Dialogue: Kevin Chang

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A year and a half ago, Kevin Chang became secretary general of the Korean Film Producers Association, where he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization representing 65 companies that have produced at least one film in one of Asia's most dynamic film markets. Founded in 1994, the KFPA has been involved in preserving Korea's screen quota, fighting film piracy, reining in spiraling production budgets, smoothing relations with film crew labor unions and working with the Korean Film Council on film funds and other issues. Chang talked to Mark Russell, Korea correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter.

The Hollywood Reporter: What are some of the big issues facing the Korean film industry at the moment?
Chang: That is a rather sensitive question these days. But one issue is the new pay schedule with the crew labor unions, which started July 1. In the long run, I think it will be good for the industry – crews need to be paid adequately. But for now, it is a big change, and it has everyone worried about costs.

THR: Does the KFPA have an official position on the July 1 reduction to Korea's screen quota, dropping the minimum number of days each screen in Korea must show locally made films from 106 to 73? (To counter the effect this change will have on local filmmakers, the Korean government offered to provide over 400 billion won, or $430 million, to the film industry over the next four years, but many producers have said that they do not want the funds, but would rather the quota was restored).
Chang: The Korea Film Council is in charge of planning how those funds will be used. So we are just watching to see how they decide to make use of those funds.

THR: How is working with the KFPA's new president, Tcha Seung-jai? (Tcha, CEO of one of Korea's biggest production companies. Sidus FNH, assumed the KFPA presidency in January this year).
Chang: He is the most powerful producer in Korea, so of course he brings a lot of leverage.

THR: How has the KPFA been involved in work with the global film industry?
Chang: In several ways. We just signed an memorandum of understanding with New Zealand in order to improve contacts between our countries' film industries, and we are trying to increase connections with producers around Asia, particularly at the Pusan International Film Festival. Last year we held seminars and meetings with Asian producers, and this year we intend to double the number of people participating to around 40 of the top Asian producers. We are going to grow these meetings year by year, and create the Asian Producers Network.

THR: What first attracted you personally to working with the KFPA?
Chang: My personal interest is in the growing ubiquity of movie platforms in the future. In four or five years, personal media devices could perhaps grow more important than the theaters, who knows? Next year will be very important in Korea because of the spread of WiBro (Korea's high speed wireless standard). It could be a cultural revolution for the younger generation, like the personal computer was.

THR: Will the ubiquity of broadband in Korea change the piracy problem?
Chang: We intend to make a campaign against online piracy. Action will begin July 19, when we plan on issuing warnings to 129 online companies currently violating copyrights. Korea's DVD market died because of online piracy, so we consider fixing that situation a priority. For physical piracy, we are talking to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Last week President Roh Moo-hyun told them that piracy is a big problem, so we expect a lot of support from them. But statistically, online piracy is the most serious problem. We estimate that online piracy in Korea is equal to about 30% of the theatrical market.
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