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Three programmers who have headed the Jeonju International Film Festival, South Korea’s second largest festival, resigned en masse on Tuesday. They say they are protesting the encroachment on their independence by the board of directors and city authorities.

The three – Kim Young-jin, Lee Sang-yong and Jang Byeong-won – have led the Jeonju film festival as a programming team since 2015.

“After former festival director Lee Chung-jik left in June, the festival committee recommended executive programmer Kim Young-jin as the new head. The majority of the board of directors, which is the festival’s decision-making body (and is controlled by the city), opposed the appointment,” said the three.

“For the past seven years the Jeonju festival has been able to improve, gaining trust from both inside and outside only because its autonomy and independence were secure. […] We believe that the board has not evaluated the seven years’ efforts appropriately, and that it has damaged the festival’s autonomy.”

Infringements by local authorities on the independence of selectors was the cause of a multi-year dispute that badly damaged the Busan festival, Asia’s largest film festival. It is not the first time that Jeonju confronted the issue.

In 2012, Jeonju selector Yoo Un-seong was dismissed after refuting a local journalist’s argument at a press conference. Yoo said that the board had dismissed him unilaterally and on the insistence of the local authorities. International filmmakers Belar Tarr, Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Ying Liang petitioned against the festival’s decision to oust Yoo.

Focusing on independent cinema, the Jeonju festival celebrated its 20th edition in May this year.