Korea has remedy for economic slowdown

Film council plans to launch a $56 mil film fund

SEOUL -- With its once-thriving film industry in the midst of a slowdown, South Korea is launching a fund it hopes will keep the downturn a short-term affair.

The Korean Film Council, the main government support organization for the film industry, announced Sunday that it will start a film fund worth 80 billion won ($56 million) by early next year in a bid to boost the number of films produced here.

Separately, the council will establish an online distribution network that will certify and register the licensing rights of DVD and mobile downloading services. The latter move is seen as a part of a wider government effort to boost profits in new media services and eradicate unauthorized file-sharing sites.

At a press briefing, council chairman Kang Han-seob explained that Korean cinema could suffer a long-term recession if the industry fails to get back on track by early next year.

"Since the renaissance of Korean cinema in the '60s, the local film industry suffered a long recession until the '90s," Kang said. "A renaissance may be a stretch for the state of the industry now, but at least we could avoid the worst if the council's new plan makes a breakthrough."

In the past year, local films' market share of the Korean boxoffice has dropped 8%. Kang has been an open critic of the policies established by the KFC's former leaders since he took office in May. His negative comments regarding the Korean industry have sparked disputes among local film professionals, including the council's own employees.

Earlier this month, the council's labor union submitted a petition to the press, attacking Kang for "irresponsibly" comparing the current state of the Korean film industry to "the Great Depression," and deepening discord between the council, affiliate government bodies and the overall industry.
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