Filmart: South Korean Culture Minister-Elect Under Fire for Favoring Film Sector Monopolization

'The Battleship Island' Still - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of FEFF

The incoming minister previously served as non-executive director for entertainment giant CJ E&M.

South Korean film industry insiders Monday denounced the nomination of former vice culture minister Park Yang-woo as the new culture minister.

A group of protestors, calling itself the "Korean Cineastes Council for Anti-Monopoly," told reporters in Seoul that Park has sided with conglomerates over sensitive film industry issues, in particular the monopolization of the theater market by big distributor-exhibitors. The country's top investor-distributors and exhibitors are part of conglomerates, such as CJ Group and Lotte.

Fears of a monopoly have been a major source of concern for the local industry as big studio franchises, such as Avengers: Infinity War, took up as much as 88 percent of the local screens in May 2018, while CJ's The Battleship Island accounted for about 75 percent on its opening day in July 2017.

"Culture minister nominee Park has sided with big corporations in opposing a revision of the Motion Pictures Act that bans the combination of movie distribution and theater businesses, prohibits screen monopolies and supports independent and arts movies," said the anti-monopoly group in a statement.

Kim, moreover, served as non-executive director for CJ E&M, the entertainment and media arm of CJ Group, for several years.

"CJ has been involved in both movie distribution and screening businesses, destroying cultural diversity and distorting the industry's order. It is a serious matter for a former outside director of CJ to become a minister," the group said. "Park was paid a total of 244 million won ($216,000) for serving as CJ's outside director from 2014 to 2018. He attended 32 board meetings and always voted yes, never checking the company's activities," it argued.

The group, moreover, said it plans to deliver a letter of protest to the presidential office and stage a sit-in over the coming week to protest the nominee.

Park, a culture policymaker with 30 years of experience in the field, was tapped as the new head of the South Korean culture ministry in a cabinet reshuffle Friday. The minister-elect has been leading a government committee in charge of reforming the culture ministry since 2017 and advised President Moon Jae-in on cultural issues during his presidential campaign.

The culture ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.