What was touted as Korea's most prestigious movie awards turned into a farce Friday evening as none of the nominees for best actor and actress turned up.
The nine nominated stars cited a variety of reasons for their absence from the annual Daejong Film Awards, from prior engagements to being out of the country, but it looked suspiciously like an organized boycott.
But several others did criticize the organizers for poor management and lack of transparency.
Nominated for best actor were Hwang Jung-min in "Ode to My Father", Ha Jung-woo in "The Assassination", Son Hyun-joo in "Chronicles of Evil", and Yoo Ah-in in "Veteran" and "The Throne".
For best actress they were Jun Ji-hyun in "The Assassination", Kim Yoon-jin in "Ode to My Father", Kim Hye-soo in "Coin Locker Girl", Uhm Jung-hwa in "Wonderful Nightmare", and Han Hyo-joo in "Beauty Inside".
The live broadcast on KBS 2TV occasionally cut to an empty front row, while those who did turn up looked none too happy when yet another winner's award was accepted on their behalf by someone else.
The controversy over this year's awards began on Oct. 14, when the organizing committee warned in a press conference that actors would have to turn up if they wanted to win the award, and that if the winner failed to turn up the prize would go to the runner-up.
The attempt at arm-twisting quickly backfired and soured public opinion against the organizers, who were accused of turning a prestigious award into a prize for turning up.
First awarded in 1962 by what is now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the awards are now handled by the Motion Pictures Association of Korea. With a history of more than 50 years, they have been one of the largest celebrations for those working in the film industry but their reputation has been tarnished for some time.
Cho Keun-woo of the organizing committee still refused to accept responsibility and said the fault lies with the actors' "attitude".
Industry insiders said the scandal was a long time coming. Myung Films founder Shim Jae-myung said, "The Daejong Film Awards have had constant problems over the years, and their amateurish administration has finally blown up in the organizers' faces".
"This is an opportunity to seriously and calmly look at the significance and reputation of the Daejeong Film Awards and think hard whether it needs to keep existing at all".
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