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Festival Divisions Visible at Funeral of Busan Programmer Kim Ji-seok 

Some 400 leading figures from the Asian cinema business attended a memorial service on Monday for Busan festival programmer and co-founder Kim Ji-seok. But the large attendance did little to mask the ongoing divisions in the Korean industry.

Kim died nearly two weeks ago in Cannes. His body was cremated in France and his remains returned to Korea ahead of a three-day funeral that started on Saturday. It concluded in a service held at the spectacular, downtown, Busan Cinema Center.

Festival chairman and co-founder, Kim Dong-ho led the proceedings. Ousted former festival director, Lee Yong-kwan, former Busan Film Commission head Oh Seok-geun, and Kim’s son were chief mourners.

Lee refused handshakes with Busan city mayor Seo Byung-soo, who precipitated the festival’s three-year crisis by censoring its program, and with Kim Dong-ho, who returned to the festival as a steadying hand after the crisis erupted. Lee also ducked out of the memorial and went directly to the burial site.

In an address, Oh called for a full investigation of the political pressures inflicted on the festival, in order to shed light on the ongoing issue of artistic freedom in Korean cinema.

“(Kim) died dramatically, like a movie, early on the day of (Lee Yong-kwan’s) last appeal court hearing,” said Oh. “Not a single person involved in the BIFF crisis can be free yet. Just as the blacklisting revealed the [evil deeds] of the former government, it is imperative to reveal the oppression of BIFF which stemmed from the ‘Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol’ screening. Not only those who it carried out, but also those who supported (the oppression) or kept silent, must take responsibility.”

Asian filmmakers in attendance included Malaysia’s Tan Chui Mui and Liew Seng Tat; Tsai Ming-liang and Yang Kuei Mei from Taiwan; Japan’s Kore-eda Hirokazu and Bangladesh’s Abu Shahed Emon. Wreaths were sent by other industry figures including Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, Iranian producer Shohreh Golparian and Thai filmmakers Anocha Suwichakornpong, Pampika Towira and Don Saron Kovitvanitcha.

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