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Tuesday, 22 March 2016 00:00

Variety: News related to the situation in Busan

 

Korean Filmmakers Threaten to Boycott Busan Film Festival, MARCH 21, 2016

 

Korean filmmakers Monday said they will boycott this year’s Busan International Film Festival if the city authorities do not allow the annual film event to operate freely.

 

The Korean Film Group’s Emergency Committee for Defending BIFF’s Independence, an activist group which includes directors, producers and screenwriters, called on Suh Byung-soo, the Busan mayor, to resign as the festival’s ex officio chairman and to withdraw an injunction against 68 newly appointed advisors to the festival.

 

The city authorities and the festival organizers have been at battle since October 2014 when the festival screened a documentary that Seo found objectionable. Last year the festival’s budget was cut. In February the festival director Lee Yong-kwan lost his job.

 

 

The festival recently appointed the advisors in order to ensure a majority on a special advisory committee that in turn controls the festival’s general assembly. On March 14 Seo took legal action against them and called them “unqualified.”

 

Sources close to the festival now say that close to the likelihood of its 21th edition happening as normal in October has dropped to just 50%.

 

“The world will witness the empty red carpet for the first time in 20 years of BIFF’s history, and the audience from all over the world will stop coming to Busan for the festival any more,” the Emergency Committee said in its statement.

 

 

Korea’s Film Industry Struggles to Protect Freedom of Expression, FEBRUARY 12, 2016

 

Censorship issues have led to public protests

 

Freedom of expression erupted as a big issue in the Korean film industry in 2015.

 

The dialogue was triggered by the Busan Intl. Film Festival’s selection of ferry-sinking documentary “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol,” about the MV Sewol, which capsized off the Korean coast carrying 476 people. The April 2014, tragedy in which 304 passengers, mostly students, and crew died, became a national scandal with finger-pointing in all directions.

 

Conservative Busan mayor Seo Byeong-soo had requested that the film’s screenings be cancelled, but the festival went ahead. Since then, BIFF has been confronted with a series of challenges, including audits carried out by the city and drastic cuts to its budget by the Korean Film Council. The city has also repeatedly called for the resignation of fest topper Lee Yong-kwan.

 

When the conflict first arose, local film industry groups formed the Pan-Film Industry Emergency Committee to Defend Freedom of Expression and supported the festival, calling for the city to retract its request and stop censoring the festival screenings. It was the first time that mass solidarity was seen in the Korean film industry since the screen quota protests of 2006.

Sectors of the international film industry also joined the movement. Dieter Kosslick of the Berlinale said in a message, “Never in my 14 years, would (the government and the city of Berlin) have interfered in our program, even if we had shown films they didn’t like. … A film festival and a curator have to be independent.”

 

 

In July, the appointment of actress Kang Soo-youn as BIFF co-director seemed to have concluded the months-long saga, and the 20th edition of the festival wrapped up with record attendance.

 

In December, however, the city of Busan accused Lee of paying illicit sponsorship fees. Lee and BIFF claim that such an accusation is revenge for screening the documentary and that paying sponsorship fees is normal business practice.

 

Local and international film industries are showing their support of BIFF, which, over the years, has screened many politically charged films.

“BIFF has supported and premiered three of my films including ‘7 Letters’ and ‘To Singapore, With Love,’ which was banned in Singapore,” said Singaporean documentary director Tan Pin Pin on social media. “Asia needs a safe haven for the rest of us.”

 

A Support BIFF campaign has gone viral and local industry groups have organized charity events to help the BIFF raise funds to hire an attorney for the lawsuit.

 

One of the fest’s co-founders and now a co-director, Lee’s term is set to end this year. According to the festival regulations, the festival director’s dismissal or reappointment is a matter for a general assembly.

 

 

City Accuses Busan Festival Head Lee Yong-kwan of Fraud, MARCH 21, 2016

 

Busan city has accused the Busan International Film Festival head Lee Yong-kwan of paying illicit sponsorship fees.

 

The Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea conducted an audit on the festival earlier this year. In its report published on Oct. 21, the board said that the festival had offered sponsorship fees to enterprises whose involvement in mediating the sponsorships were not proven in the form of proper documentary evidence.

 

In the same report, the board also requested the city of Busan, which is in charge of supervising the festival’s budget execution, to prosecute Lee and the festival’s former and current general managers.

 

The BIFF has immediately released a statement.

 

“The city government’s recent accusation is surely revenge against the festival for screening documentary “The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol” (a.k.a. “Diving Bell”) [in 2014],” said the festival.

 

 

“Since the board’s call, the city of Busan has constantly put pressure on the BIFF, implying that accusations may be dropped if Lee resigns. As Lee has refused the call, due to the vindictive nature of the inspection and report, the city went ahead and filed charges on Dec. 11.”

The festival said that paying fees to bodies who broker sponsorships is conventional business practice and that it has received sponsorship for many years under the Busan city’s supervision and guidance.

 

“Normally, the national board would offer corrective recommendations to organizations or institutions with such administrative mistakes, or discipline the persons concerned. That the board had exceptionally requested that the city charge BIFF, and that the city is pushing ahead with [prosecution] clearly show that the ulterior motive is to oust the festival director,” said the festival.

 

Lee has been festival director since 2011. His term is scheduled to end in Feb 2016. He was one of the co-founders of the festival in 1996 and has been programmer, deputy director, co-director and festival director.

 

BIFF is currently co-directed by Lee and actress Kang Soo-youn, who joined the festival in July this year as part of the reform package forced on the festival by the city government after it failed to expel Lee.

 

 

BY SONIA KIL