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Film Censorship Ruling Stirs Anger

2005/02/01 Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Members of the film industry reacted strongly to the Seoul court's decision that a controversial film about the assassination of former President Park Chung-hee must be edited before its release.

"The ruling is a pure anachronism," members of Women in Film Korea said Tuesday in their official statement on the court's decision. "It is the same method of censorship used to control culture by the past dictatorial government."

Directed by Im Sang-soo, the film "The President's Last Bang (Kuddae Ku Saramdul)" is a fictionalized account of the president's death on Oct. 26, 1979. It is set during a party at the president's "safe house," an unregistered location for the late president managed by the KCIA in Kungjung-dong, Seoul.

On Monday, the Seoul Central Court rejected an application of provisional disposition submitted on Dec. 11 by Park Ji-man, the president's only son, in an attempt to prevent it from being released. However, the court ordered MK Pictures, the company behind the movie, to edit documentary footage from that era.

The film includes footage totaling 3 minutes and 50 seconds of civil demonstrations in Pusan against Park and Park's funeral in Seoul.

The court said while the film does not damage the public's ability to objectively evaluate the incident, there is a high possibility that audiences will confuse the film with reality due to the documentary footage.

"I don't agree with the court's ruling," Im Sang-soo, director of "The President's Last Bang," said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency shortly after the ruling came out.

"As I am not involved (in the lawsuit), there is nothing I can do but accept it. But I expressed my feelings to the film company and will make an effort to show my movie as I intended."

In recent weeks, the director has been criticized by local conservative newspapers, which said the film is intended to defame the president.

On the other hand, various film organizations, including the Korean Association of Film Art and Industry and Director's Cut, released public statements Tuesday stating that the court's decision violates freedom of expression.

Members of Director's Cut, an organization of young filmmakers, said the ruling is an insolent act to separate artists and audiences and added that they are preparing a class action suit against the ruling.

MK Pictures said it will still release the film on Thursday as originally planned, but will show a blank screen in place of the footage. The company is also preparing to take legal action.

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