions. These may continue for some days.

“The result was 4:4:1 so that the committee won’t make a decision as a collective and will instead respect individual member groups’ decisions, while discussions will continue,” it said in the statement.

The voting follows two months of negotiations, a week of scrambled diplomacy and a seeming breakthrough earlier this week.

Ten days ago (July 22) the festival agreed to change its regulations in a number of ways designed to ensure its editorial independence. New festival chairman Kim Dong-ho and festival director Kang Soo-youn on Monday last week held talks with the industry to present the changes, which appeared to be in line with what the boycott organizers had been seeking.

On Tuesday last week (July 26) the Emergency Committee circulated a text message to its supporters claiming “victory for film makers.”

“We believe that the newly revised regulations largely guarantee the festival’s independence and autonomy and that BIFF’s independence and freedom of expression have been achieved to a certain extent,” the Emergency Committee said in the message.

The same day the Kim and Kang sent out a letter in Korean and English claiming “Finally Independence” for the festival.

But those victory cries may have been premature. The final position of the Emergency Committee, however, needed to be put to a vote among the different guilds that backed the boycott.

The Busan festival has been in turmoil since its 2014 edition when the Busan mayor and city authorities objected to the selection of a documentary film that was critical of the Korean government in its handling of the Sewol ferry tragedy.