×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Election of New South Korean President Heralds Film Industry Reforms

The election of Moon Jae-in as South Korea’s new president heralds multiple changes in the country’s cultural and entertainment industries, including the rollback of a government blacklist of artists and a shakeup of state-controlled funding programs.

Moon, a liberal former human-rights lawyer, was elected with 41% of the vote Tuesday to replace disgraced former President Park Geun-hye. Park was impeached, and now languishes in jail as she faces criminal charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Moon was sworn in Wednesday morning. He says he will reverse policy in many of the areas where Park faces legal proceedings, including in South Korea’s film industry, the world’s sixth-largest.

Supported by her political cronies, including former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, Park was involved in blacklisting more than 9,000 cultural figures deemed to be anti-government. The list was compiled to exclude artists and companies from state-controlled funding programs.

Moon has pledged to undo the damage of Park’s interference in the arts. “The blacklist is a national violence [against art and artists] that infringed upon the fundamental basis of democracy,” he said in April.

He also wants the resignation of the heads of state organizations, such as the Korean Film Council, that acquiesced to Park’s demands. It was recently revealed that the council had tried to sway public opinion by anonymously submitting a newspaper column justifying drastic budget cuts to the troubled Busan film festival. The council’s chairman, Kim Sae-hoon, is now on the verge of resigning.

The Busan film festival’s woes were sparked by the local mayor’s intervention in the fest’s programming in a bid to protect Park’s image. Moon has gone on record as saying that sitting mayors should not be allowed to serve as festival heads. He has said he would provide an institutional strategy to protect film festivals’ independence and autonomy.

Under Park, a state-controlled fund accessed by nearly 40% of Korean films each year was diverted to give more support to pro-government, nationalistic movies. Critics say that the fund’s manager, the Korea Venture Investment Corp., operated as a de facto censor. Moon says he wants to reduce the size of the profit-seeking fund, currently worth $880 million (KRW 1 trillion), and to support art-house and indie titles.

Moon is also promising to reform the powerful family-run conglomerates, known as chaebols, that dominate Korean industry. Chaebols have long had close relations with government and politicians, and stood accused of unfair business practices, including awarding contracts to affiliates and forcing price markdowns from subcontractors. Korea’s top entertainment firms – Samsung, CJ and Lotte – have all been caught up in Park’s bribery and influence-peddling scandals.

But if reforming the conglomerates is a tough task, so is overhauling foreign policy, which also has implications for the entertainment industry.

In the last year, China has adopted punitive measures against Korean entertainment, tourism and cosmetics companies in retaliation for the installation on Korean soil of a U.S. missile-defense system known as THAAD. Korea-China co-productions have been canceled, and Korean actors have even had their faces blurred out on Chinese TV.

Advocates of THAAD say it is necessary to protect against the threat of a missile attack from North Korea. As a candidate, Moon was circumspect on the issue, saying only that the deployment deal should be “reviewed” and that decisions should be left to the new administration.

On North Korea, Moon wants to end the hard line pursued by Park and her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, and instead revive the “sunshine policy” of dialogue with Pyongyang. Moon says that a decade of confrontation has done nothing to arrest North Korea’s nuclear program.

More Film

  • Mindy Kaling (L) and Director Nisha

    Women Directors and Writers Make Gains in Independent Films But Lag on Parity

    Women directors, writers, editors and producers are making inroads, reaching historic highs in the world of independent films — while still lagging in reaching parity with men, a new study shows. The latest Indie Women study, released Tuesday, found that women achieved record-setting levels as directors (33% in 2018-19, up from 29% in 2017-18), writers [...]

  • David Shin

    Disney Shuffles Management in Hong Kong, Australia

    Disney has reshuffled its management in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australasia following the March completion of its 21st Century Fox takeover. In Hong Kong and New Zealand, Fox executives have been elevated. In Australia and New Zealand, Disney’s management is staying on. David Shin has been appointed VP and GM of The Walt Disney Company [...]

  • SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 17: Liu

    Shanghai: Chinese Movies Dominate AACTA Asian Film Award Nominations

    Chinese sci-fi hit “The Wandering Earth,” China’s Cannes competition film “Wild Goose Lake,” and Korea’s Palme d’Or-winning “Parasite” are among the nominees for the AACTA Award for best Asian film. The nominees were announced on the margins of the Shanghai International Film Festival. The winners will be announced Dec. 4 at the Australian Academy of [...]

  • Jenni Rivera Biopic

    Authorized Jenni Rivera Biopic in the Works

    An authorized biopic of the late singer Jenni Rivera is in the works, seven years after she died in a plane crash at the age of 43. The life rights deal was announced Tuesday with an agreement between Jenni Rivera Enterprises and producers Javier Chapa and Simon Wise of Mucho Mas Media and Donald De [...]

  • Judi Dench

    ‘Blithe Spirit’ With Judi Dench, Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher Scores International Sales

    Filming has started on “Blithe Spirit,” an adaptation of Noel Coward’s classic comedy about love that just won’t die. Judi Dench, Isla Fisher and Dan Stevens are among the cast in the picture, which is helmed by Edward Hall (“Downton Abbey”). Protagonist has closed a raft of pre-sales on the project, which was previously adapted [...]

  • Edward Cheng, Tencent Pictures CEO

    Tencent Pictures' Lineup Is a Mix of Hollywood Content and Chinese Propaganda

    A slate of Chinese propaganda films rubs shoulders with high-profile Hollywood movies on Tencent Pictures’ upcoming lineup.  The firm confirmed its investment in U.S. projects including TriStar Pictures’ “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a film about beloved TV host Mr. Rogers, starring Tom Hanks; “Monster Hunter,” Paul W.S. Anderson’s next film adaptation of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content