Culture Minister Kim Myung-gon said yesterday his ministry will begin six mid- and long-term programs aimed at making the local film market the world's fifth largest by 2011 and nurturing Korean movies as key export items to promote Korean culture abroad.
"Under the new vision, the ministry will implement six key programs to increase the country's film market share in the world from the current 1.6 percent to 3 percent by 2011, and to help stabilize the share of Korean films in the domestic market at around 50 percent", Kim said at a news conference in Seoul yesterday.
The announcement came as Korean filmmakers and actors point to the possibility that Korean film production might fall into a slump due to a recent cut in the screen quota. The Korean government, particularly the Culture Ministry, is keen to justify the new screen quota - a concession which critics say was made to accelerate the free trade agreement with the United States - by offering financial and other support programs to local filmmakers.
The six measures are: support for theaters specializing in arthouse and indie films; 30 film investment funds; support for film production staff; a center for helping export Korean movies; 15 regional media centers; and tax incentives and fairer regulations.
"The Korean movie industry is growing fast, but there are still many problems to be resolved. To that end, we need a fund to help bolster the growth of the industry", Minister Kim said.
At the heart of the programs is the envisioned "Film Promotion Fund" worth 500 billion won ($528 million). The Culture Ministry plans to draw 200 billion won from the government's budget and 100 billion won from the existing film promotion budget. The remaining 200 billion won is expected to come from a policy in which theaters donate a small portion of ticket sales (about 300 won per each movie ticket) - a system that is yet to be introduced.
Rep. Lee Mi-kyung of the ruling Uri Party said that while the domestic film industry is commanding more than 50 percent share in the local market and Korean filmmakers are receiving awards at major international film festivals, the market is being distorted.
"Some big-budget Korean films are dominating the theater screens, making it hard for small-budget art films to survive, and the working conditions are very poor for production staff, hampering the long-term growth of the industry", Lee said.
Lee, chairwoman of the National Assembly Culture and Tourism Committee, said local filmmakers are also deeply disappointed at the government because of the reduction of obligatory screening days for Korean films. "That's why they are not enthusiastic about the government's new programs, but these new measures reflect the industry's broad consensus about what should be done for the Korean movie market", she said.
By Yang Sung-jin