Prospects for Korean film crews declining

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BUSAN -- The changing film environment is dampening employment prospects for Korean staff on the set.

In a seminar “The Bright and Dark Sides of Korean Film Industry” held Friday, heads of film unions, legal advisors and policymakers stated various factors that make it difficult for trained veterans to stay in the business.

Korea’s screen quota system, a policy that requires local theaters to screen Korean movies for at least 146 days of the year, is one source of the changes, explained Lee Jong-soo, a labor attorney. 

A 2007 survey by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, showed that the number of local production crew has been gradually declining since 2005 while employees in the distribution sector have been rising – a possible sign of declining demand in Korean film production as the market share of Hollywood films rises with the reduced quota for local films.

The slow film market is also pushing more companies to turn to co-production opportunities, which forces producers to cut down local film staff.

But the main concern for Korean film staff comes down to a pool of job seekers who are desperate to enter the business and the harsh conditions on the set that are deepening resentments among talented veterans in the industry. 

“There is an unlimited supply to fill the place of veteran staff once they leave,” said Sin Cheol, the representative of Korean Film Producers Assn.

“The concept of film production in Korea as an industry open to anyone must change. It should be an industry where only trained professionals can survive, and only the serious talent who have proven legitimate skills can enter the business.”

Lee, the labor attorney, explained that over-investment by small film companies frequently lead to delayed or no payment. The lack of employees’ insurance and long working hours by companies that frequently dismiss overtime charges and holiday pay leave most staff on set with income that practically falls below minimum pay, he added.

According to a 2005 survey by the Korean Film Council, less than 15.4% of Korean film companies are insured. A Korean film staffer works 58.4 hours per week, and only 10% get severance pay. In another survey, 9.2% of Korean film staff got paid for overtime charge.
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